American iOS users spent a record $260 million on social casino apps in Q2 2021

US iOS Social Casino Revenue Approaches $1 Billion Amid Real Money Gambling Expansion

As further evidence of the synergy between social and real-money online casino games, revenues for both have been rising in tandem in the US. It’s hard to know what’s driving the increase in social casino play, however. Perhaps it’s due to increased online play by Americans who are working from home during the pandemic. There might also be a general increase in excitement about online gambling, and social casinos are a way to bide time for those in states that are waiting to legalize it. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Whatever the case, balance sheets for real money US online casino operators still far eclipse those of social casino games. During September 2021 alone, real-money online gambling receipts totaled more than $340 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

US social casino revenue closes in on $1 billion

Comparatively, American iOS users “spent a record $990 million in social casino apps” from Q3 2020 to Q2 2021. That’s according to research released on Oct. 27, 2021, by app marketing product and services provider Liftoff and iGaming analytics platform provider GameRefinery. Also, that nearly $1 billion revenue total doesn’t even include Android users.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Liftoff and Finland-based GameRefinery’s 2021 Social Casino Gaming Apps Report further states that Q2 2021’s $260 million revenue is “a new high.” But comparing it with Q3 2020’s $250 million does have a downside. During that same time period, social casino games lost about 1% of iOS app market share – dipping from 19.43% in Q3 2020 to 18.89% in Q2 2021. The research defines the market as social casino, mid-core, casual and sports genres. Not real money.

Unfortunately, Liftoff’s 2020 and 2019 mobile gaming apps reports don’t break out social casino game revenue.

However as Online Poker Report detailed in May 2014, the US iGaming market used to favor social casino games:

“Social casino games collectively pulled in some $350mm in 1Q14, compared to just under $35mm for regulated real-money online gambling.”

Social Casino App Revenue

Source: Liftoff & GameRefinery

Social casino games are allowed where online casinos can’t go

It was true in 2014 and it’s true now – social casino games can be played throughout the US, while online casino games can only be played in certain jurisdictions.

The report released on Oct. 27 posits that:

“Social distancing measures worldwide paved the way for social casino games to rise in popularity – and revenues. In the US, where the pandemic pushed almost 1,000 casinos to close their doors, social casino titles hit the jackpot.”

While that’s one possibility, here’s another.

In the US, schools and businesses were closed and Americans were studying and working from home beginning in March 2020. At that time, legal iGaming apps were taking bets in Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Since then, three more states launched legal online casino marketplaces.

Five states received that revenue:

  • Delaware
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey 
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

Connecticut officials didn’t have September totals, because online casino wagering and sports betting only launched there on Oct. 19.

Both social casino games and online casino apps are doing well

Many operators offer both real money and play money gambling. In that light, one interpretation of these facts is that real-money online games and free-to-play ones don’t merely coexist – they’re benefiting each other and will continue to do so.

That said, social apps face a potential problem from legal challenges that would have them declared a form of gambling.

While that issue continues to make perennial appearances in court, however, there’s a current snapshot to consider:

While it may seem as though real-money online casino games are becoming a fact of life, only a few states have yet legalized them. Therefore, social casino games remain attractive to US operators and customers.

However, players continue to use the social games in states with legal online casinos, too.

Adding everything together, it probably means iGaming aficionados will continue to see quotes like this one that came from RSI on Oct. 14 regarding launching its free-to-play online casino and sportsbook, Casino4Fun, through its BetRivers brand:

“RSI expects to launch real-money online casino and sports betting in Ontario under its BetRivers brand in the coming months, subject to licensing and regulatory approvals. In the meantime, CASINO4FUN® will enable the Company to build its brand and player database and promptly provide these players access to complete the registration process for the BetRivers real-money platform upon launch.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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