- US Online Poker
- US Online Casinos
- US Online Sports Betting
- FEATURE: Ontario Online Gambling
A return to stability following a period of disruption has been the theme of 2021.
Particularly in the latter part of the year, most states have seen a decrease in volatility. Growth rates have mostly ranged from flat to high single digit percentages.
December was a better month than many recently, so the year finished on a strong note. None of the six online casino states saw daily average revenue decline. The lowest rate was 5.6% for Delaware, while the fastest was 16.3% for West Virginia. The three largest states all fell in roughly the 8-10% range.
Highlighting the return to normalcy was New Jersey. As the longest-standing regulated market in the US, it’s the only one which existed long enough before the pandemic to establish what “normal” even looks like.
As always, data for this article comes directly from the various states’ regulatory bodies.
Total iGaming revenue for New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms amounted to $133,212,006, as the daily average increased 9.3% from November. That total is a new state record and nearly a 5% increase over the previous record, set in October.
That sort of performance is nothing new, though. Since the market’s inception, there have been more months that set a record than didn’t. That’s especially true if we account for the number of days in each. Looking at daily averages, to date the state has set a new record for itself exactly two-thirds of the time: 66 months out of the 99 that NJ online gambling has been legal.
What’s most interesting about the past 12 months isn’t that they’re unusual. Rather, it’s how closely they resemble the annual trend the market established in the pre-pandemic era.
Stable online gambling markets tend to follow an annual cycle. During the summer, people are outside and not gambling on their computers and phones as much. In the colder months, they have fewer entertainment options and gambling activity rises. Absent any underlying growth, revenue resembles a wave, with a peak in the winter and a low point in the summer.
New Jersey has been steadily growing at over 20% per year since the market debuted, however. Adding that constant growth to the seasonal cycle produces a different shape. The summer isn’t a time of decline so much as it is flat, as the two trends counteract each other. Those doldrums extend from April to August in a typical year. Meanwhile, almost all of that annual growth ends up concentrated in the period from about September to March. During that time, seasonal effects and organic growth compound each other.
Almost nothing was normal in 2020 thanks to the COVID pandemic, and online gambling was no exception. Where most businesses suffered, however, online casinos made hay.
When retail casinos shut down, gamblers looked for an alternative. In states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they found it with regulated online casinos. The effects were dramatic, and can be seen clearly on the graph below, with a big jump from March to April.
But when those retail casinos reopened, gamblers didn’t stop playing online. Those pandemic gains have proven lasting. At first, no one was sure if that was really the case, or the decline was just going to be more gradual. Many outlets – including this one – pointed to small declines such as in July 2020 and April-May 2021 as possible evidence that players were playing less online as retail options returned, or restrictions were lifted.
Comparing these drops to the pre-pandemic trend tells a different story, however. In that light, they appear to be nothing more than the normal seasonal slumps. The fact that they coincide with casino reopenings or relaxed restrictions is probably just another effect of the warmer weather. The virus spreads more easily in cold temperatures, so anti-COVID measures have generally been stricter in the winter and early spring, and looser in the summer.
Overlaying the 2021 monthly pattern on the 2015-2019 average, it becomes clear that the market has been performing normally, just bigger than it was before.
The Wolverine State also had a tremendous month. Gross revenue from Michigan online casinos and sportsbooks amounted to $121,760,593, blowing the previous record – set in October – out of the water. That total equates to an increase in daily average revenue of 9.5% from November, almost identical to New Jersey’s performance.
Market leader BetMGM Casino drove those gains to a large degree, increasing its daily average by 10.9%. In the process, it increased its market share by half a percentage point, to 37.8%.
Looking at performance in proportional terms, Caesars continued to steal the show. Not only has the former William Hill Casino continued to grow at a rapid pace since its rebranding, but it seems to be accelerating. Its 62.5% increase from November to December is the largest since September. It now holds a 3.3% share of the market, up from 2.2% last month.
PointsBet performed nearly as well, up 41.6% on the month. DraftKings, WynnBet and Fox Bet all also enjoyed an increase of more than 10%.
FireKeepers Casino was the only operator to see its monthly total decline from November to December, though Barstool Casino saw a small drop in its daily average.
Pennsylvania online casinos and poker rooms also performed well in December, just not quite as well as NJ and Michigan. Like those other states, the operators set a new collective record for iGaming revenue at $127,634,008. Taken as a daily average, that’s an increase of 7.9%, about one-and-a-half percentage points less than the other major states.
There weren’t any dramatic changes in market share in the Keystone State.
Penn National remains the largest license by a wide margin, due to having BetMGM, Barstool, DraftKings Casino and Hollywood under a single roof. Its gain of 6.5% was a bit less than the market average. Thus, its share slipped slightly, but it still accounts for almost 40% of revenue.
Parx, Mount Airy (Fox Bet/PokerStars), Caesars, PlayLive! and Wind Creek all had strong months, increasing revenue by double-digit percentages. Mohegan Sun and Presque Isle (TwinSpires) were the only licenses to see revenue drop in December.
In terms of gross revenue, the growth of Connecticut online casinos in December wasn’t particularly impressive. At 6.5%, it was slower than any of the three major states. To some extent, though, this is a testament to the fact that both operators hit the ground running and didn’t need time to ramp up.
Furthermore, both Mohegan Sun and DraftKings cut back dramatically on their promotional spending compared to the first six weeks of the market. In that context, any growth in gross revenue is a good sign. Furthermore, it also means that revenue after promotional deductions rose by 14.2%.
The fight for market share in the duopoly continues to be competitive. The DraftKings/Foxwoods partnership is still the more dominant of the two operators, with a 59.4% share of total revenue. This is down just slightly from November when it held a 60.2% share. If that trend continues, however, the market could achieve parity within the year.
December represented another upswing for the volatile West Virginia online casino market. All told, the market’s daily average revenue rose 16.3%. This is an estimate, due to WV reporting its figures on a week-by-week rather than month-by-month basis.
Greenbrier, the largest of the three licenses, saw the weakest gains. Its revenue rose 7.1%, in the same ballpark as the Pennsylvania market. It was the smaller two that propelled the market’s growth to greater heights.
Mountaineer, which is home to BetRivers and Caesars, saw an increase of 19%, while Hollywood (which hosts DraftKings) did better still at almost 30%.
There’s cause for celebration for the Delaware Lottery and its technology partner 888 Holdings. Their jointly-operated online casinos cracked the $1 million mark, bringing in a total of $1,087,871.
That’s not quite a first for the market, as it managed that feat once before in May 2020. However, online casinos were enjoying a big bump due to retail gambling shutdowns at that time. This is the first time the Delaware has cleared that modest bar through natural growth.
Here are all those monthly revenue figures in a single table:
|State||December '21 iGaming GGR||Change (m/m)||Change (y/y)|
Some things to note about the data: