LAS VEGAS (AP) — The coronavirus and efforts to fight it have hit U.S. casinos and legal gambling businesses hard, leading to a nearly 79% drop in commercial gambling revenue for the second quarter of 2020, the industry’s trade association reported Thursday.
“COVID-19 has undoubtedly posed the most difficult economic challenge the gaming industry has ever faced,” American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller said with the release of a quarterly report showing severe damage to the $261 billion U.S. casino industry.
Slot machines and table games revenue flattened, the report said, after casinos around the U.S. closed in March to prevent people from gathering and spreading the contagious virus.
But the association in June reported that 2019 had been a record year for revenue in the U.S commercial gambling industry, and Miller said he was optimistic the industry will recover.
“While April and May both experienced year-over-year (revenue) declines north of 90%, June saw nearly 300 commercial casinos reopen,” he said in a statement.
“More than 85% of U.S. casinos are now open,” Miller added, noting the implementation of “stringent, regulator-approved health and safety plans.”
Only sports betting and iGaming showed growth in the first half of 2020 compared with 2019, according to the report.
Sports betting gains — despite widespread cancellation of live sporting events — came from a strong start to the year and increased options for legal play in more states, the association said.
iGaming — although legal and live in just five states — generated more revenue than sports betting in the second quarter. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that was a first since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018 and all states were allowed to offer sports betting. Online poker is the only iGaming option legal in Nevada.
“Gaming’s record popularity prior to COVID-19, as well our resilience in the midst of such adversity, is evidence of the industry’s foundation for continued success as we emerge from the pandemic,” Miller said in the association statement.