It’s December and the holiday season is upon us, but no matter where we turn of late, the news appears to be either bad or sad. Topics trending on social media currently include words or phrases such as impending recession, climate change, impeachment, partisan politics, mass shootings, income inequality, so on and so forth, ad nauseam.
Well, I, for one, do not want to end the year in this frame of mind. So as a present for both myself and you, here is a brief recap of some of the positive news to come out of the gaming industry over the past year.
• The continued expansion of sports wagering: Back in January, land-based or online sportsbooks were up and operating in six states. As the year closes, 13 states now offer sports wagering to their residents (Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware) while six more have passed legislation but are not yet operating sportsbooks (New Hampshire, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado and Montana). So far, the economic returns have been positive in many of these jurisdictions; indeed, sports betting has been particularly lucrative for New Jersey, where sportsbooks accepted a record $487.9 million in bets in October, an 87 percent jump from $260.7 million in October 2018, according to official state reporting. In addition, October’s handle beat the previous record of $445.6 million, set in September. Pennsylvania also booked a very good October, with the state’s sportsbooks accepting $241.2 million in bets, up 24 percent from September’s $194.5 million, according to state officials.
And there is more good news on the horizon—four states (Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio and Michigan) have active sports betting measures working their way through their legislatures, with the possibility of legalization taking place next year.
• Ongoing gaming revenue growth for the casino industry: Gaming revenue for the U.S. commercial casino industry reached an all-time high of $41.7 billion in 2018, up 3.5 percent from the previous year, according to data released in the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) State of the States 2019: The AGA Survey of the Commercial Casino Industry. In addition, the commercial casino sector—with 465 casinos—logged its fourth consecutive year of gaming revenue growth and outpaced the national economic growth rate in 2018.
Meanwhile, the economic news was equally good on the tribal gaming front, with the combined gross gaming revenue (GGR) for tribal wagering operations totaling $33.7 billion in FY2018, a 4.1 percent increase over FY2017 numbers, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). The GGR for FY 2018 is the highest in Indian gaming history; and, unlike previous years, all of the NIGC’s administrative regions experienced positive growth in FY 2018, according to an NIGC press release. The Portland Region showed the highest growth, with an 8.2 percent increase, followed by the Oklahoma City Region with a 7.3 percent increase.
• New, exciting land-based casino development: The past year saw the opening of impressive, new ground-up casino resorts in Boston (Encore Boston Harbor) and Sacramento (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento), just to name a few. New casino projects have broken ground in cities ranging from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh.
So there is some happy news out there to be contemplated and enjoyed. Let’s end on an even more positive note, literally—the title of this column is a reference to a song by Counting Crows that contains the following lyric:
It’s been a long December but there’s reason to believe maybe next year will be better than the last…
As always, let’s hope that is the case.