After a rocky 2020, when lockdowns kept casinos closed or operating under restrictions, the gambling industry has recovered, and then some. Commercial gaming revenue – that includes in-person gambling, online gambling and sports betting – set an all time record in March, taking in more than $5.3 billion, according to the American Gaming Association.
During the pandemic, casinos across the U.S. became COVID testing sites and vaccination centers. Now, they’re back to blackjack and slot machines.
“All that is happening,” said Gerry Del Prete, COO of gaming at Fertitta Entertainment, which operates Golden Nugget casinos. He said so far this year, revenue is exceeding 2019 … that’s pre-pandemic. Customers are spending more per trip, and visitors are skewing younger.
“But what’s not come back in full force is our 50-plus crowd,” he said.
That’s not the industry’s only worry.
“The industry rebounded and showed its resilience. But the question of whether that pent-up demand would kind of run out or slow down, I think is still an open question,” said Bill Miller, CEO of the American Gaming Association.
Especially if people are more cautious with discretionary spending.
“Anybody in any business that is in the travel, leisure and hospitality space should be somewhat concerned about things like inflation, about gas prices,” he said.
But history is on the industry’s side. Brett Abarbanel at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, International Gaming Institute said gambling has been pretty recession proof.
“These ‘sin’ industries, so things like gambling, alcohol, they can weather economic storms in a fairly straightforward way,” she said. “Because people like spending money on things that, you know, make them feel good.”
Plus, gambling is more accessible than ever. Abarbanel said in the last few years, online gambling has become legal in more than 30 states.
So brick and mortar casinos like Hard Rock Atlantic City are getting into online gaming, too.
“So you can be in Hoboken or Jersey City and play online and earn rewards to be able to then come down here to Hard Rock Atlantic City and stay overnight, go see a show,” said Joe Lupo, the casino’s president.
Because for resorts, revenue is more than just gambling. It’s dinner and drinks, too.