With the gambling industry on the rise in the United States, thanks to new legislation being approved in various states around the country, the Pennsylvania gambling market is projected to reach new highs in 2022, according to industry specialists and analysts.
As of January 2022, over twenty states have legalized at least sports betting, and all but five are currently operating, with some states even approving some form of online gambling. States like Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have recorded large profits, and according to data from the American Gaming Association, in 2021, the US gambling industry accounted for more than $44 billion in total revenue, in what became the highest-grossing year in the history of legal gambling.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, land-based gambling facilities were forced to halt operations, and online gambling, or iGaming, became the sole choice for American bettors. Even though online gambling already represented a large share of wagers in 2019, lockdowns, health protocols, and social distancing measures in place made the discrepancy become even more accentuated in 2020 and 2021, with states that legalized online betting performing far better.
But, what lies ahead for 2022?
2021 in review
The year of 2021 also showed the resiliency of the Pennsylvania gambling industry. Despite the several shutdowns, restrictions, and construction disruptions due to cases of COVID-19 surging across the state, several companies were able to forge ahead with their plans and launch more gambling venues in Pennsylvania. Cordish Companies launched its Live! Casino & Hotel in Philadelphia, which became the first casino with a hotel in the city, and Penn National Gaming made its moves with mini-casinos, opening two venues throughout the year.
It was also an important year for the online gambling industry in Pennsylvania, with four new online casinos going live, including Borgata, Barstool, and Betway online casinos. PokerStars was the only online poker operator in the state, but in 2021, BetMGM and Borgata launched their twin online poker sites, and WSOP went live through a partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia. Additionally, live dealer games finally arrived in the state, and Penn National Gaming led the pack as the top iGaming operator in Pennsylvania.
In a press conference by the end of the year, when asked about the scenario of the state’s gambling market, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Director of Communication Doug Harbach commented on the year of 2021:
“2021 proved both challenging and rewarding for the PGCB and the operators of gaming in the Commonwealth. The PGCB not only carried out its long-time mission of oversight of the casino industry in the midst of ongoing pandemic safety measures, but continued the roll-out of the new forms of gaming envisioned several years ago in the Gaming Expansion Act.”
He also commented the additions made to the state’s market throughout 2021:
“In particular, three new casinos, all with retail sportsbooks, began operation in 2021 along with seven new casino iGaming or sports wagering sites, and 20 new locations for Video Gaming Terminals at truck stops. When revenue figures for December are available, it is expected that 2021 will have seen over $4.7 billion in revenue from the games overseen by the PGCB, or around 40 percent above the previous high revenue year.”
Exciting year for legal online poker
Even though the regulated online poker market still accounts for a small share of the overall iGaming industry, in part due to the inability of players in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania to play against those in other legal online poker states. But that is expected to change in 2022.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals decided in January 2021 against the Department of Justice’s 2018 reading of the Wire Act. According to the 2018 opinion, the Wire Act applies to all types of iGaming – including online lottery and online poker – rather than online sports betting. The DOJ’s opportunity to appeal that judgment expired in June 2021, and 26 state Attorneys General signed a letter encouraging the DOJ to put the matter behind them.
Besides an increased revenue for these states, this could result in a much more competitive landscape, while also allowing players to not only to play regulated online poker, but also track lottery results, place wagers on a multitude of sporting events, and even indulge in other forms of online gambling.
Michigan is reported to be actively pursuing joining the interstate poker compact that Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have in place. And it’s expected that, if Michigan and Pennsylvania are able to get on board with this shared liquidity, regulated online poker could reach heights similar to those before the 2011 Black Friday.