ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- America's commercial casinos won $53 billion in 2021, their best year ever according to figures released Tuesday.
The American Gaming Association, the gambling industry's national trade group, released year-end figures showing that in-person gambling continues to be the main source of revenue for the gambling industry, even as internet and sports betting continue to grow in the U.S.
The $53 billion won by casinos is more than 21% higher than the previous best year, which came in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
They also show that many gamblers have not been deterred from visiting a casino in person, even during the pandemic, when highly contagious variants of the virus were surging. The casinos have spent millions on health and safety protocols to try to limit the spread of the virus.
“These results are nothing short of remarkable,” Bill Miller, president and CEO of the association, said in a webinar to discuss the results. “The success of 2021 reflects our commitment to health and safety, and how Americans have welcomed gaming’s expansion across the country. Today’s industry is effectively meeting customers how and where they want to engage, whether at a casino or through mobile gaming.”
The numbers do not include tribal casinos, which report their revenue separately. But Miller said that “tribal leaders have similarly shared with me that 2021 was their best year on record.”
Of the 33 states plus Washington D.C. that have commercial gambling, 23 set records for revenue last year.
Almost $45 billion was won from in-person gamblers at casinos last year, up 6.6% from 2019.
Sports betting continued its rapid growth, with more than $57 billion wagered legally on games last year, an increase of 165% from 2020. Of that total, casinos and racetrack sportsbooks saw nearly $4.3 billion in revenue after winning bets and other expenses were paid. That's up 177% from 2020.
It was helped by the launch of new commercial sports betting markets in Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.
Two new internet gambling markets, Connecticut and Michigan, also opened in 2021, helping the sector to a record $3.7 billion in revenue.
Combined sports betting and internet gambling revenue for the year totaled $8 billion, up 158% percent from 2020 and accounting for a record 15.1% percent of annual gambling revenue.
The group did voice concern over the slow return of business and leisure travel during the pandemic. Miller said overall travel spending is down 20% from pre-pandemic levels.
“Business travel, meetings and events, and entertainment — significant revenue-drivers for many operators — have been slow to return,” he said. “The impact of this is compounded by depressed international visitation to the U.S., which is critical for the full recovery of destination markets like Las Vegas. And visitation among the older, core casino audience is only just getting back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Gaming’s total recovery is still reliant on the full return of travel and large events, which requires a safe health environment, and an open economy,” he said.
Miller said 2022 is looking promising for the casino industry, citing the launch of mobile sports betting in Louisiana and New York, which in just four weeks has become the No. 1 sports betting in the nation, with over $2 billion wagered.
He said he expects sports betting in Ohio and Nebraska to go online in 2022, and noted Maryland's mobile launch “is in the works.”
Miller also said seven additional states are considering sports betting legislation and four are weighing online gambling legislation.
Physical casinos will open this year in Virginia and several new racetrack casinos will open in Nebraska, he added.
Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at @WayneParryAC