Sports Betting Partially Responsible For NY Commercial Casino Rebound

Written By Derek Helling on June 18, 2021

For upstate New York casinos, legal sports betting in New York is only part of their business. In May of this year, it was a good business to be in. New York commercial casino revenue improved again in May of this year as hold from wagers on sporting events across the four properties saw improvement as well.

The rise in sports betting activity shouldn’t shock anyone given the success of a few in-state sports teams. The overall improvements are even more encouraging when it comes to the health of the gambling industry in the Empire State though.

The latest New York commercial casino revenue figures

Altogether, the four facilities reported over $53.81 million in gross gaming revenues for May 2021. That’s a combination of revenue from slots, sports betting, and table games. Resorts World Catskills in Monticello maintained its pole position.

CasinoMay 2021 GGR
Resorts World Catskills$18,783,821
Rivers Casino$14,878,315
del lago Casino$12,214,912
Tioga Downs Casino$7,959,967

May’s total represented an increase of about 17.8% on April’s $47.97 million. That’s good news just as a raw uptick and also because of the rate of growth. From March of this year to April, that figure also saw an increase but only of about 4.4%.

Thus, the April to May month-over-month increase is closer to the impressive 34% month-over-month jump these same facilities experienced from February to March. Most of the increase again came from slot play, which was up around $27 million compared to April.

After an expected decline in April month, hold on sports betting actually added to the growth. There’s no reason to really worry about the health of retail wagering on sporting events in NY.

Sports betting carries its weight

Perhaps because of the presence of the Brooklyn Nets, New York Islanders, and New York Knicks in the respective postseason contests, hold at the four sportsbooks actually recovered in May. BetRivers Sportsbook held onto its top spot.

SportsbookCasinoMay 2021 GGR
BetRivers SportsbookRivers Casino$641,102
DraftKings Sportsbookdel lago Casino$555,855
Sportsbook 360Resorts World Catskills$307,607
FanDuel SportsbookTioga Downs$85,550

Total sports betting revenue from these four books came to over $1.59 million. That’s an advance of around 17% from April’s $1.32 million. However, that’s kind of a low bar to clear, as April’s numbers were down almost 29% as compared to March’s.

At the same time, comparing April to March is a little unfair as well. The NCAA D1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, better known as March Madness, often inflate sports betting numbers. Still, any uptick is welcome for these casino operators.

None of those was happier to see the calendar turn from April to May than Resorts World, which actually reported a loss of over $7,000 in April. As reports from the NY State Gaming Commission don’t share any details about betting activity, it’s unclear why bettors did so well at that book for the month.

It is possible to make some inferences about why overall trends are looking up for these gaming facilities, though. Just as COVID-19 protocols have taketh away, they now giveth.

“Rules” out for summer

State authorities have now lifted virtually all COVID-19-related restrictions for businesses and recommendations for fully vaccinated New Yorkers. Those ultimate easements began in May, likely leading to more NY residents feeling comfortable in visiting casinos again.

Casinos have responded by restoring amenities and gaming positions as staffing levels have allowed. For example, Rivers Casino in Schenectady has opened its gaming tables back to full capacity and restored beverage service at Van Slyck’s Bar.

The already-improving numbers should incentivize further restorations like live entertainment and poker rooms in the near term. That, in turn, should lead to even more revenue. Right now, there are plenty of reasons for optimism around NY commercial casinos.

Photo by AP / Frank Franklin II
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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