The iGaming industry relies on computer speed and operations that no person could hope to duplicate, but Pennsylvania’s record month for online casino gaming in December got a boost from human hands and faces.
The record revenue of $71.6 million last month among 13 online operators represented a 19.8% increase over the month before. Just like in land-based casinos, slots continue to be the biggest revenue producer, representing $46.2 million of the total, but those games aren’t the ones with the biggest spike.
Table games revenue, boosted by nine sites now featuring live dealers for blackjack and other games as part of their options, reached $22.6 million in December. That was a 25.9% increase from the month before.
All kinds of things can factor into online revenue increases, especially in a state like Pennsylvania where the industry was still growing throughout 2020.
BetMGM only just arrived in December as the 13th iCasino site, which alone added $5.7 million in revenue to the state total. And December was an unusual month for gaming, in that all land-based casinos were shut down by COVID-related government order starting Dec. 12, pushing gambling enthusiasts onto their computers and smartphones if they wanted to indulge customary habits.
When weighing everything, however, live dealer games were undoubtedly a factor. Their availability was one of the biggest changes throughout the fall for iCasino patrons, even if the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board doesn’t break out how much table games revenue comes in that format instead of the wide options that still exist for completely automated blackjack, roulette, and other games.
Live option came to PA two years after NJ
Evolution is the company that partners with multiple online operators to provide live dealer games, and it began doing so in New Jersey in August 2018. Dealers in a studio run games at the same tables seen in a casino while multiple players wager on their computers and phones, and players able to hear the dealers speak can type in a live chat to interact with them and one another.
The games proved highly popular in New Jersey. While it took many months to set up computers and a studio in Philadelphia to provide the same opportunity in the Keystone State, Evolution’s live dealers were added in October by PlaySugarHouse, BetRivers, DraftKings, and Hollywood Casino’s online offering.
Rush Street Interactive operates the PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers sites, and it explained in a statement at the time, “Many online players prefer live dealer options because they watch the action as it happens, which gives them a higher level of trust in the outcome.”
For its two sites, which added live dealer options Oct. 21, Rush Street has seen table games revenue climb from $1.67 million in September to $2.52 million in October, $2.79 million in November, and $3.43 million in December. Its December slots revenue of $15.9 million, meanwhile, was only modestly above September’s $14.4 million.
Mattias Stetz, Rush Street Interactive chief operating officer, said the company has been pleased with customers’ support for live dealer options and it is expecting to add still more of such games. He wasn’t attributing the more than doubling of table games revenue since September to that aspect alone, however.
“Live dealer has generated incremental revenues, but it doesn’t explain the entire increase as the casino vertical overall is still growing in Pennsylvania,” Stetz said by email.
Four of 13 sites have yet to add live dealers
Since those first four sites began presenting live dealers, the feature has been added by Unibet, Caesars, FanDuel, PokerStars, and BetMGM.
Most of those operated for many months without live dealers, but for the state’s iCasino latecomer, BetMGM, it took only a week after it launched to add them.
“We’ve seen great successes with our live offering in New Jersey and are expecting similarly strong numbers in Pennsylvania,” Matthew Sunderland, BetMGM vice president of gaming, announced last month.
As of now, the Parx, BetAmerica, Wind Creek, and PlayLive! online casinos are still without live dealers, although it could be only a matter of time before they also add them.
Such options are expected to become commonplace wherever iGaming is authorized around the country, as Evolution is developing a studio in Michigan to partner with the online casinos that are just now getting underway there.