Nevada saw a statewide gambling revenue increase for April and May of 2020 of just 1% over the same period in 2019. Casinos in the state took in only $5.44 million due to the Covid-19 related shutdowns and health regulations. However, Pennsylvania and New Jersey also closed down their respective casinos. Upon reopening, the two states also imposed strict health guidelines in line with CDC recommendations related to Covid-19. In the same period, New Jersey casinos totaled roughly $178 million in gaming revenue and Pennsylvania casinos reported $108 million.
Online gaming accounts for the difference. While Nevada offers online poker games, it does not include slots and table games. According to those in the industry, Nevada is missing out in a big way. John Pappas is a spokesman for iDEA Growth, iDevelopment and Economic Association based in Washington DC. “We recognize that change in Nevada has to be spearheaded by the brick and mortar casinos, there can be a tremendous amount of benefit.” Chris Grove is a Research Analyst at Eilers and Krejcik Gaming; “it’s evident to us that the introduction of online casino would have an additive impact on the total amount of gambling revenue generated by the Nevada locals market.”
Online Gaming: A History
Nevada had previously legalized online gambling. In 2002 the practice was legal in the state until the U.S. Department of Justice determined that internet gaming was prohibited. Upon reinterpreting the Federal Wire Act in 2011, the DOJ permitted the practice and many states legalized it. In 2013 Nevada reexplored legalization and approved online gaming but strictly for online poker.
The Covid-19 Impact
There are five states that currently offer online gaming, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, though only online poker. In addition, Michigan has legalized online gaming but has yet to launch a platform. Pre Covid-19 several other states were working on online gaming legislation however the closures and pandemic related delays of state legislatures have left that future in doubt.
The American Gaming Association has determined the impact of Covid-19 related closures on gaming revenues. Nationwide, there was a 79% dip in revenues as compared to the same period in 2019. In fact, all gaming revenue streams declined as a result of Covid-19 with the exception of online gaming. Revenues for online gaming in the states where platforms are live are up nearly 260%, earning roughly $403 million for this quarter. According to American Gaming Association CEO, Bill Miller, this is the first time online gaming beat out sports gambling for higher revenues.
Nevada’s Current Progress
The legislative framework is currently in place for Nevada to expand its online gaming offerings. According to gaming attorney, Tony Cabot, a Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, Nevada gaming regulators simply need to agree on a regulatory guideline. “The gaming commission was uncomfortable doing anything beyond poker. The regulations governing internet casinos would just have to be approved.”