Sports betting revenue in Pennsylvania was at an all-time low for the month of February.

  • Pennsylvania handled nearly $330 million in total bets in February but earned only $11.4 million in gross revenue—a hold percentage of 3.47%.
  • This figure is disappointing for Pennsylvania sportsbooks, and there is no clear reason for the decrease.
  • With March Madness and other sporting events all around the world being canceled or suspended, the low February revenues will sting even more than usual.

HARRISBURG, Penn. – Despite huge turnout for the Super Bowl, Pennsylvania sportsbooks saw a drastic 64% decrease in revenue from January to February.

Pennsylvania’s 12 licensed sportsbooks handled a total of $329.8 million in bets, but collected only $11.4 million in gross revenue from that gaudy handle—a hold percentage of just 3.47%.

That is by far Pennsylvania’s lowest monthly hold on record, with the second lowest being a 5.1% mark in December 2019.

These figures were disappointing coming off a historically successful January, in which Pennsylvania sports betting operators totaled a record $31.6 million in revenue on a hold rate of 9.07%.

This success wasn’t necessarily sustainable because much of it came from unsuccessful bets on the local Philadelphia Eagles, who lost at home to the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs.

Still, the 3.47% hold was shockingly low. The average national hold in February 2019 was 5.18%. Full data on sports betting revenue is not yet available for February 2020, so it is unclear if the reduced hold is specific to Pennsylvania or a nationwide trend.

Potential Causes Of Low Revenue Total

Unlike Rhode Island’s disastrous February 2018, there are no clear immediate causes for Pennsylvania’s depressed Super Bowl revenue totals.

The winning team, the Kansas City Chiefs, are located over 900 miles from the Pennsylvania border. Other sports betting states like Iowa, Indiana and Mississippi are all closer and more convenient for Chiefs fans, and the Super Bowl itself was hosted in Miami.

The Chiefs are the “local” team in comparison to the losing San Francisco 49ers, but that is a relative term when both squads play so far from Pennsylvania sportsbooks.

The real likely cause for the low revenue total is straightforward: the average bettor simply placed smarter bets. With so many different lines and prop bets, the Super Bowl offers more opportunities than most games for bettors to dig for a competitive advantage.

The data backs this theory up, as only two sportsbooks in Pennsylvania—the Mohegan Sun and the South Philadelphia Turf Club—posted hold percentages even close to the national average of 6.97%.

In other words, it wasn’t a handful of big bets cashing in and skewing the totals. Bettors across Pennsylvania were consistently finding ways to profit.

Potential Impact Of Low Revenue Total

With the COVID-19 outbreak sweeping the country and shutting down major sporting events and leagues around the world, Pennsylvania’s disappointing Super Bowl take-home will sting the sports betting industry.

In most years, sportsbooks can easily make up for lost Super Bowl revenue with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the second most popular betting event in the United States. In 2020, that isn’t possible, as the NCAA made the unprecedented decision to cancel the tournament.

The nationwide U.S. sports betting industry will likely lose at least $100 million in revenue as a result of COVID-19, and that figure could increase drastically if delays stretch any longer.

In 2019, Pennsylvania’s March revenues increased 183% over February—going from $1.9 million to $5.5 million. But in 2020, the revenue totals will likely decrease again in March because there simply hasn’t been much to bet on.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry had been on a very positive trajectory, but like so many other global industries, its future has become much more uncertain in the wake of a worldwide emergency.

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