U.S. Casinos Bag $39 Billion in First 3 Quarters, Set for Best Year in Industry History

Commercial casinos in the U.S. racked up nearly $39 billion in the first three quarters of 2021, surpassing winnings from all of 2020 and marking 18 percent in growth from the first three quarters of 2019, the Associated Press reported.

The figures, released by the American Gaming Association trade group, put the industry on track to have its most successful year in history.

The record winnings reflect growing comfort among consumers returning to casinos after the initial decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increasing popularity of online and sports betting. The American Gaming Association said that the U.S. casinos are on track to surpass the annual record of $43.65 billion from 2019, AP reported.

The third quarter, in which casinos collected nearly $14 billion, was the most successful in industry history. It was the second quarter in a row to do so, which Bill Miller, the association's president and CEO, said was "incredible."

"Two straight quarters of record gaming revenue is an incredible accomplishment in any context, let alone after the most challenging year in industry history," he said in a statement. "Our recovery is not a flash in the pan, but rather a sustained result of our leadership in responsible reopening, world-class entertainment offerings and widespread favorability."

Miller added that despite that pandemic's impact on the industry, this year's numbers signal a strong revival.

"I'm confident that the return of meetings, conventions and international travel will further accelerate gaming's recovery in 2022," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Successful Quarter for Casinos
Figures released on Tuesday from the American Gaming Association show the nation's commercial casinos won nearly $14 billion in the third quarter this year, marking the best three-month period in history for the industry, which is poised to have its best full year ever in 2021. Above, a dealer conducts a game of roulette at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on June 23, 2021. Wayne Parry/AP Photo

Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at New Jersey's Stockton University, said pent-up demand among pandemic-weary customers played a big role in the industry's resurgence as restrictions were lifted.

"After a year of restrictions and quarantines, people were anxious to get out and enjoy in-person experiences again," she said. "The casino industry responded quickly to implement clean and safe protocols providing a welcoming environment to people seeking safe social activities.

"The explosive growth of internet gaming during the pandemic engaged a new audience of consumers who may have become curious about brick-and-mortar casinos and the in-person gaming experience," she added. "Encouraged by casino marketing and loyalty programs they may have decided to try something new."

David Schwartz, a gambling historian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, agreed that eagerness to get out and do things among gamblers who had been reluctant to visit casinos in Las Vegas or in their local regions is one factor driving the higher numbers.

Ten out of 25 states with commercial casinos saw quarterly revenue records, including the four highest-grossing commercial gambling states in 2019: Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

On the Las Vegas Strip, gambling revenue also hit an all-time high of $2.06 billion.

The association said the record was driven, in part, by the steady return of tourism, with 9.2 million people visiting Las Vegas in the third quarter, a nearly 10 percent increase over the second quarter of this year, and the highest quarterly visitation level since the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020.

Slots and table games, traditionally the bread and butter of the casino industry, accounted for most of the haul at over $12 billion.

Internet gambling revenue set a record at $938.6 million.

Sports betting revenue, however, saw a quarterly low for 2021 of $886.5 million due to a limited end-of-summer sports calendar.

Combined sports betting and internet gambling revenue through the first nine months of the year was $5.36 billion, up more than 200 percent year over year.

Casino Industry Record Winnings
The casino industry is on track to record its most successful year in history. Above, a woman plays a slot machine at Bally's casino in Atlantic City New Jersey, on June 23, 2021. Wayne Parry/AP Photo