The adage of learning to walk before you run applies in many aspects of life. But for Massachusetts casino revenue, it’s more of a crawl.
As restrictions on their businesses ease, numbers at the three commercial gambling properties in the Bay State are on a similar trajectory toward pre-pandemic levels.
January 2021 was the second consecutive month of improvement in this metric. However, there’s still a significant gap in a year-over-year comparison. That suggests the casinos may not see their numbers return to normal until consumer access and comfort normalizes.
A look at Massachusetts casino revenue for January 2021
Altogether, the three casinos reported just shy of $58 million in gross gaming revenue for the first month of the year. Breaking that down by facility:
Not only did Encore post the biggest hold for the month, it also netted the best growth in that category as compared to December 2020. That month, Encore held about $29.27 million. Combined, the three facilities’ total for January 2021 was up about $9 million month-over-month.
That follows a December that was superior to the previous month. For example, Plainridge Park’s November GGR was just $7.59 million, while December clocked in at $9.17 million. The consecutive months of growth could easily stay alive moving forward.
Trend of MA casino revenue could continue
In late January, Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the 9:30 p.m. curfew for casinos. He also stated that the casino operators are free to have as much as 40% of fire code capacity within their walls at any time they like. Thus far, the casinos have stuck to capping that at 25%.
The operators may move in that direction should local and relevant COVID-19 metrics continue to improve. The distribution of vaccinations works in the same vein. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports decreases over the past week in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
As with every other business in the state, casinos hope those trends continue. That should not only lead to a further easement of restrictions and improved confidence in patrons who are still staying away.
Putting January 2021 numbers in another context
Before the pandemic changed the world, the three commercial casinos in Massachusetts did over $80.25 million in GGR for January 2020. So, this year’s numbers for the same month are down about $22 million.
Getting back to full capacity might take a lot more than just time and vaccination numbers to skyrocket, though. It’s also about how comfortable residents and visitors to the state feel about being on-site at these casinos.
That’s probably going to require a massive media campaign from the operators, in addition to time. The message will undoubtedly be that, despite the lifting of safety precautions, guests are safe to return and play.
When revenue numbers start to reach pre-pandemic levels, it will be a sign that casinos’ efforts to make guests feel secure in their surroundings. Until then, that’s the challenge that they face like every other business in the state.