One year after COVID-19 first shuttered the U.S. gaming industry, commercial casinos across the country are showing strong signs of recovery. During the first quarter, consumers began to emerge from COVID-induced isolation, boosted by increasing vaccination rates, an increasingly optimistic economic outlook and significant pent-up demand for travel and entertainment. Taken together, these factors propelled quarterly commercial gaming revenue to pre-pandemic levels.
In the first quarter of 2021, commercial gaming revenue nationwide reached $11.13 billion, an increase of 17.7 percent from the same three-month period in 2020. More impressive: gaming revenue was up 4.0 percent from 2019 – within a tenth of a percent of the highest quarterly revenue total in the history of U.S. gaming.
While gaming revenue contracted year-over-year in January (-7.8%) and February (-14.6%), March revenue climbed to $4.48 billion, making it the highest grossing month ever in terms of gaming revenue, an increase of 12.9 percent compared to the previous all-time high monthly revenue from March 2019 ($4.00B).
Impressively, gaming outperformed the broader economy in the first quarter, as U.S. GDP jumped 6.4 percent on an annualized basis. But that only tells part of the gaming industry’s story. Though $11.13 billion was generated from gaming, casinos across the country continued to struggle with limitations on live entertainment, dining, hotel bookings and meetings and conventions that are essential to the industry’s bottom line.
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