The US casino industry is roaring at unprecedented levels in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the hearty gaming play could soon wear thin as inflation dampens the economy and leisure spending.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) reported this week that US commercial casinos — aka non-tribal gaming facilities — experienced their best May ever in 2022. May also represented the domestic gaming industry’s second-best all-time month in history.
Gross gaming revenue (GGR) from commercial land-based operations, plus iGaming and sports betting, totaled $5.1 billion in May. That is 9.5% better than May 2021.
The AGA keeps tabs on the gaming industry by monitoring and tallying monthly revenue reports in the 31 states where commercial casinos operate. The trade group says 18 of those 31 states saw year-over-year GGR gains.
Sequentially from April, land-based casino GGR climbed 1.5%, and oddsmakers saw their win grow slightly more than 5%. Internet casinos, however, reported a 2.4% month-to-month pullback.
Slot machines continue to dominate the gaming industry and deliver the house more money than any other vertical. Retail terminals won $2.94 billion in May — or about 58% of the industry income.
The AGA says May capped off the US casino industry’s best three-month revenue streak ever.
As the mid-year mark approaches, the US commercial gaming industry continues to maintain momentum. Despite macroeconomic challenges and increasingly tougher year-over-year comparisons, March, April, and May have been the three best gaming months in industry history — each surpassing gaming revenue of $5 billion,” the AGA detailed.
In-person table games won $873.9 million, and sportsbooks kept $555 million of the bets wagered. iGaming revenue totaled $406.4 million.
Sports betting continues to grow in importance as new states join the liberalized gambling activity. The $555 million hold represents a 103% year-over-year income surge. Tables saw their revenue spike 10.5%, and iGaming platforms won almost 31% more than they did in May 2021.
Difficult Times Ahead?
Though inflation has been a concern throughout 2022, the surge in consumer prices in recent months is expected to curb some of the gaming industry’s momentum. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics said this week that prices rose more than 9% year-over-year in June.
Higher prices for everything from milk and eggs to gasoline and soap have economists concerned regarding the odds of an imminent recession. But top gaming executives — MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle, Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein, and Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings — maintained optimism during an interview this week with CNBC.
The gaming execs believe inflation could slow down Las Vegas and the US gaming industry as a whole. But they also said they aren’t currently seeing definitive signs of a looming recession.
The old adage that casinos are recession-proof — based on claims that some people risk what little money they still have amid an economic downturn in hopes of striking it rich — has long been proven false. In reality, the hospitality and gaming industries are typically among the first to hit during a recession, as travelers quickly suspend their leisure spending.
While the Strip casino CEOs said they haven’t yet seen a downturn, that’s not the entire picture. Downtown Las Vegas casino owner Derek Stevens told CNBC last month that “Every weekend has been worse than the prior weekend” for his Circa, D, and Golden Gate casinos.
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