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State of Despair

State of Despair

The annual “State of the States” report from the American Gaming Association reflected what was the worst year in the history of the legal commercial gaming industry. The effects of the pandemic hit the industry hard in every jurisdiction in the U.S. From only a 4.5 percent decline in South Dakota, where casinos reopened in May, to a huge drop of almost 80 percent in New Mexico, where the legal racinos closed in March and didn’t reopen until nearly the end of the year, every state was devastated by the effects of the lockdowns. Gross gaming revenues dropped for the first time since 2014, a massive 31 percent lower than 2019. The pandemic also shuffled the most popular gaming destinations (defined as the most gross gaming revenues) more than normally. While the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City remain one-two, Chicagoland dropped a place to four, no doubt defined by the extensive shutdown of Illinois casinos. Other jurisdictions like New York City, Detroit and the Poconos dropped multiple places, most likely attributable to draconian lockdowns in those regions.

Top 20 U.S. Commercial Casino Markets 2020

But all was not doom and gloom in the 2020 State of the States report. In his introductory letter in the report, AGA President Bill Miller looked toward the future.

“Although 2020 presented a tremendous challenge and many headwinds remain, I’m optimistic about gaming’s future,” Miller wrote. “States around the country expanded access to our products in 2020 with voters and legislatures legalizing sports betting in five states and authorizing commercial casino properties in two new states. Beyond geographic expansion, we’re an industry in a constant state of reinvention, and many of you are already moving to adapt to new consumer trends around payment preferences and the casino experience.”

Annual U.S. Commercial Gaming Revenue 2008 to 2020

Commercial Casino Gaming Consumer Spend By State 2019 vs. 2020

In addition to the revenue numbers, the State of the States report includes an extensive review of the gaming industries in every state where commercial gaming is legal, including regulation, taxes and fees, market performance, gaming tax distribution and the competitive landscape. It’s an invaluable tool for anyone looking for solid, up-to-date information on the U.S. gaming industry. To download a copy of the report, visit


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