2021 is the Biggest Winning Year for US Casinos, But One Gambling Hub is Hedging Its Bets

Image Credit: iStock, Welcomia

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

The house always wins, and this year it wiped the card table with the opposition.

On Thursday, the American Gaming Association announced US casinos have already broken the record for most money won in a single year, pulling in $44.2 billion as of November and beating the 2019 high of $43.6 billion. That hasn’t stopped one of the country’s largest gambling hubs from preparing to raise tens of millions to fund a hedge away from the industry.

Whale of a Time

Gambling came to a near-halt when pandemic lockdowns closed America’s biggest casinos last year. But, while other industries have had varied returns in 2021, sin is clearly in. The US gambling industry has banked over $4 billion in monthly gambling revenue for eight straight months — before 2021, monthly revenue had never topped $4 billion.

Most significant is that brick-and-mortar activity is what’s driving the comeback — visits to casinos brought in $3.97 billion in revenues in October, or 16% more than pre pandemic October 2019.

That doesn’t mean that last year’s scare — when US gambling revenue fell 31% — hasn’t led to some sober second thought. In fact, the casino capital of the South — Tunica County, Mississippi — is placing a bet on more wholesome activities:

  • Next week, Tunica — one of the top six US gambling destinations by revenue — is selling $148 million in urban renewal revenue bonds to build a family-focused complex with a water theme park, youth sports facilities, two hotels, and a convention center.
  • County officials cite the fact that more casinos have opened up in neighboring states as a need to diversify, and project the less sordid facilities will generate $35 million in revenues in 2022, $104 million in 2025, and $124 million in 2031.

Return of $ports: With most sports leagues back in full force, Americans bet a record $7 billion on games in October, bringing the year’s total to $42 billion or double all of 2020.