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Detroit casinos report $109 million in April revenue amid industry rebound

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
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Detroit's three casinos netted nearly $109 million in revenue in April, one year since the start of a coronavirus pandemic-related casino shutdown that wiped out revenues for four straight months in 2020.

Even though the casinos continue to operate under capacity limits aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, the casinos were not too far off from revenues generated in April 2019, when they collectively netted about $125 million — a reflection of a casino rebound driven by pent-up demand from bettors. 

April revenues were down 3.1% compared to March, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which released the latest revenue numbers Tuesday. MGCB reported that through April, gaming revenue from table games and slots for the three venues was up 30.9% over the first four months of 2020. The casinos shut down March 16, 2020, and remained closed until August.

Facility cleaner / porter Ella Felton disinfects .25 cent slot machines and their social-distanced chairs.

In April, table games and slots generated about $107.4 million in revenue, while retail sports betting generated about $1.5 million.

MGM Grand Detroit led the pack with 40% market share in April, followed by MotorCity Casino Hotel with 37% and Greektown Casino with 23%.

Collectively, the three casinos paid $8.7 million in gaming taxes to the state for April, MGCB reported. They submitted $12.8 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments to the city.

On the retail sports betting side, the casinos reported a total handle — the amount of money wagered — of $24,337,682 in April. Gross receipts totaled more than $1.5 million.

Greektown led the month in terms of handle, while MGM Grand led in terms of qualified adjusted gross receipts, which are receipts minus the monetary value of free play incentives provided to and wagered by bettors.

The casinos paid $58,308 in retail sports betting taxes to the state and $71,265 to the city.

Results from online gaming and sports betting, which launched in Michigan in January, are reported separately. April figures tied to online gambling are slated to be released later this month.

Meanwhile, analysts who track the gaming industry reported Tuesday that Michigan's online and retail sportsbooks have now surpassed $1 billion in sports bets since the industry launched, not counting pending results from April. Retail sports betting launched last year, while online gaming and sports betting launched in mid-January.

According to PlayMichigan.com, which covers the industry, nearly $885 million in bets, out of the $1.02 billion total, have occurred in 2021 and online wagers have generated $776.5 million through March.

Analysts say the milestone signals just how strong Michigan's sports betting market is. It's already grown to one of the largest in the country, with plenty of room for further expansion.

"The launch of online betting unlocked an avalanche of pent-up demand, which had been building up for much of 2020 as the pandemic shut down the fledgling industry," PlayMichigan.com analyst Matt Schoch said in a statement. 

"The phased rollout of online betting delayed this surge by several months, but the result is an expansion unlike any we have seen in the U.S. to date," he said. "With high demand and an appealing, balanced regulatory framework, the market is well positioned for the long term, too.”

Meanwhile, the American Gaming Association — a trade group representing the U.S. casino industry — on Tuesday reported that U.S. commercial gaming revenue topped $11 billion in the first quarter of 2021, matching the third quarter of 2019 as the industry's highest-grossing period ever.

The association pointed to the results as a sign of an "accelerating recovery" for the industry, noting that March marked the highest-grossing revenue month in history for U.S. commercial gaming. 

"Today's report shows gaming's comeback is ahead of schedule," AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement.

The AGA reports that the vast majority of commercial casinos in the U.S. have now reopened, most with capacity restrictions ranging from 25% to 75%.

Sports betting revenue for the first quarter set a quarterly U.S. record of $961 million, up 270% over the first quarter of 2020 and eclipsing 2019's full-year total of $909 million, AGA reported.

And, the association said in a release, "Boosted by the January launch of online casinos in Michigan, iGaming generated $784 million nationwide in Q1 2021, more than tripling U.S. iGaming revenue from Q1 2020."

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

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