(The Center Square) – As legalized gambling has grown in Pennsylvania, so too have investments from the industry.
Since the pandemic, casinos across the commonwealth have spent $250 million on renovations to attract visitors.
The renovations have primarily been in new construction and amenities, with an eye toward attracting younger gamblers.
“Pandemic closures and subsequent impact, in addition to increased competition and high inflation, have pushed PA casinos to reinvent themselves in an attempt to return revenue to pre-pandemic levels,” said the report from Play Pennsylvania, an independent website that covers gambling in the state.
Wind Creek Casino, Parx Casino, Mohegan Pennsylvania and Valley Forge Casino have recovered their prepandemic revenues, while others, like Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Hollywood Casino at The Meadows, Harrah’s Philadelphia, and Rivers Philadelphia still have not recovered, the report said.
COVID-19 restrictions hurt Philadelphia casinos more than others in the state, and “skill games” have pulled away revenue from casinos as well.
Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden has made public attempts to ban skill games, claiming, ‘this is an existential issue for the industry,’ Play Pennsylvania noted.
Casinos have been specifically targeting younger crowds to increase revenue.
“In addition to retail sportsbooks, a number of the new bars, restaurants and concert venues that casinos have invested in lately are also clearly geared toward bringing in a new, younger clientele,” Play Pennsylvania Managing Editor Chris Imperiale said. “When you hear about new bars with lawn games, fire pits and a Topgolf Swing Suites (Mohegan PA), you can bet they’re trying to reach a younger audience.”
The casino investments have been two-fold: expansion to draw in bigger crowds and pull customers from competing casinos.
“Pennsylvania is a rare case where competition is increasing but the pie is also growing,” Imperiale said. “Apart from Nevada, Pennsylvania boasts the highest commercial casino revenue of any state, and it is still growing.”
“The appetite for visiting casinos for the entire package of gaming, entertainment and dining is higher than it’s ever been,” he said.
Renovation projects aren’t likely to slow soon, either.
“In the current climate of fierce competition for business, PA casinos will likely continue the trend of reinvesting in new construction projects to expand offerings and stay competitive,” the report noted.
For Pennsylvania, tax revenues have been a boost for the state budget. Experts have previously predicted annual revenues could reach $5 billion, but those tend to shrink in times of inflation or economic downturns, as discretionary spending falls.