Casinos Around The Country Were As Busy As Nevada In 2021

Written By Marc Meltzer on February 22, 2022
AGA report shows significant increase in US gambling revenue for 2021

Just like Nevada, casino operators around the country saw a massive jump in gaming revenue in 2021 during the fourth quarter and for the full year. The increase in revenue was so large, that the total gross gaming revenue for the country broke records.

According to a report by the American Gaming Association (AGA), 2021 was a record-breaking year for US casinos. The AGA’s annual report of gross gaming revenue in US commercial casinos shows that revenue reached a record $52.99 billion in 2021.

US gaming revenue

This record-breaking gross gaming revenue was easily greater than 2020 when casinos around the country closed for a short time to help slow the spread of Covid-19. It was also higher than 2019 – before the global pandemic sent casino revenue much lower.

According to the report, commercial casino revenue in the US was nearly 77% higher than in 2020. The growth was more than 21% higher than the previous annual record. Coincidentally, that record was set in 2019.

Altogether, 23 of the 34 commercial gaming jurisdictions around the country set records for full-year gaming revenue in 2021. The following states broke this record:

ConnecticutMichiganSouth Dakota
Washington DCMontanaTennessee
IowaNew HampshireWyoming

It was quite a year for casino operators around the country. Of course, they all pale in comparison to casino revenue in Nevada.

Comparing US casino revenue to Nevada

For comparison, Nevada gaming revenue in 2021 was greater than 2020 and a 19% increase from 2019. While tourists were somewhat slow to return to Las Vegas, they weren’t quite as slow to return to casinos closer to home.

When visitation to Las Vegas was slowly building up throughout the year, gamblers stayed home and played at casinos closer to home. Regional casinos were doing great business while casinos, restaurants and shows in Las Vegas were slow to return to full capacity.

While Nevada broke records as a state, two of the most popular tourist destinations saw different increases.

Gaming revenue on the Vegas Strip in 2021 was up 7.4% over 2019. Downtown Las Vegas casinos saw a 23% increase over 2019 gaming revenue last year.

The increases make sense considering the two have different customers. Both depend on tourist visitation differently.

Downtown Las Vegas casinos see more customers from locals who live nearby. The success of downtown Las Vegas casinos was similar to regional casinos around the country.

The tourists visiting downtown Las Vegas typically gamble more. Since the casinos are smaller than the Vegas Strip and don’t offer the same amenities such as ample fine dining, shows, spas and so on.

While the Vegas Strip saw an increase in gaming revenue it wasn’t quite the same. Gambling tourists weren’t exactly clamoring for $25 6:5 blackjack while they could play better games for a lower minimum bet downtown.

The Vegas Strip is #1 in the US

US Gaming Markets
US Gaming Markets chart via AGA

Despite the smaller gaming revenue increase than its downtown counterpart, the Vegas Strip is still the number one gaming market in the US. According to the AGA, the Vegas Strip had a little less than three times the gross gaming revenue as the second-best market in the US, Atlantic City.

The Vegas Strip casinos saw more than $7 billion in gross gaming revenue in 2021. The gross gaming revenue for Atlantic City casinos was about $2.5 billion in the same period.

Chicago, Baltimore/Washington DC and the casinos on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi round out the top 5 gaming revenue markets in the US.

Downtown Las Vegas ranked 15th in market size for gross gaming revenue according to the AGA report.

Sports betting on the rise around the US

Sports betting continues to grow in Nevada and around the US since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018.

New states offering sports betting are seeing great revenue from a type of gaming that makes up a small percentage of overall gaming revenue in Nevada. Sports betting accounted for just over 4% of casino gaming revenue for Nevada casinos and sportsbook operators in 2021.

Last year a record of $57.22 billion was bet on sports with online and retail sportsbooks around the country. This was good for a huge 164.8% increase from 2020.

The big increase in sports betting around the country can be chalked up to eleven total states and tribal markets legalizing this form of gaming.

While sports betting is growing in larger states around the country, Nevada isn’t going away quietly. The Silver State had the second-highest sports betting handle in the country last year.

New Jersey was the only state with more money wagered on sports than Nevada. The Garden State saw $10.9 billion wagered on sports last year. Nevada was second in the country with $8.1 billion gambled on sports according to the AGA report.

Photo by John Locher / Associated Press
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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