Ranking Internet Casino States From Best to Worst in the US

Ranking Internet Casino States From Best to Worst in the US
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US online sports betting is legal in some 25 states, yet just seven states have legalized igaming – and that’s a generous tally that includes the online-poker-only state of Nevada. For the purposes of this column, an igaming market is a market that has legalized and offers one or more of the following online products: slots, table games, and poker. That gives us seven markets to analyze. Those markets, along with their launch dates, are:

  1. CT (launched October 2021)
  2. DE (launched in October 2013)
  3. MI (launched January 2021)
  4. NV (launched in April 2013)
  5. NJ (launched in November 2013)
  6. PA (launched July 2019)
  7. WV (launched February 2021)

Comparing Legal Markets

The topline metric is financial and on a per-resident basis to level the playing field between large and small population states. For betting, a combination of handle and revenue seemed most appropriate given the variance in sports betting hold percentages. For online casinos, we will focus solely on revenue for the simple fact that, unlike sports , there is little variance in overall hold percentages. 

The chart is incomplete because Nevada doesn’t report its online poker revenue. Still, as an online poker-only state, its per-resident revenue for the three months analyzed is likely under $1.

Other Factors to Consider

As the chart shows, ranking the legal states is pretty cut and dry. Each state has a unique structure that affects its performance. As such, a deeper analysis is needed to explain how the rankings shook out the way they did. 

The five factors that are playing a role in performance are:

  • Market Competitiveness – States with open, competitive markets are consumer-friendly, which means lots of advertising and promotions to entice customers.
  • Operator Burdens – High tax rates and licensing fees reduce marketing and get passed on to consumers.
  • Market Maturity – iGaming markets tend to grow over time until they reach maturity. That growth can vary based on market penetration. Maturity takes at least five years.
  • Products Offered – There are a lot of casino games, but not every state offers a full catalog. Some are missing online poker, while others are without live dealer games.
  • Mobile Sports Betting – Mobile sports betting is seen as a complementary product capable of increasing the market maturity ceiling.

NJ Leads the Pack

  • Market Competitiveness – 30 Unique Brands
  • Operator Burdens – $200,000 Licensing Fee and a 15% tax Rate
  • Market Maturity – Approaching 10-Year Anniversary
  • Products Offered – Live Dealer and Poker available
  • Mobile Sports Betting – Yes, N.J. is a top sports betting market

Along with Nevada and Delaware, NJ online casinos belong to one of the original three iGaming markets. Nevada launched its first online poker room in April 2013. The latter two launched within a few weeks of one another later that year. Launch date proximity is the only similarity between the three states. The Garden State is the top-performing gaming state, while Delaware and Nevada bring up the rear. Here’s why.

In addition to being a mature market, the Garden State has an open, competitive structure with a lot of operators, low operator burdens, has no significant product restrictions, and is one of the top betting markets. The final point is perfectly illustrated in the following chart, where iGaming revenue growth explodes soon after the launch of mobile sports betting in New Jersey:

Michigan, the Clear No. 2

  • Market Competitiveness – Nine Unique Brands
  • Operator Burdens – $100,000 Licensing Fee and a 20-28% Tax Rate
  • Market Maturity – Launched in July 2019
  • Products Offered – Live Dealer and Poker available
  • Mobile Sports Betting – Yes, Michigan is a top sports betting market

The Michigan online casino industry is just over two years old, but the Wolverine State came out of the gate at a full sprint and has steadily grown over time. 

This appears to be the only state capable of overtaking NJ in revenue per resident, because of its low operator burdens, open market, product offerings, and ability to continue to mature – this market is two years old, while NJ is approaching its 10-year anniversary. 

Burdens a Hindrance in Penn

  • Market Competitiveness – 17 unique brands
  • Operator Burdens – $4 million licensing fee for Slots, $4 Million licensing fee for Table Games, $4 million licensing fee for Poker, and a 51% tax rate on Slots and 16% on Table Games
  • Market Maturity – Launched in January 2021
  • Products Offered – Live Dealer and Poker available
  • Mobile Sports Betting – Yes, Pennsylvania is a top betting market

The PA online casino market is competitive, doesn’t restrict products, is fairly mature, having launched in the summer of 2019, and possesses a strong sports betting market. Where the Keystone State falls short is in terms of operator burdens, as it burdens operators with a gaudy 51% tax on online slots. 

Some will point to the presence of online lottery instant win games (that closely mimic online slots) as a reason its revenue lags. Still, the same games are available through the Michigan lottery and do not seem to have a significant impact. 

Connecticut Still Maturing

  • Market Competitiveness – Two unique brands
  • Operator Burdens – A bundled licensing fee and an 18% tax rate
  • Market Maturity – Launched in October 2021
  • Products Offered – Live Dealer is available, online poker has not launched
  • Sports Betting – Yes, CT operators also offer mobile sports betting

The newest state is the CT online casino market, which means it’s far from a mature market. The Nutmeg State could be a juggernaut, as it is one of the most prosperous in median income, but its iGaming industry has several structural flaws.

The most debilitating is the limited number of operators for online bettors to choose from, as Connecticut limited online licenses to the two gaming tribes, the Mohegan (Mohegan Sun Casino) and the Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods). 

And because it’s a sparsely populated state, neither tribe has launched an internet poker product. Revenue from that isn’t going to propel Connecticut past Penn. Still, poker players are known to play games, so the lack of internet poker costs Connecticut far more than the direct revenue it would bring in from the tables. 

West Virginia Could Use a Shot in the Arm

  • Market Competitiveness – Nine Unique Brands
  • Operator Burdens – $50,000 Licensing Fee and a 10% tax Rate
  • Market Maturity – Launched in February 2021
  • Products Offered – Live Dealer available, but Poker not
  • Sports Betting – Yes, sports betting is live in WV, but it ranks very low in handle and revenue

While it is a relatively new market that doesn’t have a slew of operators, West Virginia’s struggles stem from the state’s poor economic conditions. 

Like Connecticut, the state hasn’t launched online poker sites, which could provide a small boost to the overall West Virginia online casino revenue. 

Delaware Needs an Overhaul

  • Market Competitiveness – Three unique brands
  • Operator Burdens – $4,000 licensing fee and a 43% tax rate (100% on the first $3 million)
  • Market Maturity – Launched in October 2013
  • Products Offered – Poker is available; live dealer games are not available
  • Sports Betting – Delaware doesn’t offer mobile sports betting

Delaware online gambling is a constant first-mover, but its methods leave much to be desired. From selecting a state-run monopoly (all three Delaware racinos use the same gaming platform) to imposing a tax rate that makes profitability almost impossible, the state is highly skilled in self-inflicted wounds. 

The state’s top online platfrom is Delaware Park, which tallied $5.9 million in 2022. Delaware Park’s cut was $1.6 million, which means it paid a tax rate of about 73%. And remember, Delaware Park was the top performer.

Nevada Eyes Expansion

  • Market Competitiveness – One unique brand
  • Operator Burdens – No additional licensing fee and a 6.75% tax rate
  • Market Maturity – Launched in April 2013
  • Products Offered – Nevada is a poker-only state
  • Sports Betting – Yes, Nevada is a top sports betting market

As such, Nevada cannot compete with its peers that offer online slots and table games. There has been plenty of chatter about expanding Nevada gambling options. Still, the state’s reliance on land-based revenue makes it reluctant to go down that path. 

Upshot

Any state considering legalizing internet casinos should look to number 1 and 2 on this list as their model. 

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