2023 in US Gambling – The Biggest Winners
Looking back at 2023, the overall theme for the gambling sector was one of continued and strong growth.
The gambling sector in the U.S. posted its 11th-consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth, and broke revenue records in Q2 and Q3. Over the three quarters that have been published, revenues amounted to $48.83 billion.
Those numbers included casino gambling, sports betting, and lotteries, but not tribal casino operators.
Breaking down those figures, a physical casino visit was still the most popular form of gambling for U.S. residents and visitors, with around $32 billion in revenues over that time. They were led by casinos in Nevada, primarily those in Las Vegas.
However, casinos only showed modest growth nationally. It was U.S. online casinos that showed the most growth throughout the year, hitting a record total of $4.49 billion revenues. That’s with only Rhode Island casinos added to the list of legal state markets this year.
Meanwhile, the overall U.S. sports betting handle reached $250 billion in 2023, just four years since the repeal by the Supreme Court of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
Over the year, the sector saw new market launches for sports betting in Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, and Kentucky. Additionally, Florida sports betting saw a controversial launch (more on that later). Sports betting in North Carolina and Vermont were both legalized this year, but won’t launch until 2024.
The Biggest Wins for Operators
In terms of mergers, sales, and acquisitions, things slowed down a bit in 2023 compared to the extremely busy past few years.
The biggest gambling sector sale of the year was slot-maker Aristocrat’s purchase of lottery provider NeoGames for $1.2 billion.
In a gambling-related transaction, Las Vegas Sands’ owner Miriam Adelson is reportedly set to pay $3.5 billion to buy the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks from Mark Cuban. But that doesn’t quite count for the title, because it’s not official yet and the purchase is Adelson’s, not by Las Vegas Sands.
Adelson was the richest gambling magnate in the Forbes 2023 rich list, with an estimate net worth of $35 billion. That makes her the 35th-richest individual in the world.
Some think her purchase of the Mavericks could link it to Cuban’s and Sands’ plan to push for legal Texas casinos in 2024, although Lone Star State politicians have already expressed their opposition.
The year’s biggest revenue winners for U.S. gambling were Nevada casinos, and sports betting in New York.
Nevada casinos broke records throughout the year, with record visitors to Las Vegas. Nearly 5.5 million people passed through Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport in October.
That contributed to a record $1.315 in revenues for the state’s gambling sector, according to the latest figures released.
It also doesn’t take into account the last-minute avoidance of proposed worker’s strikes at the biggest casino operators in Las Vegas, which saved Sin City hundreds of millions in potential losses.
On the sports betting side, the nation’s largest sports betting market, New York, continued its strong growth in 2023. In October, the Empire State became the first to reach $2 billion in a single month’s handle – and then repeated that feat in November, when bettors wagered a new record of $2.1 billion.
In terms of operators, MGM Resorts International (despite a challenging year) was the biggest gambling operation in the U.S, according to Forbes’ annual Global 2000 list.
Another strong year was had by the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock. The Seminoles determined they had won their legal fight to launch a monopoly market on Florida sports betting, and promptly did so over November and December.
Honorable mentions for winners in 2023 go to Fanatics’ sports betting expansion and Penn Entertainment’s launch of ESPN Bet. These two nongaming brands launched in the sports betting market to initial success, with ESPN Bet in particular exceeding expectations.
Biggest Betting Winners
Speaking of bets, where there is a winner, there is a loser, as most responsible gamblers should know. And some extremely lucky or clever bettors certainly beat the house in 2023.
The biggest gambling winner of the year on the players’ side was undoubtedly Edwin Castro. The California lottery winner hit a record U.S. lottery win in February, bagging a $2.04 billion prize. He, somewhat predictably, went through some drama over the win, but eventually came out vindicated as the rightful ticket owner.
Although $20 million isn’t much in the face of $2 billion, a worthy shout-out has to go to Wayne A. Murray of New York.
In December, the Brooklyn resident hit his second $10 million jackpot on the New York lottery after buying a ticket from the exact same store he purchased his previous $10-million winner in 2022.
In terms of sports betting, only one month in 2023 really stood out as a seriously big win for bettors, and that was June.
Upset championship-winning runs from the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights caused sportsbook revenues to tumble for June in Colorado and Nevada, respectively.
Colorado sports betting in June saw bettors win a cool $10.8 million for the month on basketball betting, almost all of that betting on home state heroes the Denver Nuggets. Operator revenues fell by 68% for the month, and Colorado retail sportsbooks saw a $674,000 loss.
Meanwhile in Nevada, June’s sports betting revenues also fell by 60.1%. Operators held on to a slim 2% of all wagers for the month. That was mostly because Nevada retail sportsbooks paid out $6.6 million to hockey betting fans, as the state’s own Las Vegas Golden Knights cruised to a Stanley Cup victory over the Florida Panthers.
Outside of gambling wins and financials, 2023 was a winning year for Aristocrat founder Len Ainsworth, who celebrated his 100th birthday in July.
It was also a good one for gamblers who are smokers. Several states reintroduced casino smoking, with the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas doing the same. Prominent figures in Rhode Island and New Jersey’s casino scenes also made remarks disparaging anti–smoking campaigners in their states.