ew York Lottery and its nine racetracks with video-lottery terminals' revenue fell 19% in 2020 from 2019, according to data obtained by the USA TODAY Network New York through a Freedom of Information request.
The decline was in part because the racinos were closed from March through September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because traditional lottery games, such as Powerball, Mega Millions and Quick Draw, also saw revenue plummet.
Overall, revenue from the lottery games and the racinos dropped from $10.1 billion in 2019 to $8.2 billion in 2020, the first time in recent history that the largest lottery in the nation had a demonstrable loss.
The state's four upstate casinos, which were also closed much of the year, ended up down 58% in gross gaming revenue.
The nearly $2 billion drop in revenue adds to the state's fiscal troubles, with the money being is used to help fund education. New York has a $15 billion budget gap over the next two years, but most of that will be covered by $12.6 billion in federal aid to the state through the latest stimulus package approved by Congress this week.
“The global pandemic disrupted businesses in every sector of the economy, including casinos where lottery sales are made," said Brad Maione, spokesman for the state Gaming Commission. "While these casinos were closed for a period to keep New Yorkers safe, they are now open, and we expect lottery sales to come back as the economy rebounds overall. The Gaming Commission will continue to work with its partners to help keep customers safe.”
The state expects the games and the facilities to rebound partially as the casinos have reopened with expanded hours and more people are vaccinated. The state budget projects a 9.6% increase, or $216 million, from last year.
The largest percentage decrease among lottery games was Quick Draw, the keno-like game, that is popular in bars — which also were closed to indoor dining and drinking for parts of the pandemic and still have capacity limits. Quick Draw revenue fell by 25% last year, down $185 million, the records show.
The biggest money drop was in sales of instant lottery games, or scratch offs, which is by far the largest money maker for the state with sales of $4 billion a year. But in 2020, sales dropped 5% or by $206 million.
The dip in revenue, particularly for the racetracks with VLTs and the private casinos, comes amid a largely saturated Northeast gaming market. The nine racetracks with VLTs had a drop in revenue of $1.2 billion, down 56% between 2019 and 2020.
There is a potential of a gambling expansion in New York that could help casino revenue. The sites are all looking to be able to add mobile sports betting, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now embraced as neighboring New Jersey is leading the nation in sports betting. And downstate racinos, Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World in Queens, are hoping to get approval to become full-scale casinos with live table games.
Gambling companies are also pushing for a new casino in New York City, potentially in Manhattan.