Lottery Sales Up More Than 20 Percent Despite Coronavirus; Casino Numbers Remain Down

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, lottery sales in Maryland in recent weeks have been up by more than 20 percent over last year, the state’s lottery and gaming director told lawmakers Tuesday.

During a virtual House Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Maryland Lottery and Gaming Director Gordon Medenica cited data showing lottery sales have been higher than last year every week since May 10. In four of the past five weeks, lottery sales have been up more than 20 percent over the same time in 2019.

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The increase comes after sales plunged nearly 30 percent in March as businesses closed due to the stay-at-home order.

“We were still up even that first week in March, and then we just started seeing the bottom fall out,” he said. “Sales were going down 20 percent, 25 percent, 30 percent, and we really didn’t know where the bottom would be. Obviously we lost some of our retail base but also people weren’t going out, they weren’t driving, they weren’t visiting the gas stations.”

Medenica called the increase a “very strange phenomenon,” attributing it to a lack of other places to spend discretionary money.

“Our theory at this point is that there really is just no place for people to spend some discretionary entertainment dollars, there are no movies, there are no sports there are no concerts, there are no bars and restaurants,” he said.

He said the stimulus checks many Marylanders got likely didn’t play a role, citing evidence from Canada showing similar revenue trends.

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By the end of April, officials thought lottery sales would be down as much as $50 million for the fiscal year. Now, the lottery and gaming agency projects the fiscal year will end with $583 million in profit, up $12 million from a December 2019 forecast.

While lottery sales have rebounded, casino revenues are not a pretty picture, Medenica said.

After shutting down in mid-March, casinos went two months making no money. In June, casinos reopened at limited capacity.

Medenica told lawmakers he expects the decrease in casino revenue will become a long-term issue, though while capacity is limited to 50 percent, he doesn’t expect a 50 percent drop in revenue.

Joe Weinberg, the managing partner and CEO of Cordish Gaming Group, which operates Live! Hotel and Casino in Anne Arundel County, said he doesn’t expect revenue to fully recover until a vaccine is created. The casino, he said, expects to see a $200 million hit to its revenues in 2020.

Revenue numbers for July, the first full month casinos have been open since March, are expected to be released on August 5, Medenica said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.