At long last, Pennsylvania’s licensed sportsbook operators will be taking bets online – well, very soon anyway.
The first casino operator to launch a legal sportsbook in the state was Hollywood Casino and they opened their retail book back in November of 2018. Since then, six more casinos have opened eight retail sportsbook locations (Parx Casino has three of them) and two others have applied for and are waiting to receive sports betting licenses.
Thats a lot of betting activity over quite a few months with no mobile betting taking place.
Why the long wait?
Pennsylvania’s gambling regulatory agency, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) said from the beginning that their sports betting licenses included the ability for casinos to take bets online (mobile) but haven’t allowed operators to exercise this option. The stated reason is that the PGCB wants to make sure operators can smoothly handle retail sportsbook operations before letting them loose to operate online.
Apparently, that milestone has been reached for at least one of PA’s sportsbooks.
PGCB officials have confirmed that in the next week or two one of Pennsylvania’s casino sportsbooks (they won’t say which one) will launch a mobile sportsbook app.
If time spent operating were the factor, we would expect Hollywood Casino’s mobile app to be the first one to launch. If betting volume (and number of retail locations) were the key, Parx Casino might be the first.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact metric the PGCB is using for this decision so it could be any of Pennsylvania’s legal sportsbooks. Here’s a list of the contenders, when they opened their retail sportsbooks, and who their sports betting technical partners are:
|PA Retail Sportsbook Location||When they launched||Technical Partner|
|Hollywood Casino||November 17, 2018||William Hill|
|SugarHouse Casino||December 13, 2018||Kambi|
|Rivers Casino||December 13, 2018||Kambi|
|Parx Casino||January 10, 2019||Kambi|
|South Philadelphia Turf Club (Parx)||Jamuary 16, 2019||Kambi|
|Harrah's Philadelphia||January 24, 2019||Scientific Games|
|Valley Forge||March 12, 2019||FanDuel|
|Valley Forge Race & Sportsbook (Parx)||March 12, 2019||Kambi|
|Presque Isle Downs||Pending||SBTech|
Mobile betting makes all the difference
Pennsylvania’s sports betting public is eagerly awaiting mobile sportsbook apps to be launched for obvious reasons. The ability to check lines and make bets without the hassle of driving to the physical casino makes sports betting much easier, convenient, and fun.
It’s a big deal for casinos too. The ability to take bets online massively increases the sportsbook handle.
For example, Pennsylvania’s legal sportsbooks took over $44 million in bets during March 2019. That’s a respectable amount. Only Nevada and New Jersey have higher handles.
But when we look deeper, that number really isn’t so big. PA sportsbooks generated that $44 million in a state with over 12 million residents. Nearby New Jersey has at least 3.5 million fewer citizens than Pennsylvania, yet their sportsbooks generated almost $400 million in sports betting handle.
The reason for the discrepancy is obvious. Mobile sports betting accounts for a huge portion of untapped market share in Pennsylvania and the tap will be applied in the next couple of weeks.
Sports betting handles are about to increase dramatically in Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, handles in New Jersey might soon decrease somewhat. Surely there are some serious PA sports bettors who have been driving into the state of New Jersey to make bets on that state’s mobile apps while they wait for the PGCB to authorize mobile betting in Pennsylvania?