Betting Pennsylvanians had reason to rejoice recently when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the state’s first sports betting applications. At the monthly meeting, Penn National Gaming (owner of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course) and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment (owner of Parx Casino) became the first PA casino operators to be approved to take sports bets in the state.
Hollywood Casino was first to apply…
Penn National was the first PA casino operator to apply for a sports betting license and it could be the first to officially open and take bets. Penn National has decided to partner with widely respected bookmaker William Hill, a brand recognized world wide. The bookmaker will also be operating in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Mississippi (as well as being one of Europe’s biggest sportsbook operators).
Penn National hasn’t given a specific date that they will begin sportsbook operations, saying cryptically that it “would be in the next few months” but they have given us some details of their roll-out. John Finamore, Senior Vice President of Regional Operations for Penn National said they would first open a traditional retail sportsbook at Hollywood Casino. Later on, self-serve kiosks on the casino floor would be added as well as mobile wagering via an app.
…but Parx might open first.
Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment was approved for a sports betting license that allows them to operate at two locations. At the first location, their flagship Parx Casino property, they are building a large permanent sportsbook that is estimated to be completed and operational by the end of the second quarter of 2019.
Prior to that, Parx Casino will set up a temporary sportsbook at its 360 Lounge on the main casino floor. They aim to have that up and running by January. In this temporary location, Parx plans to offer both retail betting and mobile betting on a closed Wi-Fi network that can’t be accessed by bettors outside the casino.
Greenwood’s second sportsbook location will be at the South Philadelphia Turf Club. The property is currently undergoing a $1 million renovation but operators hope to begin sportsbook operations there sometime in November.
Like Penn National, Greenwood also plans to launch a mobile app to take full advantage of this new opportunity.
Hollywood and Parx Casinos are the first to receive sports betting approval from the PGCB but they will soon be followed by at least two others. Five PA casinos have applied so far. Rivers Casino, SugarHouse Casino, and Harrah’s Philadelphia have applied but they will have to wait until at least the end of the month to present (and hopefully be approved for) their sportsbook plans.
Where are the rest?
Since July, all of Pennsylvania’s thirteen brick and mortar casinos have been eligible to apply for a sports betting license, but only five of them have done so. Perhaps this lukewarm reception to PA’s legal sportsbook landscape has something to do with the exorbitant price Pennsylvania is charging for the privilege. This license costs a hefty $10 million and the state will tax net revenues at a whopping 36% rate.
For comparison, the tax in Nevada is 6.75% and in New Jersey it is 8%.
These high costs have clearly chilled casino operators about the prospect of taking sports bets in Pennsylvania. Five of thirteen operators have applied and the slow trickle of those applications can almost be described as “grudgingly”. Surely if this were an obviously profitable endeavor under this tax and fee scheme, there would have been a more eager response.
Perhaps the state of PA would be more competitive in this area if they lowered these costs.