Last Friday, Presque Isle Downs & Casino became the seventh of Pennsylvania’s thirteen land-based casinos to apply for a sports betting license. It’s been a slow trickle of applicants for the $10 million license, rather than the gusher one might have expected, but finally the count of casinos opting in outnumbers that of those standing on the sidelines.
Perhaps the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) would’ve had more takers (and sold them more quickly) if the license fee weren’t so high… or if the tax rate on sportsbook revenues wasn’t set at a whopping 36%.
Presque Isle’s entry into the PA sports betting market was a sure thing
Although they took their sweet time about applying, it was no secret that Presque Isle Downs would be entering the Pennsylvania sports betting market. When Churchill Downs Inc. announced it was buying the property in March, company spokesmen made it clear they were heading to PA to pursue online gaming – including sports betting.
Further evidence came in May when (in the same week the US Supreme Court ruled the prohibitive Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional) Churchill Downs partnered with online gaming tech company SBTech to facilitate their upcoming sportsbook operations.
Just to make sure we all knew they were serious, also that week they partnered with Golden Nugget Atlantic City to enter the burgeoning New Jersey sports betting market. Clearly they weren’t going to ignore the opportunity to operate similarly in Pennsylvania.
The PA sportsbook picture as of now
At this moment, only Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is taking sports bets. They got PGCB approval to open November 17 of this year and only at their physical casino. Nobody has been approved for mobile wagering yet, although this will come soon.
Four more PA casinos have applied for sports betting licenses and have been approved, but await the PGCB green light to begin operations which is expected very soon, possibly before years end. These are:
And finally, two more casinos have applied and are awaiting approval.
Also in the mix is Mount Airy Casino, who has announced its intention to operate a PA sportsbook but is for some reason dragging its feet in submitting paperwork to that effect.
While Hollywood Casino is off and running, the other four approved casinos won’t be too far behind them.
Parx Casino, Rivers Casino, and SugarHouse Casino hope to open their doors to sports bettors sometime in December and Harrah’s Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino will also do so very early in 2019. These properties opted to wait until they could build out more permanent facilities for their sportsbooks before launching operations.
Valley Forge and Presque Isle will be another half a step behind these four casino operators.
Everybody waits for mobile
Online sportsbook operation is on everybody’s wish list but for now they will all have to wait. The PGCB is delaying the authorization of this feature until they have first ironed out the retail sportsbook market.
It’s one baby step after another, but slowly and surely legal sports betting is coming to the whole of Pennsylvania.