Pennsylvania Casinos Ponder Sports Betting
Presque Isle Downs likely for sports books
Potential stakeholders, local media outlets and other pundits are speculating on when the rest of Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos are going to implement sports betting.
So far, only two of the 13 available sports-betting licenses have been taken by Pennsylvania casinos—Penn National Gaming, for its Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg; and Greenwood Gaming, for a planned sports book at its Parx Casino in Bensalem.
Critics blame the sluggish start to Pennsylvania sports betting on the law that authorized it, requiring a $10 million license fee and a 36 percent tax rate on a business that typically generates margins of 3 percent to 5 percent. The rate is by far the highest in the country—four times higher than neighboring New Jersey, where sports books and online gaming are both thriving.
The Philadelphia Inquirer last week reported that Pennsylvania’s sports betting prospects are in a “holding pattern,” at least until October 3, when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could rule on the first two applications and may accept additional applications.
The gaming board, meanwhile, has indicated that no licenses will be approved at the October 3 meeting. Speaking to Philadelphia’s KYW Newsradio, gaming board spokesman Dou Harbach said the first two petitions for licensing will not be ready for action.
“The petitions have to be looked at by our investigative unit and our operations unit, and also, the casino itself has to be prepared, he said. “So we’re just not to the point of these being ripe for a board decision.”
But Harbach said at least one of those petitions should be in position for a vote next month, which means Pennsylvania casinos, in the best of scenarios, will miss a huge chunk of the NFL season, which is generating big revenues for New Jersey books.
The board is expected to approve more petitions for internet gaming during Wednesday’s meeting, though there is still no clear idea of when that will start.
Meanwhile, online publication PennBets.com predicted the most likely casinos in Pennsylvania to establish sports books. PennBets predicted that competitive pressures will lead the majority of Pennsylvania’s casinos to establish sports books eventually.
“While several Pennsylvania gaming operators have publicly grumbled about the state’s crushing fees and tax structure, it’s likely that they will eventually give in and shell out the cash,” the publication predicted. “There are seven casinos we believe fall into this category.”
The first would be Presque Isle Downs near Erie, according to PennBets.com
“Presque Isle Downs is the likeliest of all casinos to snap up a sports betting license, due to the simple fact that its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), announced its intentions to do so back in May,” wrote PennBets. “Just a few days after the Supreme Court overturned the law banning sports betting outside of Nevada, CDI put out a press release stating that it would offer sports betting in Pennsylvania through the property and utilize a platform provided by SBTech.”
The publication called Harrah’s Philadelphia, owned by Caesars Entertainment, “another likely candidate” to open a sports book. “Caesars is already heavily involved in sports betting in Nevada, and recently opened two brick-and-mortar sports books (one inside Harrah’s NJ) in New Jersey, along with a self-branded online sports betting skin,” the publication said.
Next on the publication’s list was Mount Airy Casino Resort, which has signed agreements with PokerStars to offer online poker and casino games, and with 888 for a potential branded online casino and poker skin. “Both 888 and PokerStars have their own sports book products,” PennBets noted. “888 launched its 888 Sport NJ skin in September, and PokerStars’ offering, BetStars, has recently debuted under the Resorts banner.
“Already partnered with two companies with their own branded NJ sportsbooks, it would make sense that Mount Airy would join the fray in PA as well.”
The publication also named SugarHouse and Rivers casinos, both owned by Rush Street Interactive, as likely candidates as well.
Finally, the Live! Casino under construction near the Philadelphia sports complex is viewed as a prime candidate for a sports book, because of its proximity to all the city’s professional sports events.