After an eternity of waiting, Pennsylvania’s sports bettors are finally able to enjoy legal online sports betting. Keystone State’s betting public now has three different online sportsbooks to choose from, though admittedly the two most recent are still in their somewhat limited “soft launch” phase.
PlaySugarHouse was the first PA online sportsbook to go live (late in May 2019), and now, a month later, they are followed by the soft launch of online sportsbooks by Parx Casino as well as the BetRivers sportsbook launched under the license of Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino license.
Well, maybe just two sportsbooks after all.
Astute PA online sports bettors might suspect that they really only have two sportsbooks to choose from. As evidence, the BetRivers online sportsbook will look very familiar to players who have used the PlaySugarHouse app. There’s a perfectly good reason for this: The BetRivers online sportsbook is really just a new rebranding of PlaySugarHouse, which is operated under the license of their sister property, Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino.
Both of these casinos are owned by Rush Street, a retail and online gaming company with holdings in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois and who operate online in New Jersey. The bulk of their holdings are under the Rivers Brand, (and in fact SugarHouse Casino in Philly will be rebranded later this year) but the company’s online casino games operate under the PlaySugarHouse brand.
Both of the company’s PA sportsbooks (and their online presence) are operated with the technical assistance of their partner Kambi. Because of this, the look and feel of both apps should be identical – as well as the games, odds, lines, and types of bet available.
Baby steps first, then the full sportsbook launch
So, what is this “soft launch” all about?
Gaming in the Keystone State is regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). To ensure that casinos comply with all of the state’s regulations, the PGCB requires PA’s casinos to undergo a test phase with their online offerings prior to full launch. During the soft launch, hours of operation are limited. Also, during these periods, the PGCB closely monitors the online sportsbook to ensure everything’s on the up and up and in line with state regulatory standards.
When PlaySugarHouse’s online sportsbook launched, they went through the standard three days of testing required by the PGCB. Similarly, Parx Casino will need (and is currently going through) the same three day soft launch process.
BetRivers, however, will only undergo a two day period of soft launch supervision. This truncated period of testing is due to the high degree of similarity (in fact they are identical) with the PlaySugarHouse sportsbook that was just soft launch tested.
The hours in which BetRivers will be up and running to take sports bets are:
- Tuesday, June 25: 4pm to midnight
- Wednesday, June 26: 2pm to midnight
Starting Thursday (assuming no problems) the BetRivers app will be fully unleashed, operating around the clock. Parx Casino’s sportsbook is set to be fully functional around the same time.
Android OK, but there are problems with Apple
BetRivers (like PlaySugarHouse) has a working Android version of their app, but an iOS (Apple) app has been more problematic. In New Jersey, PlaySugarHouse has the iOS version of their app available on Apple’s App Store, but in PA neither BetRivers or PlaySugarHouse has a working Apple app.
This isn’t a Rush Street Interactive problem, or a problem with Kambi, this is problem comes straight from Apple and impacts all online gaming companies. Apple has now mandated that app developers who deal in monetary transactions write their apps in a code native to the iOS system. Unfortunately, most gaming apps are written in HTML5, which doesn’t fit the bill. App developers are scrambling to comply with these new changes.
This means that, at least for now, the BetRivers sportsbook isn’t available as an app for Apple devices. To fix this problem in the near term, BetRivers (and PlaySugarHouse) will focus on creating an online browser-based work-around for users of iPad and iPhone devices.
Eventually, of course, these developers will successfully jump through Apple’s new hoops and create new versions of their iOS apps for their customers, but exactly when they will be available we cannot say.