Legal sports betting has been only taking place in Pennsylvania for the last two and a half months or so, but the state is already attracting some big names in bookmaking. These players are very interested in staking out their piece of this brand new market. These recent legal changes are also prompting some (well, at least one) native Keystone Staters to leave a more mature US sports betting market to run a book back home.
The current sportsbook picture in PA
The Harrah’s Casino sportsbook just opened last month. When it did, it became the sixth legal retail bookmaking operation in Pennsylvania. There are currently six books operating under five licenses (Parx Casino is running two of them at the moment). That’s an impressive level of expansion since November of last year, when Hollywood Casino opened the first licensed sportsbook in the state.
But the “gold rush” has just begun. More casinos will soon be opening more sportsbooks. Also, some big time international operators and even Las Vegas sportsbook VIPs are on the way to Pennsylvania.
This is all thanks to the Supreme Court last year striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 which had acted as a prohibition on states legalizing sports betting within their jurisdictions. Pennsylvania lawmakers saw it coming and paved the way for a massive expanse of legal gaming in the state – perhaps the most important component of which is sports betting.
FanDuel should arrive in time for March Madness
Most sports fans know FanDuel as a Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operator. However, they were recently acquired by the UK-based sports betting giant Paddy Power Betfair and are now a major player in the sportsbook industry. With the recent changes in US law, that means they can operate on this side of the Atlantic as well and that is made all the easier by incorporating BetFair with FanDuel, a brand American sports fans know well.
FanDuel has already begun operations in the US. They launched their New Jersey sportsbook last year (under the license held by Golden Nugget). They will soon be up and running in Pennsylvania as well.
Valley Forge Casino has announced their partnership with FanDuel in which the DFS giant will run their new sportsbook which is set to open in time for March Madness. With this move, FanDuel will have access to the US sports betting market in two states and it’s clear they will want to continue to expand as more and more states move to legalize and regulate sports betting.
The Valley Forge area will soon see sportsbook expansions
Since sports betting was legalized in Pennsylvania, Parx Casino has moved quickly to seize its share of the new market. Last month they opened two retail sportsbooks, the first at their main casino location. A second quickly followed at an off-track betting (OTB) site in an area of Philadelphia near all the major sports stadiums called the South Philadelphia Turf Club. Parx Casino will be opening their third retail sportsbook also at another OTB. This one is in the Valley Forge area and is called the Valley Forge Turf Club.
It makes sense for OTB’s to take sports bets as well. The clientele are there to bet horses, obviously, but there is a large crossover in betting interest between horse (and dog) racing and other sporting events. Both of these Parx locations should do well.
A Las Vegas sportsbook VIP heading home to PA
The Keystone state’s relaxed legal attitude towards sports betting has prompted one of its own to finally come home from self-imposed exile in Nevada. Jimmy Vaccaro, South Point Casino’s Director of Sports Marketing (in Las Vegas) is heading back home to Pennsylvania. Vaccaro is a Pittsburgh native and will be running the new sportsbook at Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino.
Rivers Casino launched its sports betting operation in December of last year, the same month its sister property SugarHouse Casino opened theirs in the Philadelphia area. Both properties are owned by parent company Rush Street Gaming.
More big names and more sportsbooks are on the way
The next PA casino sportsbook will probably be the one at Valley Forge. The next to follow will probably be Presque Isle Downs and Casino. Their application with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is still pending approval but no hiccups are anticipated to hold them up from joining the sportsbook party.
It wouldn’t be crazy to guess that one of these three casinos will be the pathway DraftKings uses to gain access to Pennsylvania. DraftKings is already the leader in the New Jersey sports betting market and they have stated their intentions to operate in PA as well.
As with FanDuel, the other well known DFS-operator-turned-bookmaker, as legal sports betting spreads across the US, you can expect DraftKings to find a way into each of these new markets just as quickly as they can.
Where are the others?
There are still four other Pennsylvania land-based casinos who could apply for a sports betting license but have yet to do so. When considering why they would reject such an opportunity, it should be noted that the privilege doesn’t come without serious costs. A Pennsylvania sports betting license costs $10 million and sportsbook revenues will be taxed at a rate of 36%.
These taxes and fees are steep. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for a smaller casino to make such a huge outlay and face such a stiff tax rate on an unproven market. On the other hand, even a small casino can augment the reach of their sportsbook by offering mobile (online) sports betting which each PA sports betting license allows for (though none have been allowed to launch yet).
So who knows? Maybe even more Pennsylvania casinos will sally forth into this exciting new sports betting market in the near future.