On Friday of last week, Presque Isle Downs & Casino announced an official launch date for their forthcoming sportsbook. Eager Erie, PA residents might be somewhat disappointed though. Presque Isle won’t be opening the new sports betting facility until June 1, 2019.
In the announcement, Kevin O’Sullivan, Presque Isle Downs Vice President and General Manager, praised employees who “have been hustling” to prepare the new sportsbook. Presque Isle is one of the handful of PA casinos who have pounced on the opportunity to enter the newly created legal sports betting market in the state.
Presque Isle’s sportsbook on its way – slowly
Pennsylvania sports betting market observers are somewhat puzzled by the June 1, 2019 launch date.
Presque Isle submitted their sports betting application in December 2018. If they don’t open the sportsbook until June 1, that marks a six month gap between application and operation. All other Pennsylvania casinos moved much more quickly as they “hustled” to get their sportsbooks up and running.
Valley Forge Casino (in the Philadelphia area) makes a good example. They applied for their sportsbook license in November 2018 and were up and running with their FanDuel Sportsbook by March 2019. If Presque Isle casino operators had adhered to the same timeline, their sportsbook would open sometime in April, rather than two months later in June.
Pennsylvania is currently home to eight different brand new sportsbooks. These are operated by five different local casino operators (Parx Casino has already opened three retail books). In none of these cases did an operator take more than three months from the date of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approval to the date they took their first legal sports bet.
Presque Isle’s sportsbook is clearly behind the curve in this regard.
Ownership change likely to blame
Presque Isle Casino’s just went through a very lengthy transition in ownership. The casino’s new owner, Churchill Downs Inc (CDI) finalized the purchase this January after an arduous process that began almost a full year ago. Clearly, the change impacted the speed with which Presque Isle could move forward on their sportsbook launch.
CDI took their time, but they also got some important things done. While the transition happened, CDI secured two critical ingredients to their future success. They locked down a solid technological partner (SBTech) and a well-respected sportsbook partner (BetAmerica). During it all, casino operations and customer experience weren’t disrupted. Not a bad job, all things considered.
What will the new sportsbook at Presque Isle look like?
Presque Isle officials gave some details of their upcoming sportsbook during the presentation they made to the PGCB during their application process. At that time, they described a sportsbook that will be a 1,275 square foot space located adjacent to the horse racing simulcast area and the poker room. This makes sense, because these three functions tend to be synergistic in any casino operation.
50 self-service kiosks will be on hand for sports bettors to make their wagers. The sportsbook will have 50 large high definition televisions showing sporting events. There will also be a customizable “odds board” showing the various lines and odds for upcoming games.
What about mobile sports betting?
Presque Isle Casino has made it clear that at some point in the future they will offer mobile sports betting.
When this will occur isn’t up to them. The PGCB is waiting to allow casino operators to launch mobile sportsbook apps until it has been demonstrated that the retail sportsbooks are operating without any problems.
That being the case, Presque Isle won’t be able to launch a mobile sportsbook app until late in June 2019 at the earliest. Of course, by that time, other PA casinos may already have their mobile apps up and running, which would be unfortunate for Presque Isle.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that the PGCB will hold all casino operators back until all approved sportsbook operators can launch online operations at the same time. This seems to match with the PGCB’s plans regarding online casino gaming (slots, table games, poker), so it wouldn’t be surprising if they chose the same tactic here. After all, all these casinos paid the same license fee. Why not let them all launch online simultaneously to avoid allowing early operators to capture precious market-share unopposed?
This is all conjecture, of course. So far, the PGCB hasn’t made clear their intentions so we (and Erie area sports bettors) will have to wait to find out.