Will Out-Of-State Competition Disrupt Rivers Casino Sportsbook’s Privileged Position?

Rivers Casino has enjoyed operating with almost no competition in Western Pennsylvania for over four months.

Located in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino is around 200 miles away from the rest of the state’s casino sportsbook operators, who are centered in and around the Philadelphia area. The Pennsylvania sports betting market has existed since the first sportsbook opened last November at Hollywood Casino. Rivers Casino’s sportsbook has been all alone in Pittsburgh since they opened last December.

Competition for Rivers Casino’s sportsbook is coming, it just won’t be from within the Keystone State. Rather, the competition will come from casino operators next-door in West Virginia and Ohio.

The owner and operator of Rivers Casino, Rush Street Interactive (RSI) isn’t too worried. For them, the most important thing is that they continue to do a great job focusing on providing a great experience for the customer. Do that and the rest comes easy.

Rivers Casino sportsbook is the king in PA

Still, having the entire market in the western half of the state to yourself helps as well.

Rivers Casino boasts the highest sportsbook handle in all of Pennsylvania through February. Rivers only trails its sister property, SugarHouse (in Philly), in the category of overall sports betting revenue, and only by less than $200,000.

Here’s a stat that reveals Rivers’ dominance: Since December, Rivers has accounted for more than 28% of PA casinos’ overall sports betting handle. That’s huge. As one of PA’s eight currently operating sportsbooks, Rivers comprises only 12.5% of the state’s retail sportsbook locations yet gobbles up over twice that percentage in overall state sportsbook handle.

Here’s another revealing stat: Rivers Casino’s total sportsbook revenue is $2.55 million. The average Philadelphia casino’s total sportsbook revenue is only $854,000.

Clearly, Rivers is benefiting from its de facto monopoly position in Western PA.

Kambi Group runs ’em both the same

Despite having such different competitive pressures (or lack thereof), RSI (and sportsbook partner Kambi Group) makes no distinction between the books as far as operations go. Sportsbook odds, lines, and pricing are identical at Rivers and SugarHouse. No consideration is made to “take advantage” of their isolation in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps that’s a strategic decision made to keep state regulators at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) happy. Or maybe this approach is technically preferable for the Kambi Group. Or perhaps this strategy will make things simple when the casinos will soon be rolling out mobile sports betting apps.

Whatever the reason, The books are run identically. Sports bettors at either Rivers or SugarHouse won’t see any differences in the lines between the properties.

Dethroned by out-of-state casinos?

Rivers Casino’s biggest competition won’t be coming from within Pennsylvania, but rather from outside the state.

South of Pittsburgh, West Virginia is on its eighth month of legalized sports betting. Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia is just an hour away from Pittsburgh by car.

Arguably a bigger problem than nearby Mountaineer Casino is the prospect of mobile sports betting coming from West Virginia. Residents of Western Pennsylvania would only need to drive to the state border to use their app. Mobile sports betting was up and running in WV, but the site(s) went down recently due to a dispute between casino owner Delaware North and sports betting partner Miomni.

That problem will be resolved eventually and regardless, DraftKings and FanDuel are also operating in WV and will have their mobile betting platforms up and running very soon. Competition via mobile apps is coming.

The most worrying long-term competition for Rivers Casino’s sportsbook probably comes from the west. Ohio is on the verge of authorizing sports betting within its borders in the next year or two. It’s a question of when, not if and when it comes, mobile sports betting will come with it.

Rivers Casino owner RSI isn’t talking about threats of competition and they don’t appear worried. They just keep plugging away and making hay while the sun shines. And when you’re the only sportsbook for miles around, the sun shines brightly.

PA Online Casino Status

On October 30th, Pennsylvania officially legalized many forms of online gambling. With its signing, the first online casinos should be live by the summer of 2018.

Here are some of the main points of the Pennsylvania online gambling legislation that Governor Wolffe signed in early November.

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