Sportsbetting In PA Expands To Five Casinos After Rivers, SugarHouse And Harrah’s Philadelphia Approvals

This week marked another big week for the future of sportsbetting in Pennsylvania when three more casinos were approved to offer wagering in the state.

SugarHouse, Harrah’s Philadelphia and Rivers Casino were greenlighted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to allow the casinos to be begin taking in-person bets as soon as this month.

As part of the approval, the three casinos will also be authorized to take PA sports bets online, but that will likely not happen until well into next year.

In a perfect world, Pennsylvania casinos would have liked to begin taking sports bets before the start of the NFL season, but with the NFL season more than halfway complete the next best thing is to launch sometime during the NFL season.

The Rush Street Interactive-owned Rivers Casino and SugarHouse Casino will likely be offering sportsbetting by this time next month. Rivers Casino could be taking bets by December 1st while SugarHouse plans to begin taking bets on December 1st. Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s Philadelphia has not yet specified a target launch date.

Both SugarHouse and Rivers Casino will initially utilize existing space to create temporary sportsbook locations within the casinos by removing existing slot machines. The temporary location will be used until a more dedicated and permanent sportsbook can be constructed at both locations. Harrah’s Philadelphia will erect its sportsbook home in place of a concert venue that will include over 4,000 square feet of space.

…and then there were five…

The approval of three casinos for sports betting in Pennsylvania makes a total of five out of the state’s thirteen casinos that have been approved to offer sports betting.

In early October, the PGCB approved the sports betting licenses of Parx Casino and the Hollywood Casino.

Parx Casino’s early October approval and desire to launch in November, initially made them favorite to be the first to offer sports betting in the state, but now sporstbooks by Hollywood Casino, SugarHouse and Rivers Casino appear likely before the end of the year.

In addition to taking bets at the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Parx also intends to take bets at the Phily Turf Club, a stone’s throw from Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Wells Fargo Center.

What about the others?

While 10 out of 13 PA casinos have put up $8-$10 million for online gambling licenses — and another waiting approval — fewer PA casinos have taken the bait for PA sports betting. As of early October, only five PA casinos have applied for sports betting so far, with all five of those casinos approved, leaving no pending applications at the moment.

Pennsylvania casinos have hesitated to offer sports betting given the relatively low margins in combination with a prohibitively expensive cost to enter the market. Not only do casinos have to put up an additional $10 million for a license, but casinos must also pay a tax of 36% on income. This figure is much higher than other states including a rate that is four times higher than neighboring New Jersey.

The taxes and fees have clearly not stopped the five that have been approved thus far, but it likely means that some of Pennsylvania’s other casinos will be sitting on the sidelines, at least for now.