Pennsylvanians have only been able to make legal sports bets in the state for the last two and a half months or so, but the new activity is already attracting some big names in bookmaking. These industry movers and shakers are very interested in staking out their piece of this brand new market.
More personally, 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.
It goes to show when a state legalizes popular activities, a lot of good things can happen.
A snapshot of the current sportsbooks in PA
Harrah’s Casino launched its sportsbook last month. Upon opening, it was the sixth legal retail bookmaking operation in Pennsylvania. There are currently five operators running six books (Parx Casino already has two retail locations). That’s an impressively consistent level of expansion since November of last year, when Hollywood Casino opened the first licensed sportsbook in the state.
But the PA sports betting “gold rush” has just begun. More casinos will soon be opening more sportsbooks with more outside partners. Specifically, some major international sportsbook operators and even a Las Vegas sportsbook VIP are on the way to Pennsylvania.
This is all happening thanks to the Supreme Court last year striking down 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which had acted as a prohibition on states legalizing sports betting within their jurisdictions. Only Nevada (and to a lesser extent Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) were exempted from PASPA. Nevada took the fullest advantage of the de facto monopoly but their privileged position is beginning to crumble.
Pennsylvania lawmakers (along with New Jersey and a few others) saw the change coming and paved the way for a massive expanse of legal gaming in the state. Legal sports betting is perhaps the most important component of this new gaming landscape.
FanDuel to arrive in PA in time for March Madness
Most sports fans know FanDuel as a Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operator. However, they became much more when they were recently acquired by the UK-based sports betting giant Paddy Power Betfair. With that merger, FanDuel became a major player in the sportsbook industry. Thanks to the recent changes in US law, the bookmaker can now operate on this side of the Atlantic. In doing so, BetFair can leverage the brand recognition Americans have with FanDuel.
FanDuel is already up and running as a bookmaker in the US. They launched their New Jersey sportsbook last year under the license held by Golden Nugget Casino. The next state they have their eyes on is Pennsylvania.
FanDuel and Valley Forge Casino have announced a partnership in which the DFS giant will run Valley Forge’s new sportsbook. Both parties hope they will be able to open in time for March Madness. With this partnership, 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.
Two sportsbooks coming to the Valley Forge area
Since sports betting was legalized in Pennsylvania, Parx Casino has moved quickly to gobble up as big a share of the new market as it can. Last month they opened two retail sportsbooks. The first at their main casino location with a second quickly following at an off-track betting (OTB) site at the South Philadelphia Turf Club, located in an area of Philadelphia close to several major sports stadiums. In addition, 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.
OTB’s and sports betting go hand in hand so 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. These quick and sensible moves should result in Parx doing a brisk sportsbook business at all three locations.
A Las Vegas sportsbook VIP heads home to Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania’s burgeoning sports betting market has tempted 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. The Pittsburgh native will soon be running the new sportsbook at Rivers Casino.
Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino launched its sports betting operation in December of last year, simultaneous with its sister property SugarHouse Casino opening theirs in the Philadelphia area. Both casinos are owned and operated by parent company Rush Street Gaming.
More sportsbooks and more industry players are on the way
As already mentioned, the next PA casino sportsbook to open will probably FanDuel’s at Valley Forge Resort and Casino. The next book to open will probably be at Presque Isle Downs and Casino. Their sports betting application is still pending approval before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) but it is expected that approval will be granted with no problems.
It wouldn’t surprise industry analysts if one of these three casinos will be the pathway DraftKings uses to gain access to Pennsylvania. Already the leader in the New Jersey sports betting market, DraftKings has stated their intentions to operate in PA as well.
Just 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 as quickly as they can.
More sportsbooks in the other PA casinos?
There are still four other Pennsylvania land-based casinos who could apply for a sports betting license but have yet to do so. These are Sands Bethlehem, Lady Luck Nemacolin, The Meadows, and Stadium Casino. While it might seem crazy for a casino to ignore such a potentially lucrative opportunity, it should be noted that the privilege doesn’t come without serious costs:
A Pennsylvania sports betting license costs $10 million right up front and all sportsbook revenues will be taxed at a rate of 36%.
These taxes and fees are no joke and could prove an impediment for some operators. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for a smaller casino to pay a large fee and face a steep 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. Each PA sports betting license allows for mobile betting – though none have been authorized by the PGCB to launch yet.
So who knows what the future will bring? Maybe even more Pennsylvania casinos will sally forth into this exciting new sports betting market in the near future. Maybe not. We’ll keep you posted.