Presque Isle Downs & Casino has legal sports betting in its future, but it’s going to have to wait a while for it to arrive.
Erie, Pennsylvania’s sports betting enthusiasts heard some good news this week: their local casino, Presque Isle, is getting a sportsbook. They got a little bad news too: the intended launch date for said sportsbook isn’t until June 1, 2019.
Vice President and General Manager of Presque Isle Casino, Kevin O’Sullivan, announced that employees “have been hustling” to prepare the new sportsbook in the wake of the rush Pennsylvania casino operators are experiencing to get into the newly legalized sports betting market.
Presque Isle is behind the curve in launching their new sportsbook
With an announced opening date of June 1, 2019, Presque Isle is remarkably off the pace of other PA casinos that have launched sportsbooks in the last few months. Presque Isle initially applied for its license to operate a sportsbook in December 2018. With a June 1, 2019 launch date, that makes a six month gap between application and launch. That’s significantly slower than the speed with which their casino competitors “hustled” to get moving in the sports betting arena.
Valley Forge Casino , for example, applied for their sports betting license in November 2018 and had their FanDuel Sportsbook open and accepting wagers in March 2019. If Presque Isle casino operators had kept the same pace, they would be launching their BetAmerica-partnered sportsbook this month, in April, not two months later in June.
Currently, there are eight sportsbooks operating in Pennsylvania. These books are run by five different casino operators (Parx Casino has been very active, opening three retail locations). None of these casino operators has taken more than three months from Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approval to the initial launch of their sportsbooks.
Presque Isle is noticeably lagging behind – a fact that Erie’s sports betting enthusiasts can’t be happy about.
A difficult change in ownership is the likely cause of the slow launch
Presque Isle Downs & Casino just went through a time consuming ownership transition. The casino’s new owner, Churchill Downs Inc (CDI) began the process of purchasing the property early last year and wasn’t able to finalize the transaction until this January. The unusually lengthy process took almost a full year and almost certainly contributed to the unfortunate delay of their sportsbook’s opening.
On the other hand, perhaps CDI was wise to take their time. Despite the arduous acquisition process, casino operations and customer experiences were seamless during the transition. During this period, CDI was able to secure both their technological partner (SBTech) and their sportsbook partner (BetAmerica) while making sure their customers weren’t inconvenienced by the transition.
What will the new Presque Isle Casino sportsbook look like?
We can get a sense of what features Presque Isle’s forthcoming sportsbook will have from the presentation they made to the PGCB during their application process. In that presentation they stated that their sportsbook will be a 1,275 square foot space within their already existing casino. It will be located adjacent to the poker room and the horse racing simulcast area.
The betting needs of sports bettors will be handled by 50 self-service kiosks. The sportsbook will have 50 large high definition televisions displaying various sporting events as well as a customizable “odds board” showing the various available wagers as well as their associated odds.
Will there be mobile sports betting?
Presque Isle Casino officials have announced their intention to offer mobile betting at some point, but it is unclear when.
This time, the delay isn’t Presque Isle’s fault. The PGCB is holding back final approval for licensed sportsbook operators to go live with mobile (online) sports betting. The regulatory agency has announced that it wants each sportsbook operator first get their retail location(s) up and running sucessfully before the PGCB will give the go-ahead for mobile betting.
This means that at the earliest, Presque Isle won’t be able to launch their mobile sportsbook app until late in June 2019. By that point, other Pennsylvania sportsbook operators may already have their mobile apps up and running.
It’s hard to say. So far, the PGCB hasn’t given any indication exactly when they will be moving forward on the mobile sports betting front.