Rivers Casino has been in an enviable position for the last four months: they have operated a sportsbook in Western Pennsylvania with virtually no competition.
Located in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino is on an island, competition-wise. All the other PA casino sportsbooks are located in and around the Philadelphia area. That gives them an excellent position in the Pennsylvania sports betting market that began when the first sportsbook opened in the state last November at Hollywood Casino. Rivers Casino’s sportsbook opened last December and has been all alone in Pittsburgh ever since.
Rivers Casino will have to worry about competition soon, but it won’t be coming from within the Keystone State. Instead, Rivers’ biggest competition will come from next-door sportsbooks in West Virginia and Ohio.
The owner and operator of Rivers Casino, Rush Street Interactive (RSI) isn’t too worried. According to RSI President Richard Schwartz,
“For us, it’s not about whether there are other competing casinos in the region. It’s about doing everything we can to provide players a positive experience at any property where we are a supplier.”
Rivers Casino sportsbook leads the pack
Still, being the only operator in Western Pennsylvania has to be helpful as well.
Rivers Casino is absolutely crushing it. Through February, they boast the highest sportsbook handle of all PA sportsbook operators. Rivers has the second highest sports betting revenue total (trailing only its sister property, SugarHouse (in Philly) and only trails by less than $200,000.
Want more evidence of Rivers’ dominance? Here’s an eye-opener: Since December, Rivers has accounted for more than 28% of the sports betting handle in the entire state. For perspective, Rivers has one of PA’s eight currently operating sportsbooks. That is, they comprise 12.5% of the state’s retail sportsbook locations yet take in over twice that percentage of the overall state sportsbook handle.
Here’s another revealing stat: The average Philadelphia casino’s total sportsbook revenue so far is $854,000. Rivers Casino’s total sportsbook revenue is $2.55 million.
Clearly, being the sole provider of legal sports betting in Western PA is a huge boon to Rivers Casino.
RSI runs Pittsburgh and Philly sportsbooks identically.
Despite facing such different market dynamics, RSI (and sportsbook partner Kambi Group) run the sportsbooks at both locations exactly the same. Sportsbook odds, lines, and pricing are identical at both Rivers and SugarHouse. One might imagine RSI would run a leaner book in Philly surrounded by competition while “soaking” the public in Pittsburgh but that’s not the case at all. Sports bettors face the same lines and odds at both properties.
There are probably a few reasons for this. Proactively, perhaps RSI wants to make sure state regulators at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) stay assuaged. Also, its possible this approach makes the job of Kambi Group less complicated technically. Finally, it’s possible this strategy will simplify RSI’s situation when they begin rolling out mobile sports betting apps.
Whatever the reason, The sportsbooks are run exactly the same and it’s no accident.
Will WV and OH eat into Rivers’ sportsbook market?
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.
Even more threatening is the prospect of competition from mobile sportsbook apps. With these, residents of Western Pennsylvania would only need to drive to the state border and use an app to make wagers.
Mobile sports betting was already 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. Eventually, these players will iron out their issues. Moreover, 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 west contains competition problems for Rivers too. Ohio will be authorizing sports betting in the next year or two. When that legislation passes, it will come with mobile sports betting provisions. Again, competition via mobile apps is coming.
For now, Rivers Casino is sitting pretty. RSI isn’t talking about threats of competition and they don’t seem concerned.
They are making hay while the sun shines. And when you’re the only sportsbook for miles around, the sun shines brightly.