Just days after adding Ohio to its North American sports betting portfolio, British iGaming behemoth bet365 entered into a deal through which it will be able to offer sports wagering and iCasino games in Pennsylvania.
Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), which has been phasing out its iGaming business but still operates its TwinSpires Sportsbook in Pennsylvania, announced Monday that it would be providing bet365 with access rights through the licenses of CDI’s Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
There are presently 14 mobile sportsbooks and 18 iCasinos in Pennsylvania, all of them tethered to existing brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. For online sportsbooks in particular, market access to the state is limited, and companies not currently operating in Pennsylvania must reach agreement with a casino that doesn’t already have an online sportsbook in operation.
CDI has been operating TwinSpires (formerly known as BetAmerica) in the state since December 2019, but it has always been among the least-used, lowest-earning sportsbooks. Churchill Downs announced in February 2022 that it was getting out of the online gaming business nationally — other than horse wagering — due to the difficulty making profits, although it has continued since then to operate in Pennsylvania, unlike some other states that were quickly shut down.
Now it is clear that bet365 will be replacing TwinSpires as one of Pennsylvania’s sites, although the announcement left unstated just how quickly that will happen. As a newcomer to the state, bet365 has yet to obtain regulatory approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and a board spokesman said the company has yet to submit any applications.
Bet365 in three states and Ontario already
Bet365 joined other online operators in a widespread sports betting launch in Ohio Jan. 1 under that state’s new legalization. It also operates such wagering in Colorado, New Jersey, and Ontario, and as in Pennsylvania, it can also provide online casino games in the latter two jurisdictions.
The private company also has ambitions to launch sports betting in Massachusetts and Virginia. Generally, companies extract more revenue from online casinos than they can from sports betting, but far fewer states permit iCasino gambling.
“Off the heels of our launch in Ohio, we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Churchill Downs Incorporated,” bet365 said in a joint announcement of the partnership. “Once live, the world’s favorite online sports betting brand will be available to sports fans in Pennsylvania, offering fantastic site features … on top of our market-leading sign-up offer.”
New online sportsbooks typically offer special bonus incentives to attract new customers, but Pennsylvanians haven’t seen any of those since PointsBet arrived as the newest operator nearly a year ago. When bet365 launched in Colorado in September, new customers received $200 in “free bet” funds.
Bet365 is a privately owned, family-run firm headed by Denise Coates, who created it in 2000 and has become a billionaire as the company has grown globally. With its global success and experience, it may be able to find a bigger niche for itself in the Pennsylvania market than TwinSpires could, although it will start with a lack of brand awareness.
“We are pleased to partner with a global leader in the online gaming industry,” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said in the announcement. “Our relationship with bet365 enables us to maximize the value of our company’s sports betting and iGaming market access in Pennsylvania.”
CDI will continue to own and operate its Presque Isle Downs casino near Erie. It also manages the Lady Luck Nemacolin casino in Fayette County.