BetMGM Bringing Online Sportsbook To PA Quick On Heels Of iCasino Launch

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(Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original posting.)

Just two weeks after arriving in Pennsylvania with its iCasino, BetMGM is launching its online sportsbook this week.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday morning approved a sports wagering certificate for the Penn National Gaming mini-casino that is currently under construction in Berks County.

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Through a partnership agreement with Penn National, BetMGM will use that certificate — which carried a licensing cost of $10 million paid to the state — to bring its digital sports betting to Pennsylvania, according to a gaming board representative.

Pennsylvania’s 11th online sportsbook option is to have a test period from 2 p.m. to midnight Thursday when real-money wagers can be placed. It presumably will share the casino.pa.betmgm.com site that received permanent approval from the state for slots and table games play Dec. 4.

BetMGM officials did not offer immediate comment Wednesday on their entry into the state’s sports betting market. The BetMGM Sportsbook is already active in New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana, Colorado, Tennessee, and Nevada.

Mini-casinos can provide access to still more books

Wednesday’s action by the board clarified a mystery that had existed over how BetMGM would be able to operate a sportsbook in the state without having a physical casino. It recently publicized information that the new operation was coming but did not disclose which partner already operating in Pennsylvania would provide it access.

BetMGM had already used an agreement with Penn National to obtain a “skin” enabling it to launch its iCasino, and it finally became apparent Wednesday that the two companies had also reached a financial arrangement for the online sportsbook.

Penn National has its own online Barstool Sportsbook, which only just launched in September and achieved third-place status in the state in betting volume behind FanDuel and DraftKings. It is not unusual for gaming operators to provide market access to competitors under mutually beneficial financial agreements, although the terms are never publicized.

“We support a robust and competitive market and are confident in our ability to compete with our Barstool Sportsbook app, and we’re happy to have BetMGM as a skin partner,” Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers told Penn Bets in an email. He said Penn National would operate the mini-casino’s retail sportsbook itself under the Barstool brand when the facility opens in the second half of 2021.

What also became clear only Wednesday is the possibility of still more sportsbook operators entering Pennsylvania using mini-casinos as an access point. The state will have five mini-casinos total — including one other by Penn National in York County — and their owners can reach similar agreements with other online sportsbooks not yet active in Pennsylvania, so long as a $10 million fee is paid to the state in each case.

Asked if Penn National might also enable another new operator to enter the state through its York County property’s sports wagering certificate, Schippers said, “We have not finalized our plans there yet.”

The Cordish Companies, whose Live! Pittsburgh mini-casino is the only one operating so far — aside from a temporary statewide order closing it and all other casinos due to COVID-19 concerns — has opted not to grant access to another new sportsbook operator. The Live! Pittsburgh and soon-to-open Live! Philadelphia properties are making use of FanDuel Sportsbook, which already operates online through partnership with Valley Forge Casino Resort.

New operators should help set new records

A revenue report for how much money was wagered through Pennsylvania sportsbooks in November is expected Thursday. In October, a record $525.8 million was wagered, nearly 90% of it through the 10 online sportsbooks operating at that time.

Now, not only will BetMGM become an 11th mobile site, but another is planned soon from Betfred USA Sports. Betfred is the sportsbook provider for Wind Creek Bethlehem, which won approval from the gaming board Nov. 18 for permanent operation of its retail sportsbook. At the time, it was announced that the online version of the sportsbook would be coming within weeks, though there has been no new update.

Presumably, the addition of two more national operators in Pennsylvania — even if they are unlikely to match the wagering levels of state leaders FanDuel and DraftKings — will create still more betting records in the state. It also provides bettors with a range of beneficial new options for those who like to shop odds and make use of generous welcome offers and bonus bet incentives.

The online sportsbooks are particularly critical for bettors and operators in the state at this time, as all of the casinos and their retail sportsbooks are closed until at least Jan. 4 under the state order resulting from increased COVID cases.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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