With Boyd Gaming’s Purchase Of Valley Forge Complete, Is A FanDuel-Branded PA Sportsbook On The Way?

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Boyd Gaming completed its acquisition of Valley Forge Casino Resort this week, while at the same time dropping a hint that it may soon file an application to purchase a sports betting permit in conjunction with daily fantasy sports (DFS) giant FanDuel.

“Valley Forge represents a key expansion of our nationwide portfolio, giving us the opportunity to serve the vibrant Northeast region,” said Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith, adding that the company would “closely examine the opportunity to offer both online gaming and sports wagering through our partnership with FanDuel group.”

The mad scramble

Boyd announced that it would purchase the Category 3 property in December, just months after the state passed a wide-ranging gambling expansion bill legalizing online gaming, sports betting, satellite casinos and more.

The deal was part of a flurry of other acquisitions, which included the sale of The Meadows to Penn National, Presque Isle Downs to Churchill Downs Inc. and Sands Bethlehem to Wind Creek Hospitality.

The major moves are seen to be motivated by, in part, a desire by some of the country’s biggest gambling companies to break into the legal U.S. online gambling market

Looking to expand its reach even further, Boyd announced a partnership with MGM Resorts International in July, which will see the two gaming conglomerates team up to deploy sports betting quickly as opportunities crop up across the country.

Taken together, the two companies own or operate dozens of properties in 15 states.

MGM subsequently announced a sports betting technology partnership with GVC Holdings, parent company of Party Poker and Ladbrokes Coral, with Boyd inking its deal with FanDuel Group in early August.

FanDuel spreads its wings

FanDuel was purchased by Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) soon after the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, the law banning sports betting largely outside of Nevada. PPB went on to team up with premier horseracing track The Meadowlands, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey in June, opening a retail sportsbook there in July, and an online/mobile skin in September.

While FanDuel is tied to GVC, Boyd and MGM, it does not leverage GVC software to power its sportsbook operations in NJ. Instead, it relies on a platform provided by IGT, and a player account management system supplied by GAN – both major players in that state.

FanDuel now has agreements in place at the following four properties, although with its connection to Boyd, that number is sure to expand in short order:

  • The Meadowlands (New Jersey)
  • Tioga Downs (New York)
  • The Greenbrier Resort (West Virginia)
  • IP Casino Resort (Mississippi)

Valley Forge goes all-in with expanded gambling

No PA casino has seen more immediate gains from the state’s recent gambling expansion law than Valley Forge. Apart from legalizing a swath of online gambling verticals, the bill also allows for PA’s two Category 3 properties (Valley Forge and Lady Luck Nemacolin) to open up their casino floors to the general public, not just hotel guests.

Previously, patrons were required to either pay an entry fee or be registered hotel guests in order to access the casino. That all changed when HB 271 was passed into law in late October. Thereafter, the two casinos had the option of removing the restriction for the low price of $1 million, something that Valley Forge took advantage immediately.

That investment has already paid dividends for the casino, as highlighted by impressive year-over-year revenue gains over the last 10 months. With slot and table game revenue taken together, the casino has raised its take around 12% since last November, for increased revenue of just over $11 million.

But the facility isn’t stopping there. The new law also gives it the chance to add additional slot machines and table games as well.

“We will move forward quickly with the addition of 250 slot machines to the property’s casino floor, said Smith. “We see attractive growth potential at Valley Forge, and are pleased to welcome the entire Valley Forge team to Boyd Gaming.”

This being Pennsylvania, the extra tables cannot be added for free – regulators will charge additional $2.5 million fee for the pleasure.

While Valley Forge hasn’t formally applied for sportsbook license, it has already thrown its hat into the ring to operate its own online casino. The property was one of 10 to purchase licenses the right to offer virtual slots, table games and peer to peer poker, with Presque Isle opting for just table and slot licenses. Resort casino Lady Luck and The Meadows were the only two other PA gambling properties to opt out of iGaming.

Only a matter of time

While Boyd execs say they will “closely examine the opportunity” to offer sports betting, we believe that it’s only a matter of time, due to its premier partnership with FanDuel, and the aggressive way in which it has positioned itself throughout the year.

Finally, while we might be parsing the press release language incorrectly, there even seems to exist the possibility that FanDuel could open its online casino as a skin of Valley Forge. PA law allows for unlimited skins, with some restrictions.

With the pace of the industry now moving quickly, we should know more in the near future.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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