Caesars Gives Pennsylvania A Ninth Online Sportsbook Through Harrah’s Philadelphia

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Pennsylvanians now have a ninth online/mobile option for sports wagering, with Harrah’s Philadelphia getting in the game with a soft launch this week.

The casino owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. began a test period under state monitoring and limited hours Tuesday for pa.caesarsonline.com. It is available to desktop and Android phone users, with an iOS app version promised “soon” in a press release.

The test period continues from 1 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and noon to midnight Thursday.

If no serious problems are detected, it is likely the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board would grant approval for permanent operations to begin starting Friday. That would be valuable to Caesars/Harrah’s for the avalanche of sports betting that accompanies the NCAA basketball tournament, which starts next week.

Harrah’s retail sportsbook opened 14 months ago

Harrah’s Philadelphia, which is actually located in the suburb of Chester, Delaware County, has operated a retail sportsbook since January 2019. It attracted about $3 million in betting handle — fifth out of 12 physical sportsbooks — in the figures reported for January 2020. The 14-month gap between retail and online launches was unusually long.

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It will now compete with eight online sites that got a head start and have dominated the Pennsylvania market, by representing nearly 89% of the state’s overall $348.4 million in January handle. Two sites, fantasy sports rivals FanDuel and DraftKings, take more than 68% of those online bets.

Caesars operates online and/or retail sportsbooks in Nevada, New Jersey, Mississippi, New York, Iowa, and Indiana, in addition to Pennsylvania.

Christian Stuart, executive vice president of gaming and interactive for Caesars Entertainment, said that going online in Pennsylvania “is an exciting expansion given the incredible number of sports fans across the state.”

He noted that the new site is set up for customers making sports bets to earn and redeem points in the Caesars Rewards loyalty program. An online casino with slots, table games, and video poker is to be added to CaesarsOnline in the spring, a press release stated, while making no mention of online poker.

Sports bettors have the same wide-ranging professional and collegiate options, both domestic and international, that are available on other Pennsylvania sites. They get an additional option for line-shopping, however, with CaesarsOnline making use of Scientific Games as the partner powering the site.

The sign-up lure: a free bet up to $300

As has been customary with the online sites, customers receive a tantalizing incentive to sign up.

In the case of CaesarsOnline, it is offering to match the size of a customer’s first bet by granting the new account a “free bet” of equal value, up to $300.

Accounts can be funded by various means, with VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, and ACH among them. Accounts can be created anywhere, but bets must be placed from within Pennsylvania, restricted to those 21 and older.

“With the addition of mobile sports betting, we look forward to more guests playing with us on property and all around Pennsylvania,” said Chris Albrecht, general manager of Harrah’s Philadelphia.

The casino is among those being acquired by Eldorado Resorts in its $17.3 billion acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Corp., a deal expected to be competed in coming months.

The announcement of the online sportsbook gave no indication of any changes to it that could result from the transaction, once completed, although Eldorado has been using partners other than Scientific Games for casino sportsbooks in other states.

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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 [email protected].

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