Most of the attention focused on digital sports betting in Pennsylvania flows around the big four — FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Barstool Sportsbook, in that order — that collectively represent about 85% of the betting volume every month.
But 10 other sportsbooks in the state take bets made by smartphone or computer, and savvy bettors maintain accounts with many of them in order to line-shop and take advantage of promotional offers that help offset the house edge.
Many in this lower tier lack the ubiquitous marketing and name familiarity of the big competitors, even though they’re also worth checking because they offer a similarly copious menu of betting options every day. And quietly, there’s been a big shakeup among them over the past year.
Monthly financial reports for September through November from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board show betPARX, PlaySugarHouse, FOX Bet, Unibet, TwinSpires, and Betway all saw a drop of 18% or more in their betting handle in those busy fall football months this year compared to the same period in 2021.
There were two sites, meanwhile, making up the slack. As Penn Bets noted in an October article, Caesars Sportsbook finally decided to become a serious player in sports betting this fall. It took $69.4 million in wagers in the three months compared to $9.8 million a year earlier.
And secondly, there’s PointsBet, an Australian-based firm with betting options beyond the mainstream which only last February began operating in Pennsylvania as the 14th and still-newest online sportsbook. It took $43.4 million in bets from September through November, placing it behind only BetRivers ($75.6 million) and Caesars ($69.4 million) among operators outside the big four.
Signs of cannibalization emerge
It can be hard to decipher just what makes some sportsbooks gain bettors and others lose them in a given month or period. The extent of their marketing and promotions would clearly be a factor, but after three-plus years of legal online sports betting in Pennsylvania, it also seems the industry may no longer see substantial growth overall.
The $789.2 million in total sports betting in November (93.2% of it made online) was close to the record $793.7 million of October, but it was still only 3.6% higher than the amount wagered in November 2021.
As with brick-and-mortar casinos themselves, which are no longer seeing revenue growth overall even as more venues open, there appears to be a version of cannibalization taking place as operators like Caesars and PointsBet make gains to the detriment of rivals.
BetRivers has held steady thus far between the football seasons of 2021 and 2022 — with $75.6 million in fall handle this year compared to $76 million a year earlier — but nearly everyone else aside from Caesars and PointsBet has suffered a big drop in usage. That includes PlaySugarHouse, BetRivers’ sister site from Rush Street Interactive. It has all of the same lines and options as BetRivers but doesn’t get the same marketing, and its handle dropped 19.3% to $38.1 million for the three months.
Also down in the three-month period:
- betPARX, -18.7% to $40.9 million
- FOX Bet, -48.9% to $26.5 million
- Unibet, -26.3% to $18.7 million
- TwinSpires, -68% to $3.8 million
- Betway, -29.6% to $3.4 million.
Betfred/Wind Creek, though small, was a positive exception, gaining 9.6% in fall betting volume to $3.6 million.
BetRivers far in front in revenue
The betting handle — how much dollar action a sportsbook is getting from the public — is frequently used more than revenue as a metric of comparison among rivals. The success of bettors against the house may deviate month to month, but the books maintaining the most volume on a regular basis figure they will come out ahead in the long run based on the vig applied to bets.
Any business aims to make money regardless of volume, however, and by that measure, BetRivers far outclassed the competition in recent months among the state’s bottom 10 online sportsbooks in usage. BetRivers’ $4.14 million from September-November in adjusted, taxable revenue (the amount it took in after deductions for promotional credits) was more than twice as much as any of its second-tier competitors.
Caesars was second with $1.91 million, followed by PlaySugarHouse with $1.55 million, FOX Bet with $1.37 million, and betPARX with $1.21 million. None of the others made close to $1 million over the three months, and that includes PointsBet, which came out just $157,427 ahead after deductions on its $43.4 million in handle.
To keep things in perspective, it should be noted that the 10 smaller sportsbooks combined were responsible for just $3.6 million of the total $48.2 million in adjusted revenue among all digital sportsbooks in the state. FanDuel, the preeminent site every month in Pennsylvania for both handle and revenue, claimed $28.4 million all by itself.
Clearly, however, a lot more bettors are finding Caesars and PointsBet to be worthy options in a way that wasn’t the case a year ago. As for many smaller competitors, it may be challenging at this point to regain customers they’ve lost, but they can take solace from Pennsylvania’s legalized online casino gaming, which generates far more revenue than does sports betting and gives them a chance for earnings they wouldn’t have in other states.