Churchill Downs to Offer Online Gambling and Sports Betting In PA

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The Supreme Court made sports betting a legal possibility for states across the US in a landmark ruling this week, and gaming companies are wasting no time positioning themselves to take advantage.

Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) confirmed today that it would enter the US online casino and sports wagering market, using the SBTech software platform as its backbone.

CDI will open its own online gaming site and virtual sportsbook in New Jersey in a partnership with Golden Nugget, one of five Atlantic City casinos authorized to offer iGaming in the state. In Pennsylvania it will offer the same, applying for a license through Presque Isle Downs & Casino, which it recently agreed to purchase.

The company will also leverage its two brick-and-mortar casinos in Mississippi to offer sports betting in the state.

Churchill Downs’ plans come together

Churchill Downs has long been interested in becoming a major player in the regulated US iGaming market. The company already runs the legal online horse betting site TwinSpires.com, but for years has been looking for opportunities to expand.

In 2012, CDI purchased Bluff Media, anticipating that evolving legal realities would foster a new wave of online poker across the US. It turned out to be a bad investment. Three and a half years later, poker was still only legal in three states, and the site was shuttered.

It took another shot at US iGaming in 2013, when New Jersey legalized the industry within its borders. That year, CDI attempted to acquire the Showboat casino in Atlantic City, but the deal fell through.

The company wasn’t going to miss out on another opportunity when Pennsylvania passed its own iGaming legislation in October 2017. CDI announced in February that it would purchase Presque Isle Downs & Casino, along with Lady Luck Vicksburg in Mississippi, for $229.5 million.

The deal will allow Churchill to apply for an online gaming license in the state and offer slots, table games, DFS, sports betting and possibly even online poker.

Who is SBTech?

SBTech is an award-winning online gambling software provider which services over 50 sports books, casinos and lottery websites across 14 regulated markets.

SBTech will give Churchill Downs a turnkey solution for its online gambling presence, providing a consumer website, mobile apps, backend office system, sports betting and online casino games.

CDI’s decision to choose SBTech for its iGaming platform is interesting, considering that the company has committed millions to building its own homegrown software solution over the past few years. We assumed that the custom platform would make its debut in PA, when the market goes live, but that may no longer be the case.

While SBTech’s flagship software platform allows clients to offer a full range of iGaming services, its specialty is sports betting technology. While it currently powers a bevy of online sports books internationally, it will now likely play a prominent role in the US, due to the recent Supreme Court decision.

The company announced a strategic partnership with gaming software provider GAN earlier this year to provide sports betting services to the company’s US clients. GAN powers the iGaming site for Betfair in New Jersey, and has also confirmed a partnership with Parx Casino in PA.

When can I bet on Churchill Downs iGaming sites?

The Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal law blocking sports betting is an exciting development for gamblers across country. However, players won’t be able to bet on Churchill Downs sports books or online casinos for several months, at the least.

PA already has a law on the books which allows for sports betting and online casinos, but the regulatory and licensing process has just begun. The PA Gaming Control Board stated this week that the agency is still reviewing the decision, and does not yet have a timetable for the launch of sports betting. There is a provision in the law that allows for temporary sports books to be set up, which could speed up the process.

We believe that online casinos will be up and running in PA sometime this fall, with physical sports books opening up shop perhaps before the start of this year’s NFL season.

New Jersey plans to open the sports betting floodgates as quickly as possible, giving operators the chance to start taking bets in as little as a month. Churchill Downs will not be one of the first to go live there though – the company said that it is targeting the first quarter of 2019 to begin its operation in the Garden State.

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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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