DraftKings Launching PA iCasino Wednesday, Hours After Receiving State License

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DraftKings is entering the increasingly crowded Pennsylvania iCasino market, preparing to do so within hours of receiving its license to provide online slots and table games.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board granted DraftKings the state’s 10th interactive gaming license Wednesday morning, and the company said immediately afterward that it would begin its soft-launch testing under state monitoring at 2 p.m. The cost of the license to DraftKings is $1 million, although it is credited with $50,000 already paid for its sports wagering license, a board spokesman said.

DraftKings has obtained a skin from the Hollywood Casino of Penn National Gaming, which already has its own iCasino in Pennsylvania. DraftKings and Penn National will thus be competing with one another with their online casino sites while also being partners.

Casino site shared with sports betting, fantasy sports

DraftKings has its sports wagering online/mobile site in the state through Penn National’s Meadows Casino. Players should be able to toggle smoothly between sports wagering and casino games on the DraftKings site, using the same account and funds, as well as utilizing the option to play daily fantasy sports.

“DraftKings appreciates the collaborative working relationship we have established with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and thanks them for their thoughtful leadership in creating a consumer-focused, competitive iGaming market,” Tim Dent, chief compliance officer for DraftKings, said in a statement issued Wednesday morning.

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“We look forward to successfully completing the soft launch phase of the process and receiving our iGaming license so that we can be fully operational in Pennsylvania on May 1.”

The Boston-based company scheduled the soft launch to run from 2-10 p.m. Wednesday and 1-11 p.m. Thursday, with intention to be permanently operational on Friday.

Competition with FanDuel enters new realm

With the move, DraftKings enters the latest phase of its close competition with FanDuel, which has the state’s most heavily used sports betting site and quickly became a leader in iCasino play after adding that in late January.

FanDuel’s iCasino suffered a setback in March, however, as play there is heavily dependent on sports bettors crossing over to use it, as will likely be the case with DraftKings. Activity on all of the state’s sports betting sites nosedived in mid-March due to the coronavirus-related shutdown of major professional and collegiate sports.

FanDuel had $5 million in March online casino revenue, down 17.9% from the month before. It was no longer the state’s iCasino revenue leader, although it made more than Hollywood Casino’s $2.6 million.

Overall, iCasino activity has been up substantially due to stay-at-home orders and brick-and-mortar casino shutdowns tied to COVID-19 health concerns. Pennsylvania’s interactive gaming revenue was up 24.5% in March over February, reaching a new high of $24.3 million. That was presumably a factor in DraftKings wanting to jump in now with the state’s 10th such site.

The ninth iCasino was just recently added April 21, by Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Don’t expect same variety as in New Jersey

DraftKings has experience offering an iCasino in New Jersey that shares its sports wagering and daily fantasy site. That site has 190 slots and an extensive menu of table games, including live dealer games that are not yet authorized in Pennsylvania.

It is common in Pennsylvania’s less mature iCasino market for the sites to offer far less than what is available in New Jersey, and it will be no different for DraftKings. The gaming board reported that the operator’s initial Pennsylvania offering will consist of 28 slots and three table games.

In sports wagering, DraftKings is a distant second behind FanDuel in Pennsylvania volume, though the gap between them has been closing each month since DraftKings started in November.

In March, DraftKings had 24.7% of the state’s online sports betting handle, compared to 45.4% for FanDuel.

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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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