Online Sportsbook Competition In PA Heats Up With FanDuel’s Arrival

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Competition is a consumer’s best friend. And with FanDuel Sportsbook’s debut at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22, the online sports betting market in Pennsylvania just got competitive in a way that’s bound to benefit bettors.

There were already three online/mobile sports betting sites in the state: Play SugarHouse, which opened for business in the waning days of May; Play Rivers, which started taking bets in late June; and Parx Casino, which also launched toward the end of June.

SugarHouse and Rivers, however, are sister sites within the Rush Street Gaming family, and Parx is partnered with the same digital bookmaking company, Kambi, as the two Rush Street properties. So, while there were technically three sites on which gamblers could deposit their money, there was almost no variety in the betting markets offered and the odds posted.

Adding FanDuel to the list of consumer options changes that. Now the real competition begins.

And if FanDuel’s New Jersey market share is any indication, the Kambi sites have their work cut out for them.

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Coming for the top spot

At the opening of the land-based FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino Resort in March, FanDuel Vice President of Retail Keith Wall went with an understated approach when PennBets asked him about expectations in the state.

“We just have to wait and see about the competition,” Wall said. “We’ll have competition from some strong local brands — Parx, etc. We feel we have the market-leading product, and we’re going to vie for that top spot in Pennsylvania.”

In neighboring New Jersey, FanDuel is doing much more than vie for the top spot. Partially on the strength of the existing brand-name value of its daily fantasy sports vertical, FD has ranked No. 1 in New Jersey online sports betting revenue every month since this February.

Play SugarHouse was the clear leader in Pennsylvania in June, but that’s not a meaningful indicator, since it was the only site that was operational from the start of the month. Total online betting handle in the state in June was $19.3 mm. New Jersey saw nearly 12 times as much action in June, with online/mobile handle of $226.7 mm. Pennsylvania has a larger population than NJ (12.7 mm vs. 8.8 mm), so there’s a lot of sports betting market left to be conquered.

This is only a test

FanDuel Sportsbook (located on the web at pa.sportsbook.fanduel.com) will be in soft-launch mode for the first three days, testing out its security and software on a limited, closely monitored basis, before opening up 24/7 on Thursday, July 25.

There were technical issues delaying Monday’s launch, which was originally scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Here’s the updated soft-launch schedule:

  • Monday, July 22: 7:30 p.m.-12 a.m.
  • Tuesday, July 23: 2 p.m.-12 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 24: 12 p.m.-12 a.m.

Unlike the other legal Pennsylvania online sportsbooks, FanDuel’s app is available on iOS devices. While other sites have found workarounds to Apple App Store issues so that customers can bet sports and play casino games on their iPhones and iPads via web browser (Play SugarHouse began steering its customers toward the GeoGuard Location Validator app last Friday), FanDuel has a huge edge with its existing NJ app apparently being allowed in PA.

Still, FanDuel can’t be overly confident of doing the same business in Pennsylvania that it does in New Jersey, where betting handle is inflated by New Yorkers crossing state lines to place bets. The biggest city in the U.S. isn’t just a river away from PA, and sharing a border with Jersey, which already has its own thriving online betting market, doesn’t help the Keystone State’s cause.

On the bright side for FanDuel, the online sports betting competition in PA is limited (for now) and there’s no DraftKings Sportsbook to compete with.

Money talk

The deposit and withdrawal options aren’t exactly the same in Pennsylvania as they are in New Jersey. For example, PayPal is not available in PA yet. Here’s what options are available:

  • Credit/debit card (Visa, MasterCard)
  • FanDuel Prepaid Card
  • ACH (eCheck)
  • Online bank transfer
  • Wire transfer
  • Check

The withdrawal options are more limited, and include only:

  • FanDuel Prepaid Card
  • ACH (eCheck)
  • Check

Here’s a key wrinkle, however: Customers who already have an account in New Jersey don’t have to open a new account in Pennsylvania. The bankroll can move from one state to the other. That isn’t the case with Play SugarHouse, where customers with accounts in both states have to keep two separate bankrolls.

Notably, though, the bets themselves don’t transfer from state to state. In other words, if a player makes a bet in New Jersey, and wants to take an early cashout option on that bet, he has to be in New Jersey to do so.

Promos and boosts

FanDuel Sportsbook launched in Pennsylvania with a single new-user promotion, and it’s the same one offered in NJ: a risk-free first bet, up to $500.

Whatever a player’s first bet is, if it wins, it wins. But if it loses, the amount lost — up to $500 — will be refunded in the form of site credit within 72 hours. An important catch, however: That site credit can not be withdrawn — only the winnings on it can — and any part of the site credit that’s unused after seven days will disappear.

FanDuel and other New Jersey sites are known for offering daily “odds boosts,” specials where the payout is slightly increased over what it would normally be. There are no odds boosts in PA at this time during the soft launch, however. It remains to be seen whether creative options on Philadelphia or Pittsburgh teams will distinguish the site from FD in Jersey.

Speaking of which, the markets and odds, as well as the layout, all appear to be identical to the original New Jersey site. Considering the success FanDuel Sportsbook is having in the Garden State, this seems to be a clear case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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