The Mount Airy Resort Casino has filed its long-awaited sports betting application in the state of Pennsylvania, the latest property to seek regulatory approval for the new offering.
Mount Airy, which is about a two-hour drive north of Philadelphia, filed for the $10 mm sports wagering certificate on March 29, just two days after the nearby Mohegan Sun Pocono casino filed its application. Mount Airy last year partnered with The Stars Group, owner of the BetStars online sportsbook brand, which is in operation in neighboring New Jersey.
According to Mount Airy’s 35-page application, TSG will power its sports betting operation. Pennsylvania’s sports betting market is currently confined to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, but after several delays, the mobile sports betting applications are now expected to launch around mid-year.
Mount Airy and Mohegan Sun both filing last week could be a good indicator that online betting is close, as the filings likely position both casinos to be ready for a coordinated online launch with the other sports betting licensees. The market does really need mobile.
The Stars Group received its sports wagering operator approval from the PGCB in December.
What took so long?
We’ve known for months that Mount Airy was planning on joining the sports betting mix in the state, but why didn’t it file a petition sooner?
Pennsylvania gaming regulators are a cautious group, and thanks to the federal government meddling in state-sanctioned online gambling, the Keystone State has, by all signs, decided to play it safe. The latest delay of mobile sports betting is attributable to the Department of Justice’s January Wire Act memo, which has made it so that licensees have had to make sure online betting will take place entirely intrastate (i.e. server location).
Aside from that, Mount Airy also surely has noticed the sluggish start for Pennsylvania’s legal sports betting, which is taxed at a very high 36%. There are eight retail sportsbooks in the commonwealth, and it’s fair to say that so far no one is exactly killing it in the business. The state needs mobile.
In New Jersey, for example, the sports betting industry is now seeing more than 80% of the handle coming over the internet. All retail sportsbooks in Pennsylvania currently have to compete with black market, offshore gambling websites that pay no taxes and are subjected to no regulation.
It’s also worth noting again that a sports betting license comes with a $10 mm price tag, a fee that seems very steep at this stage of the fledgling market.
Thanks to the conclusion of the 2018-’19 NFL and college football seasons, which Pennsylvania sportsbooks mostly missed (the first one opened in November), Mount Airy surely has its sights set on being in operation in time for the start of those upcoming seasons.
The Mount Airy application leaves four casino licensees — Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, and Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia — without either a sports betting certificate or a pending application.
Location could benefit Mount Airy’s retail book
Mount Airy might be quite far from the Philadelphia market, but its location in the northeast portion of the state should position it for some solid visitation from gamblers in the region, even from the New York City area. Its sportsbook will have to compete with the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino, which is about a 45-minute drive west. However, given that New York State is going to roll out brick-and-mortar sports betting only, confined to upstate casinos, Mount Airy should benefit to some extent from its location.
Unlike some of its competitors in the Pennsylvania casino market, Mount Airy doesn’t have plans for a temporary sportsbook in order to kick things off while a permanent, more state-of-the-art sportsbook is built. According to its application, Mount Airy is planning self-service sports betting kiosks on its 62,000-square-foot gaming floor.
“It is anticipated that the addition of sports wagering will enhance the Mt. Airy facility, increasing its competitiveness in the regional gaming market by providing a significant amenity for gaming patrons,” the casino said in its application. “Mt. Airy will endeavor to market to the online sports wagering customers in order to drive additional traffic to the land-based facility.”
According to Mount Airy, it will take several years for the Keystone State sports betting market to mature. The casino may be filing late compared to some of the other casinos in the state, but without mobile wagering you could say that Pennsylvania sports betting hasn’t truly kicked off yet.
“If sports wagering is authorized at the Mt. Airy facility, significant economic benefits will be realized by the commonwealth and commonwealth residents, including increased tax revenue for the commonwealth and the resulting reduction of taxes on the commonwealth’s citizens,” said the application. “The projected tax revenue to be generated by land-based and mobile wagering in a mature market, which we expect to take approximately three years to reach, is estimated at [redacted].”
Additional details of the casino’s sports betting plans will be unveiled when the PGCB considers the application, more than likely at its regularly scheduled meeting in mid-May.
Mount Airy eyes sports betting at satellite casino
Mount Airy is also one of the casino licensees seeking to build a satellite casino, which is basically a smaller facility than an operator’s flagship property in the state. The so-called mini-casinos were authorized under the 2017 gambling expansion package that also legalized sports wagering.
Mount Airy is seeking to build its satellite casino in Big Beaver, located on the other end of the state on the border with Ohio. The property, which is slated to open in 2020, would have sports betting (more than likely kiosks as well). It will be called Mount Airy Pittsburgh.
When Mount Airy pitched that project late last year, it was another sign that the casino operator was planning to apply for a certificate.
The satellite casino and sports wagering aren’t the only new offerings on the radar for Mount Airy. The casino also has an online casino partnership with 888 Holdings. Under the online casino law, the casinos are allowed to support as many skins as they want. Both TSG and 888 could have branded online casino products under the Mount Airy license. Mobile sports betting, however, would be for BetStars.