Some four months after regulators opened the submission process, the first applications to offer sports betting in PA began slowly trickling in. Penn National was the first to take the plunge, with Parx, Harrah’s, SugarHouse, Rivers and Valley Forge following suit.
Had the state not opted to charge an oppressive 36% tax rate on gross gaming revenue, along with an astronomical $10 million licensing fee, it’s highly likely that most, if not all of the state’s 13 qualified entities would have already applied and been approved months ago.
But that doesn’t mean those dragging their feet won’t come along. In fact, there is strong reason to believe that, after some hemming and hawing, a strong majority of PA casinos will eventually bite the bullet and buy a sports betting license, at the very least to stay relevant.
In fact, in recent Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meetings regarding satellite casinos, it was revealed that two of the remaining seven gambling facilities will add their names to the list by purchasing their own permits.
Sports betting a part of satellite casino plans
Satellites, or so-called mini-casinos, were authorized as part of a wide-ranging Keystone State gambling expansion bill passed in 2017. Ten licenses were put up for auction by regulators earlier this year, which give owners the right to build smaller versions of their casinos, and offer up to 40 table games and 750 slot machines. They also allow for sports betting, another vertical legalized in the omnibus gambling package.
Only five of the 10 licenses were purchased before interest waned, with Penn National picking up two permits for over $57 million total and Parx grabbing a single license for $8.1 million. Stadium Casino, parent company of the planned Live! project, successfully bid for its own permit for $40.1 million while Mount Airy locked up a license for $21.1 million
Penn National was the first to market with its sportsbook offering, launching last month, and has yet to face competition in the state. Parx is busy building its own $10 million permanent sports wagering complex, eyeing April or March of next year for its grand opening. A temporary book is slated to open much sooner, perhaps by Christmas.
During public hearings, in which casino operators were tasked with explaining the projects to the PGCB and the general public, it was revealed that both Live! and Mount Airy plan to follow suit and purchase sports wagering licenses.
The decision is something of a no-brainer, considering that one license is all that’s needed to spread sports betting at two locations, effectively cutting the price in half.
Stadium’s satellite facility is dubbed Live! Casino, and will be located in an abandoned Bon-Ton department store in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield Township. During its presentation, the operator said that along with the maximum number of slots and table games allowed, the site would feature sports wagering. The company’s main project, Live! Hotel and Casino will most certainly offer sports betting as well, due to its location smack dab in the center of Philadelphia’s sports epicenter.
While casinos around the U.S. are scrambling to ink partnership deals with sports betting technology providers, Stadium Casino has not yet given us any hint of who its teammate will be.
In a separate meeting, held in Darlington, Mount Airy officials made their case to the community for their own satellite casino.
During the meetup, execs revealed that the facility would be built on an underdeveloped site near the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Beaver Valley Expressway, and would feature sports betting as well.
This also implies that Mount Airy will also be constructing a sportsbook inside its main location near the Pocono Mountains.
Unlike Stadium, Mount Airy already has a partnership with a third party tech provider in place. The casino joined hands with The Stars Group, parent company of online poker behemoth PokerStars and online sportsbook skin BetStars, in August.
The partnership was in place well before the PGCB meeting, but the state’s high tax rate had seemingly given it pause. However, it’s now clear that Mount Airy will go through with its sports wagering plans, launching an online/mobile sportsbook leveraging BetStars technology.
Just today, The Stars Group announced a deal with the NBA which will give it access to official league betting data and allow it to display NBA logos across its online offerings.
With Mount Airy and Live! in the mix, that leaves five casinos without sports betting licenses. But we doubt it will stay that way for long. Each of the remaining casinos, save for Lady Luck has good reason to want to bring sports betting to its property.
Presque Isle Downs was recently acquired by Churchill Downs, which has already put out a press release stating that it would be involved in sports betting in PA, even naming SBTech as its platform provider.
Mohegan Sun and Sands Bethlehem are also strong candidates; execs from both casinos have made public statements showing interest in the vertical.
What’s more, as the second highest grossing casino in the state, it’s almost certain that Sands would pursue a license. Due to the fact that it was recently sold to Wind Creek Hospitality, officials may be busy on other matters, which might have delayed their sports betting planning.
Finally, The Meadows could also jump into the game at any time, although its odds of entry are admittedly lower. The property was one of only two to opt out of purchasing online gambling permits, but may well decide to buy a sports betting license due to its association with Pinnacle, whose other PA property, Penn National, was the first to launch sports wagering in the state.