The cost of a sports betting license in Pennsylvania is $10 million. Parx Casino ponied up that chunk of change on August 27 and got approved — and now the Bensalem, Pennsylvania property is ready to do it all over again.
Penn Bets got a look this week at the blueprints for Parx’s permanent sportsbook facility, which Senior Vice President of Sports and Interactive Matt Cullen revealed will be another eight-figure expenditure.
“It’s going to be a spectacular sportsbook,” Cullen said. “We’re investing close to $10 million into it. There’s going to be an LED screen that wraps around half of the facility, a really nice bar with video poker, TVs everywhere, kiosks for self-service betting. We’re expecting it to be state of the art.”
Cullen says the book will probably open in April 2019, maybe March at the earliest. It’s going to be located in the north corner of the casino — or, to those familiar with the property layout, the back left corner, next to Liberty Bell Gastropub.
In the meantime …
Parx isn’t waiting for next spring to take its first bet — not when the casino is about 20 miles from downtown Philadelphia and there are important Eagles and 76ers games to bet on right now. The 360 Lounge is being converted into a temporary sportsbook, and workers just “broke ground” on the build-out on Tuesday.
“There’s a fair bit of work that needs to be done,” Cullen said. “They already put two 16’ x 9’ LED screens in there for games, and there are another 20 televisions that are coming in. A counter is being built, and then we’ve got a number of kiosks coming.”
For now, there isn’t much to see once you get past the sign that’s been up since mid-September, alerting patrons that 360 is closed to make way for the sportsbook. There are tables and chairs pushed to one side, what appears to be a giant digital betting board behind the bar, and various counters being assembled.
When it’s finished, there will be seven betting windows and 12 self-service kiosks, with 30 more kiosks throughout the casino.
“We don’t know the exact start date, we’re hoping it’s going to be the end of November, maybe the beginning of December,” Cullen said. “The gaming board has told us, essentially, ‘When you’re ready, you can go live,’ once we have their blessing. So we’re working toward that, feverishly.
“We’re moving full steam ahead, building out a team, getting our platforms ready, and building out our offerings.”
Parx staff is also overseeing the build-out at the South Philadelphia Turf Club, which falls under the same Greenwood Gaming ownership umbrella.
Virtual becoming reality
Parx has partnered with software provider GAN to power its online casino product, and that includes an online sportsbook and mobile app. The timeline there falls right in between the temporary sportsbook and its permanent counterpart, with Cullen projecting January or February of 2019.
The Parx online gaming platform will span slots, table games, poker, and sports betting, all with one unified player wallet, Cullen confirmed.
In terms of the online sportsbook options, “it’s all going to be very much on par with what’s being offered in New Jersey,” Cullen said. “I would say probably the biggest difference for us, where we’re going to try to outshine our competitors, is in the user experience. If you walk around the facility, you see it looks like something that is in a market like Las Vegas. So we’re going to try and emulate that with our online product.”
Parx already has a play-money social casino product, but you can expect something entirely different when the real-money site launches; Cullen says a “complete revamp” is underway.
And here’s an interesting twist: Parx isn’t planning to limit its online casino to a single state.
“We intend to go into New Jersey as well,” Cullen told Penn Bets. “I don’t want to get too terribly bullish on it, but we feel like, because a third of our database is patrons coming from New Jersey, that helps us a lot. We still think we can be late [to market] and be competitive there. And as far as Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, we expect to be the market leader in that space, just like we are on the land-based side of things.”
Cost and effect
While many have complained about the exorbitant cost of opening a sportsbook in Pennsylvania or acquiring an online gaming license, not to mention the hefty tax rates — 36% of gross gaming revenue for sports betting — Parx doesn’t mind one bit.
“I know that we appreciate a high bar for anyone we compete with to come into the market. We’ve always liked a high bar,” Cullen said. “We’d love for it to be lower, but I think it also weeds out a lot of other companies that might not have the sort of appetite that we do to compete in a space like that.”