More than a year has passed since Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized an array of online gambling verticals, and in the next few months, finally, virtual sports betting and casino games are expected to go live inside the Commonwealth.
No casino seems more prepared to convert its brick-and-mortar patrons to online play than Parx, the state’s top-earning gambling property, which holds licenses to offer online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting.
The Bensalem property, which launched its retail sportsbook earlier this month, already boasts a trio of online products that have been built, in large part, to attract and retain customers while prepping them for real-money online gambling.
Those include two sports-focused websites, Betslip Builder and a free-to-play (F2P) sports betting platform, along with a full-featured play-money online casino.
Martin Wester, head of on-property product development for Kambi, the company behind Betslip Builder (also known as BYOD, Bring Your Own Device), spoke to Penn Bets about its inception and impact.
“BYOD certainly helps prepare players for online betting,” he said. “If we take Pennsylvania as an example, the BYOD apps will make players familiar and comfortable with online betting — how the navigation works, the full range of in-game options, different bet types such as our Teaser+, etc. — which should be helpful when online goes live.”
What is Betslip Builder?
Betslip Builder is a mobile-first website powered by sports software supplier Kambi, which allows gamblers anywhere in the world to view live lines from Parx Casino and reserve their bets online.
“Particularly in states with no online betting, it lets bettors to view the odds, do their research, and plan their bets in advance from anywhere in the state,” said Wester. “It must be frustrating for bettors to travel to casinos — which for some can take hours — only to get there and find the line isn’t what they hoped. With BYOD they can check before they travel.”
The site looks very similar to proper sports wagering platforms already functioning in New Jersey, the only difference being that Betslip players must physically travel to the casino sportsbook to place the bet.
The website makes the process as smooth as possible. Players can view odds on 10 different sports and make a combination of bets across sports and events. Once the wagers have been selected, a virtual slip along with the QR code is generated, which the user can scan and take to Parx.
The Builder not only helps acclimate players to online betting, but also allows them to skip the lines at the sportsbook by simply entering the QR codes into one of the property’s sports betting kiosks.
Betslip originally geared toward casino VIPs
According to Wester, Betslip Builder was originally conceived to facilitate sports betting for casino regulars.
“Betslip Builder is a piece of tech we developed a number of years ago. We have been powering the sportsbooks of casinos in different parts of the world for a while now, and in the early stages, we soon realized that some players, particularly VIPs, loathed to move from the tables to the sportsbook to place their bets. So, just as hosts would bring players drinks, we thought why not allow them to place their sports wagers while playing roulette or poker. As such, we developed BYOD, enabling players to create their bets and QR codes on casino-provided handsets from the comfort of their chair and pay the hosts for the bet. We had no idea at the time how popular it would become, and it’s great to see it gaining traction in Pennsylvania right now.”
But while it was originally created to appease VIPs, it was later viewed as a way to educate brick-and-mortar players about online gambling before they have the option of playing for real money.
“While many players will have used offshore mobile sites previously, there will be a significant number, particularly those of a younger legal age, who may never have wagered online before,” continued Wester. “BYOD can do no harm in educating the player of how it all works.”
Another byproduct of the innovation is the creation of brand loyalty before online betting becomes a reality, added Wester.
Betslip usage just getting off the ground
Parx was the fourth casino to go live with retail sports betting in the state, behind Hollywood, Rivers, and SugarHouse. Operators are waiting for the green light from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board before launching their online/mobile products.
Betslip Builder hasn’t been live long at Parx, but officials are already seeing growth.
“It is still in its early days, so I can’t say it’s driving significant handle right now, but we’ve definitely seen increases in usage week-on-week,” said Wester. “For example, during the opening days at Parx, the percentage of BYOD bet scans compared to bets placed at the counter was in the low single-digits. However, this has gradually increased to the point where last week that number was regularly in double-digits, so it’s certainly gaining traction.”
Additional online options
Betslip is only one of the ways Parx hopes to prepare gamblers for online wagering.
The site has long featured a play-for-fun online casino, which boasts dozens of slots and table games that are also popular with real money gamblers. The offering was created by software developer GAN, which will also serve as the casino’s real money online casino and poker tech partner.
What’s more, Parx has recently launched an F2P sports betting product through a deal with Chalkline Sports. Chalkline launched a similar product last June in New Jersey through Tropicana Casino.
The F2P platform at Parx currently gives players the option of betting on a combination of four events. Bettors are presented with a number of scenarios and choose which bet they think will be a winner. If, after the games conclude, all the guesses are correct, the player can win vouchers that can be used at Parx’s brick-and-mortar location.
Parx has undoubtedly done more than any of its competitors to help transition live gamblers to online betting. When real money iGaming goes live in the coming months, it will be interesting to see if the efforts bear fruit.