A Beginners’ Comparison Of Pennsylvania’s First Online Sportsbooks

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As of Thursday, Pennsylvanians have three fully live online sportsbooks to choose from, with more expected in the coming weeks and months. It’s the dog days of the sports betting season with baseball in full swing and no NBA or NFL action, nor college basketball and football, to bet on.

From a newbie’s perspective, the three books are basically one and the same and you definitely can’t go wrong with any of them. However, when you take a closer look (and you really should), there is some significant consumer choice to be had. Competition in the sports betting space is good, and the landscape will only get better as more online books in the Keystone State launch.

The online books currently live are Play SugarHouse Sportsbook, BetRivers Online Sportsbook, and Parx Online Sportsbook. All three have launched in the last handful of weeks.

SugarHouse and BetRivers are both owned by Rush Street Gaming, so they are effectively sister books. All three online sportsbooks are available statewide within PA’s borders.

Promotions?

There is no better time than now to be a sports bettor in PA and NJ, where generous promotions are aplenty. Arguably the greatest difference between current and future books will be in the promotional area.

At Play SugarHouse, gamblers are able to claim a 100% match up to $250, with a 1X play requirement. That means that you just need to wager the amount of your initial deposit, up to $250, to claim the full bonus amount and be able to cash it out. It’s a “no strings attached” offer, as Play SugarHouse puts it. Bettors can also take advantage of the iRush Rewards Loyalty Program.

BetRivers has the same promotion.

At the Parx Online Sportsbook, gamblers can take advantage of a one time free bet up to $250. If your bet loses, Parx will give you a full refund up to $250 in the form of another one time free bet. It’s effectively a do-over, a very different kind of offer than the promotion from SugarHouse/BetRivers.

You can also claim a free $10 bet at Parx just for signing up. According to the Parx website, you don’t need to deposit to get that free $10 bet. For those wondering, you can’t sign up and then immediately cash out that $10. It’s technically not free money unless you win the bet.

It’s hard to say definitively which welcome bonus promotion is superior. It depends on what you’re looking for. If you are looking for wiggle room in terms of how you bet from your initial deposit, then the SugarHouse/BetRivers promotion appears to be the winner. You aren’t limited to a one-time wager in the form of a bonus. With SugarHouse/BetRivers, you could deposit $250 and place a $250 bet, win it, and then cash out your entire account balance. You could, however, bet in much smaller increments. The Parx do-over offer incentivizes placing a larger wager.

That said, the $10 free bet at Parx for simply signing up is attractive for those looking to get their feet wet with zero risk. From an operator’s perspective, that $10 free bet is a very inexpensive way of obtaining your information so they can market to you in the future. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

We’ll go out on a limb here and state that Parx is probably the better choice if you’ve never placed a sports bet before and have little idea about what you’re doing. For those with some experience in sports betting, the SugarHouse/BetRivers offer could be better. If you’re experienced and looking to maximize your value from a bet, the do-over $250 bet at Parx might be more your thing. Simply find what you think is the best value bet on the platform and bet the promo max of $250.

Depositing/withdrawals?

One of the many advantages of regulating online sportsbooks from a consumer protection perspective is that there will be an abundance of reliable and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing your money. Offshore gambling platforms are notorious for the hurdles bettors will have to deal with in order to get their winnings off the site. Sometimes customers of offshore sites will never see their winnings. It’s also common to have difficulty in even depositing on an offshore sportsbook.

Here’s a look at some of the options for patrons:

SugarHouse/BetRivers

  • Credit/debit cards
  • SugarHouse/Rivers Prepaid Card
  • PayNearMe
  • Online banking transfer (ACH)
  • Cash at the casino cages

Parx

  • Credit/debit cards
  • Parx prepaid cards
  • ACH
  • PayNearMe
  • Cash at the Parx casino cage

The regulated online books are effectively on an even-playing field when it comes to the payment processing options, so don’t sweat making the wrong choice when it comes to getting your money off a PA online sportsbook. Your funds are safe and secure across all current and future PA-sanctioned sportsbooks.

Odds?

All three books are powered by oddsmaker Kambi, so the lines come from the same source. Of course, odds fluctuate over time and won’t remain static across the books.

It’s not possible to give a true odds comparison between the sites. It depends on the games or contests you want to bet on, and the timing of when you decide to lock in that skin in the game. The best advice here is to shop around and not settle for the first line you see at one of the online books.

If you find yourself comparing prices, then you are on your way to becoming a more skilled bettor, someone who is looking for the best bang for your buck. In the online gambling world, brand loyalty is important from an operator’s perspective. It’s common for bettors who get comfortable with a platform to not care too much whether than can get more value on a bet elsewhere; there’s certainly nothing wrong with not seeking to save pennies on the dollar (though that matters greatly to serious bettors).

Bets available across all three online sportsbooks include the standard moneyline, props, in-game, parlays, futures, and so on. There are so many ways to explore the world of sports betting these days, so if you’re new to all of this you definitely want to compare prices based on the style/form of wager.

Betting interfaces?

If you’re someone just entering the world of sports betting and busy with parsing all the options for promotions, odds, types of wagers, and so on, then you probably don’t care too much about the subtle differences the platforms have in terms of their usability and aesthetic appeal.

However, it is totally fair to be less than impressed by the user experience right now, as the platforms are still young. They will only improve over time.

In the opinion of this author, SugarHouse/BetRivers have a slightly more appealing platform based on the aforementioned criteria. The Parx platform is from GAN, while SugarHouse/BetRivers use in-house software from Rush Street Interactive. Right now, RSI looks to be slightly superior than GAN from a user-interface perspective, but it’s definitely not night and day.

The advantage that Rush Street Interactive has in this area isn’t surprising considering that the company has experience in NJ’s online sports betting space. NJ kicked off online sports betting in 2018, giving some of the companies involved with the PA market a head start over rivals who didn’t enjoy the same opportunity. Parx will have some catching up to do.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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