Pennsylvania sports betting is now live at just one of the state’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos.
On Thursday, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course was given the green light by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to begin testing its brick-and-mortar sportsbook. Real wagers were allowed during the soft launch, as the first bet in the state was $20 on the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl. The bet from the anonymous gambler received cheers.
However, a snowstorm on Thursday put a damper on the turnout for the first day, Hollywood’s Vice President of Marketing Fred Lipkin told PennBets on Friday morning.
Day No. 2 kicks of at 2 p.m. local time on Friday. The book will stop taking wagers at midnight, before reopening on Saturday at 10 a.m., Lipkin said.
That is, “barring anything catastrophic,” he said.
“We are looking to get approval to get the word ‘testing’ off,” he added.
Something that could qualify as catastrophic would be a glitch affecting the betting lines, like what happened to FanDuel in New Jersey back in September.
Gamblers expected to descend on casino
According to Lipkin, the casino is expecting gamblers from across the state to make their way to the property to bet on college football games on Saturday and NFL games on Sunday. Pennsylvania is home to some of football’s most iconic brands.
Lipkin said that Hollywood will benefit from being located on the interstate, which will make it convenient for a sports betting road trip.
“I’m expecting a diverse group” of sports bettors this weekend, he said.
Hollywood is located more than 100 miles from New Jersey, which has had sports betting since June. Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey has mobile betting.
Hollywood’s mobile plans
Online/mobile sports wagering in the Keystone State is several months away. Lipkin said Hollywood hopes to get regulatory approval to launch mobile in either Q1 or Q2 of next year. Other Pennsylvania casinos have hinted at early 2019 mobile sports betting launches.
William Hill US is running Hollywood’s sportsbook. William Hill has mobile operations in the Garden State.
In August, Hollywood and William Hill were the first to seek Pennsylvania sports betting approval. Their early action paid off.
“We can’t thank the Gaming Control Board enough,” Lipkin said. “They really expedited us.”
Lipkin also said that Hollywood really wanted to launch prior to Thanksgiving.
Sports betting was happening in Pennsylvania prior to Hollywood’s launch, but it’s a black market. A Keystone State white market is expected to be among the largest in the country, but it’s hard to predict how large the market will become thanks to the 36% tax rate on sports betting revenue. Time will tell.
The benefits for the state’s gaming industry should be abundant, however. Pennsylvania’s casino gambling market is only about 2.2% larger than it was in 2012 ($3.15 billion). The state casinos recently suffered one of their worst months ever in terms of table game win.
Hollywood’s gaming revenue of about $202 million through October was off about $4 million from the same period in 2017.
Its full launch of sports betting this weekend could put it on track for gaming revenue growth in 2018.