Getting Points: PA Sports Bettors’ Wait For PointsBet Is Almost Over

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Nearly two years into the mobile sports betting era in Pennsylvania, most of the online sportsbooks up and running in the Keystone State are available across the Delaware River in New Jersey as well, and vice versa. The most notable exceptions? Barstool Sportsbook, which launched in PA last September but hasn’t come to NJ yet, and PointsBet, which has offered its unique twist on sports betting to Jersey customers since December 2018 but is not operating in Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, we learned that the first of those two situations is about to change, when Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden revealed that the Barstool-branded book is “going to be live in New Jersey probably by the end of May.”

And Thursday afternoon, PointsBet announced that, in partnership with the same Penn National Gaming, it has secured market access to at long last set up shop in PA.

The Penn National connection will also bring PointsBet to Mississippi, a state that only permits retail sports betting. The upcoming access to both states was combined into one announcement — but it’s clear which state is getting the emphasis from PointsBet.

“We are very excited about adding another two guaranteed online market access points to our portfolio in Pennsylvania and Mississippi,” PointsBet Group CEO Sam Swanell said in a press release. “A mature, total addressable sports betting and iGaming market in Pennsylvania is estimated to be over $1.75 billion per annum. Further, Pennsylvania is home to Philadelphia, the fourth largest media market in the United States, inclusive of southern New Jersey and a regional pillar of the Comcast-NBC Universal asset portfolio.  NBC Sports Philadelphia owns the in-game broadcast rights to the Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers, covering over 290 live events per year across 4.1 million households.”

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Tax rate dissuaded PointsBet … until it didn’t

Back in 2018, PointsBet US CEO Johnny Aitken said the high tax rates in Pennsylvania were steering the operator away from wanting to enter the market. PA taxes sportsbook revenue at 36%, compared to 13% for online sportsbooks in New Jersey.

But PointsBet’s wait-and-see approach to PA has now given way, obviously, to a belief that there’s value to be had in the state despite the hefty taxes. Swanell’s quote above suggests the dollars involved now make sense.

Any online sportsbook in Pennsylvania must partner with a land-based casino. While most casino operators only have one online skin to work with, Penn National has four, by virtue of its ownership of Hollywood Casino at Penn National in Grantville, Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and two forthcoming mini-casinos in Berks and York counties.

A request sent to PointsBet for specifics on its land-based partner in PA was not met with a definitive answer. But by process of elimination, it would seem that the York mini-casino is the entry point, as Meadows is partnered with DraftKings Sportsbook, the Grantville property is aligned with Barstool, and the under-construction Berks County facility opened the door for BetMGM. PointsBet has not indicated when it expects to be able to receive Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approval and launch in the state.

With the additions of Pennsylvania and Mississippi, Penn National is now providing market access for PointsBet in seven states. These new market access agreements cover a period of 20 years from the respective launches.

“PointsBet will be responsible for all licensing and approval costs in connection with launching and operating the PointsBet services (including, those associated with the licensed operator obtaining and maintaining the applicable B2C Operating Licenses required for PointsBet to operate the services in each Additional State),” the formal release further explains.

“PointsBet will pay PNG a portion of the Net Gaming Revenues derived from each Additional State.”

Why PointsBet’s arrival matters to Pennsylvania bettors

While no two mobile sportsbooks are exactly the same, most are similar enough that it’s reasonable to feel like if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where Kambi provides a sports betting platform for DraftKings, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Barstool, Unibet, and Parx, meaning about half the books in the state start with identical betting markets and odds.

PointsBet will offer PA players one more alternative set of lines and odds, thus giving customers something ever so slightly closer to an edge if they thoroughly shop lines before placing bets.

But what really distinguishes PointsBet is the Australian-based company’s unique offering known as PointsBetting.

Instead of knowing when a bet is placed that it will either win or lose a set amount (or possibly push), PointsBetting makes the amount of the profit or loss variable based on the size of the victory or defeat.

For example, in Friday night’s Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks game, PointsBet has the Bucks favored by 6 points. A customer could bet $110 to win $100 on the Bucks to cover, the same as they could at any other sportsbook. But a customer could also bet, say, $10 per point on Milwaukee. If they win by 10, that’s a win of $40. If they win by 18, that’s a win of $120. If the Celtics win by 2, that’s a loss of $80. And so forth.

PointsBetting keeps the sweat alive until the final horn sounds, and while it seems on the surface like it increases the risk, the customer can cap any PointsBetting wager. So, for example, you can bet the Bucks -6, $10 per point, with a maximum win or loss of $150.

Last August, PointsBet became an official partner of NBC Sports, and ever since then, 76ers, Flyers, and Phillies games televised on the NBC Sports Philadelphia cable network have used PointsBet odds when referencing the available betting lines.

It’s hardly the most important aspect of PointsBet coming to PA, but when PB does indeed go live in the state, viewers watching NBC Sports Philly will actually be able to bet at the numbers being discussed on air, rather than having to go onto a competitor’s app to find a similar wager.

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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