Caesars Entertainment, owner of many successful gambling venues around the world, is eager to leverage its successful Harrah’s presence in the Pennsylvania market into a new sports wagering opportunity.
Harrah’s made its intentions to enter the sports betting industry in Pennsylvania known in September 2018, committing $10 million for the right to offer books at its land-based venue in Chester and online. Its license application was swiftly approved on October 31, 2018 by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, landing Harrah’s a spot among the first five PA casinos to be approved for sports betting, joining Parx, Rivers, SugarHouse, and Hollywood Casino at Penn National.
Although no exact timeline has been specified, we expect Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack will open its physical sports betting facility, both of which will be powered by Scientific Games, in relatively short order, likely before the 2018-19 season Super Bowl champion is crowned. The corresponding online sports betting app should come shortly after.
Will Harrah’s find success in the market? It certainly has the brand recognition on its side, and its land-based sportsbook plans are ambitious to say the least. Online is more of a wildcard, as a Caesars powered online book in New Jersey — which presumably will be used as the model for Harrah’s PA book — is currently underwhelming.
What advantages will Harrah’s have in the Pennsylvania market?
- Brand recognition: Harrah’s is an established name in the gambling industry across many markets, residing alongside the many Caesars, Bally’s, and WSOP properties that make up Caesars Entertainment. Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack itself boasts more than a decade of success in Pennsylvania and currently has the fifth highest revenue in the state.
- Proven experience: In addition to its many land-based resorts, Caesars Entertainment also supports online casinos and online poker rooms in Nevada and New Jersey, and physical sportsbooks in both those states plus Mississippi. Caesars has also provided mobile sports wagering to the Nevada market since 2017, and to online bettors in New Jersey since September 2018. Suffice it to say, Caesars is a large sportsbook operator, with more experience than just about anyone in the game.
- Location, location, location: Philadelphia is home to some of the most, shall we say … passionate sports fans, many of whom will be eager to place bets with a trusted and nearby brand. Harrah’s Philadelphia may not actually be located in the heart of Philly (it resides in nearby Chester, PA), but it’s close enough that it should draw betting dollars from rabid Eagles, Phillies, Fliers, and 76ers fans.
- Platform integration: If Harrah’s PA online sportsbook is anything like Caesars Casino and Sports in New Jersey (company reps have all but confirmed that it will be), it means that sports and casino players will share the same Scientific Games powered gaming platform and wallet. Going further, players that bet at either the book or the casino will earn valuable Total Rewards points, redeemable for cash online, or for use at any Caesars’ land-based property.
Harrah’s land-based sportsbook
At a October 2018 PA Gaming Control Board hearing, Harrah’s unveiled its plans for a permanent sportsbook at its Chester location.
The venue will be housed inside the renovated racebook, with over 4,300 square feet of space dedicated to sports betting.
Slated features include:
- An odds board
- 40 flat screen TVs
- Six teller windows
- Betting kiosks
- Two horseracing terminals
- Stadium-style seating
- Television packages featuring a huge number of games
- An adjacent table games pit
Unlike many of its competitors, Harrah’s does not have plans to debut a temporary sportsbook ahead of the launch of the permanent accommodations, which are expected to open to the public sometime in early 2019.
Harrah’s online sportsbook
Company representatives have been pretty mum on Harrah’s online sport betting plans.
What we do know is that Harrah’s online casino in NJ does not currently offer a sports betting option, but its sister site Caesars Casino has an online sportsbook powered by SG Digital, a branch of Scientific Games. Given that Harrah’s is already partnered with SG Digital in Pennsylvania, it is nearly certain that the provider will power an extremely similar Harrah’s-branded sports site in that market.
As to when the online sportsbook will launch, we’re likely looking at Q1 2019. Harrah’s plans to integrate its online sportsbook into its online casino, much like Caesars Casino does in New Jersey. However, if one is given the thumbs up from regulators before the other, Harrah’s will have no reservations about launching a single product, and then integrating later.
The Caesars sports site in NJ has a fully featured interface which allows wagers for all major sports leagues, with parlay and futures options. In total market share the site ranks very nearly last, but this is amongst stiffer and more competition than Harrah’s will have to compete with in PA. If it can launch as soon as possible there an opportunity to be a much more formidable entity in the new market.
Probable online features
Based on other Caesars Entertainment sites, one can expect to see most of the usual cashier options, such as:
- ACH eChecks
- Credit/debit cards
- eWallets such as NETELLER
- Cash at the cashier’s cage at Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Online banking transfer
Harrah’s available sports options to wager on should include:
- Pro and College Basketball
- Pro and College Football
- Auto Racing
- And more
It is typical for online casinos and sportsbooks to offer a welcome package for new players. Usually these include:
- A no-deposit bonus: New players could receive a small amount of bonus credit in their account upon creation. This money can usually be used immediately with a minimum amount of activity to clear.
- A deposit matches: Bettors may see their first deposit matched totally or in part by the sportsbook operator, up to a limited dollar amount. The wagering requirement for this is generally lower than it would be at an online casino, about 2x – 6x.
- In some cases, bet protection: In this bonus the operator will allow loss-prevention on your first bets up to a certain amount, essentially creating an opportunity for a small period of risk-free play.
- Matched free bet: A common mechanic where operators offer players a matched free bet, usually 100%, on their first wager up to a certain monetary amount. The free bet is there’s regardless of whether the initial wager wins or loses. However, only winnings from the free bet are applied to player cash wallets. There may also be other caveats associated with the wager, such as restricted wagers on certain formats or on heavy favorites.
Judging by other sites in the family, it wouldn’t be out of the question if Harrah’s offered something like a $10 no-deposit bonus, followed by a first-time deposit match of 100% up to $300.
Online sportsbooks can offer an array of similar promotions at given times. These including recharge deposit matches, discounts on time-specific bets or improved odds, or temporary loss prevention on certain themed parlays.
All Caesars properties (online and physical) participate in the shared Total Rewards network, one of the bigger and better-known casino rewards programs. All bets will likely contribute to a player’s TR Tier and Rewards score, the latter of which can be redeemed for rewards and discounts at Caesars online sites and dozens of resorts worldwide.
The path to Harrah’s Sportsbook
Harrah’s was pretty much a no-brainer to dip its toe into the Pennsylvania sports betting waters. Its parent company Caesars Entertainment has been an active participant in the Nevada market for many years. And although Caesars was late to the party in launching a mobile sports wagering app in Nevada, in New Jersey, it was among the first to offer sports betting on iOS, Android, and desktop computers in New Jersey. The Harrah’s and Caesars’ brands have also supported online casino sites in New Jersey dating back to November 2013.
Harrah’s is also home to a racetrack and right outside Philadelphia, rendering it a prime candidate to make the transition to sports.
The casino was the third property in the state to petition for its license, presenting its plans for a land-based facility on September 25, 2018. It swiftly received approval by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on October 31.
Harrah’s future forecast
In theory, a prospective Harrah’s sports betting operation in Pennsylvania has a lot going for it. Solid location, brand recognition, integration with Total Rewards, a top-notch provider and years of experience working with said provider.
But the brand hasn’t exactly been crushing it in neighboring New Jersey, with land-based books at Bally’s and Harrah’s AC, as well as CaesarsCasino.com, only accounting for a small piece of the pie. In large part, we feel this is due to Caesars rolling out a rather lackluster (some may even say unfinished) sports wagering platform.
Also, the location, while decent, isn’t as ideal for Philadelphia sports bettors as Parx and SugarHouse, both of whom have confirmed plans to launch land-based sportsbooks and corresponding mobile apps.
Harrah’s also could presumably be butting heads with the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, which currently dominate the NJ market.
All told, our outlook for Harrah’s sportsbook is muddied, with much of it dependent on whether the mobile app will resemble the half baked product that released in New Jersey, or reside head and shoulders above it.
While Harrah’s intentions for its land-based sportsbook have been clearly set out, the specific plans for the online sports operation were not focused on in detail. Still, the company has made it clear that online wagering is also part of its forward strategy, and the PGCB has approved the company for both a physical and an internet license.
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