Located just south of Lake Erie, Presque Isle Downs & Casino boasts more than 1,500 slots and table games, thoroughbred racing, and enough dining and entertainment options to entice patrons from as far as Cleveland and Buffalo.
As far as racinos go, Presque Isle is a comparatively new addition to the Keystone State. The property opened for business in 2007, three years after the lawmakers passed legislation authorizing limited forms of casino gambling. The site’s unique, fully synthetic, horse racing track debuted later that year.
Unlike some of its competitors, Presque Isle has kept its intentions regarding online gambling mostly private. However, before iGaming legislation was passed last year, company execs seemed receptive to getting involved.
- In 2014, Presque Isle General Manager and Vice President Jeff Favre came out in support of the industry, stressing the need for it to be “done right.” The company also subsequently signed a letter to PA House and Senate leadership expressing support for regulating the vertical.
- In 2016, Presque Isle made a foray into online gambling with the launch of its own play-money social casino. The site is powered by SG Digital, a premier gambling software provider which might also serve as the Erie-based casino’s partner in real-money iGaming.
- And in early 2018, the property was purchased by Churchill Downs Inc., a powerful track and casino owner that has signaled interest in online gambling. The deal is expected to close in Q4 2018.
In terms of revenue, Presque Isle is not amongst the state’s top earners, grossing just $125.6 million last year. But that doesn’t mean the casino will forgo an opportunity to open its own online casino. If the regulated New Jersey market has taught us anything, it’s that small brands can compete with, and even overtake, better-known competitors in the online space.
What type of welcome bonuses will Presque Isle online casino offer
When PA virtual gambling sites launch later this year, operators will need to make a strong marketing push to spread awareness and attract online patrons.
There are few better ways to accomplish this than by giving away free money.
Online casinos, including legal sites in New Jersey, are known to offer players a pair of welcome bonuses – one as an appetizer and another as the main course.
Presque Isle customers can expect to initially receive a small, real-money cash bonus in the $20 range, simply for signing up an account. This award does not require any deposit at all and can be used to test a site’s games at no risk.
For those who decide to go ahead and load funds into their account, Presque Isle will have an even bigger bonus, this one in the form of a deposit match.
With these types of bonuses, deposits are matched by the casino by a certain percentage, up to a specific maximum. So for example, if Presque Isle offered a 100% bonus up to $600, a player depositing $400 would receive an additional $400 in bonus money along with their original $400 deposit, for a total of $800.
Bonus money is subject to terms and conditions, which usually requires the customer complete a play-through requirement. To fully unlock the cash, patrons must wager the bonus amount by a certain multiple by playing qualified, real money games on the site. Only when that condition is met can the funds be cashed out.
What advantages would an iGaming site by Presque Isle have
- Small casino, big platform: Originally it seemed unlikely that Presque Isle would develop its own iGaming software from the ground up – like Rush Street Interactive has for SugarHouse. But now that the property has been purchased by Churchill Downs, a proprietary platform isn’t out of the question. Churchill Downs is already connected to TwinSpires — an online horse betting platform — and CDI’s CEO has indicated that the company is interested in expanding its wagering tech. Alternatively, Presque Isle could align with the same provider that supplies its play-money casino: SG Digital.
- Online/offline rewards at multiple properties: Churchill Downs is the owner of multiple racetracks and casinos throughout the US. Its experience crafting attractive player rewards programs is up there with the best. So we fully expect Presque Isle Online to boast a dynamic program where players can redeem points earned online at either the online site or any Churchill Downs venue.
- Mobile excellence: Whether it teams up with SG Digital, a provider with a huge stock of mobile games, or goes proprietary, Presque Isle could have a leg up over its competitors, whose mobile products might not be as capable.
Which platforms will Presque Isle casino be available for?
Today’s online casino players prefer to access their favorite games from not just desktop computers, but from mobile devices as well. Without a doubt, Presque Isle will offer patrons the chance to play both at home and on-the-go via a wide variety of browsers and device types.
It has never been easier or faster to get an online casino game up and running and ready for play. Indeed, modern browsers feature technology allowing virtual gambling games to run directly in the browser window, no extra downloads required.
This means that anyone using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Microsoft Edge can simply navigate to the casino website, fire up their favorite game and play in an instant.
A strong mobile app is a must for any PA iGaming site hoping to compete in what will be a very competitive industry. That said, if Presque Isle chooses to partner with SG Digital, it could immediately deploy a tried-and-tested, robust mobile experience for its players.
Building a proprietary app is a riskier endeavor, but one that may allow Presque Isle to really stand out.
We expect Presque Isle to launch iOS and Android apps as a compliment to its main online casino when the operation goes live.
Online game selection at Presque Isle’s online gambling website
Presque Isle’s land-based venue is outfitted with over 1,500 slots and dozens of table games, something for gamblers of all tastes. The casino’s online selection will feature an eclectic mix of titles and variations as well, and will not likely disappoint.
We expect to see Presque Isle casino launch with several hundred titles, progressively adding more as they solidify partnerships with some of the gaming world’s top content providers.
Online slots at Presque Isle casino
The online gaming sites powered by SG Digital in New Jersey boast the biggest slots libraries in the state, something that Presque Isle could rival if it were to use the same provider. Proprietary platforms have also fared well, with Play SugarHouse being the most positive example.
PA players might be faced with one unwelcome difference, however, when it comes to payback percentages. In New Jersey, RTPs for online slots hover around 95% on average, with some titles giving back up to 99%. In Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casinos the situation is less favorable, with most slots paying back around 91%.
Payback rates at PA land-based venues are even worse, partly due to the onerous 54% tax on slots levied by the state. Unfortunately, instead of cutting a break for online operators, lawmakers plan to tax virtual slots at the same crippling rate. This reality will likely lead state online casinos to choose slots titles that offer suboptimal odds for consumers.
That doesn’t mean that one-armed bandits won’t be a critical part of Presque Isle’s operation – far from it. Presque Isle will make available hundreds of popular titles, including progressive slots, whose jackpots can grow into the millions of dollars.
Be on the lookout for games like these:
- Jackpot Inferno
- Merlin’s Millions
- Divine Fortune (jackpot slot)
- Samurai Split
While slot returns at PA casinos might be abysmal, blackjack offers a much rosier picture. In fact, the state requires that licensed operators follow specific rules, some of which can be a boon to players. These include:
- Blackjacks pay 3:2
- Late surrender
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Re-split up to three hands
- Double on any two
We see no reason why the same rules would not be instituted at Presque Isle’s virtual blackjack tables. Players are likely to have their pick of a dozen or more blackjack varieties, including some featuring sidebets and perhaps even progressive jackpots.
Blazing 777 Blackjack is one such progressive game, and is already offered at Presque Isle’s brick-and-mortar venue. A $5 wager placed in the progressive circle could unlock a massive win, should you be dealt three suited 7’s.
You will find at least two flavors of roulette at Presque Isle online, those being the American and European variety. American roulette wheels feature two 0 slots, and afford the casino an edge of around 5.26%. European wheels, on the other hand, have a single 0 pocket, cutting the house edge almost in half.
Game developers have also come up with some unique variations, putting a creative spin on the format online. Three Reel Roulette and Double Bonus Spin Roulette are two intriguing options which will likely be available.
Other online games
Presque Isle’s gaming site won’t stop with the traditional favorites, it will be rounded out with an array of lesser-known, yet enticing options. You might expect to see some of the following:
- Virtual Sports: Computer-generated sporting events, which can be bet on as if they were real-life games
- Let it Ride
- Three Card Poker
- No Commission Baccarat
- Video poker
Will Presque Isle’s gambling site have a loyalty program?
The New Jersey iGaming industry has taught us that it’s not impossible for lesser-known casinos to carve out a niche for themselves in the face of competition from big regional players. But for Presque Isle to beat the odds, it will need to go above and beyond to keep its customers loyal by implementing a stellar rewards program.
At this early-stage, we can’t be sure just how Presque Isle will go about crafting such a loyalty scheme. Current brick-and-mortar players can become members of Eldorado’s One Club, which offers standard perks like free plays and discounted dining at any of the conglomerate’s 20 locations. But that program is likely going out the window once Churchill Downs takes charge.
In all likelihood the online program will be built in tandem with the new brick & mortar scheme. We’d even go as far to say that it would be a severe misstep for Churchill Downs to not tie its offline and online brands.
At bare minimum, players that frequent Presque Isle Online should be able to redeem their points at any Churchill Downs casino, and possibly even at their numerous racing facilities.
Churchill can get even more creative, offering VIPs all-inclusive Kentucky Derby getaways or other surprises.
Banking options at Presque Isle Downs online casino
Legalizing iGaming in Pennsylvania was a huge win for both the state and for potential online gamblers. Players can now be protected from unregulated operators, while the state receives much needed tax revenue from licensed sites.
The law will also make the process of funding an online gambling account extremely simple. Now, state-licensed online casinos can tap trusted payment processors to legally handle player deposits and withdrawals, something that was previously prohibited.
Looking at casino sites in New Jersey, we can get a glimpse of what options might be available. Here are a few:
- Instant eCheck (ACH)
- Online banking transfer
- Cashier’s cage at Presque Isle Downs & Casino
- E-wallets like Neteller or Skrill
- Visa/MasterCard credit or debit cards
- Presque Isle prepaid card
- PayNearMe (cash at 7-Eleven)
- Bank wire transfers
Customer support at Presque Isle’s gambling site
A customer support department staffed with knowledgeable and friendly reps is essential for any well-rounded online casino. When Presque Isle’s gaming site goes live, players are bound experience technical issues or have questions about any number of problems or policies.
Presque Isle will follow the example of NJ online casinos, which, apart from hosting extensive help center hubs on their websites, offer support via the following channels:
- Live chat
- 24/7 phone
More about Presque Isle Downs & Casino
Presque Isle Downs is a Category 1 racino and is one of 20 gambling properties owned by Eldorado Resorts. It was recently sold to Churchill Downs, host of the Kentucky Derby and owner of multiple racing and casino venues, for $178.9 million in cash.
Developers began construction on Presque Isle Downs in 2005, completing it two years later. The site’s casino was at first only authorized to offer slot gaming, but changes in the law in 2010 allowed it to introduce table games as well.
The racetrack at Presque Isle is made of a unique synthetic material called Tapeta Footings, and was the first of its kind in the Northeast US. Racing takes place from May through September, and includes the much-anticipated Presque Isle Mile and Inaugural Stakes races.
While there is no hotel connected to the property, gamblers have their pick of several lodging options conveniently located nearby.
Presque Isle also houses a seven-table poker room, which while small, still manages to put together tournament most days of the week.
On the Presque Isle website, players can get a taste of the type of games they’ll find when they arrive at the casino. PlayEldorado is a play money online gaming site, which pays out in points that players can use to unlock even more games.
While Presque Isle doesn’t offer the same level of high-end entertainment and nightlife options found at casinos like Parx, patrons still have their choice of a handful of on-site restaurants, buffets and bars.
At first glance, Presque Isle may not seem like it could compete with the state’s more well-known properties, should it pursue an online gambling venture.
But we know from the successes of smaller brands in New Jersey (e.g. Golden Nugget/Betfair) that this isn’t the case. The example set by those sites might motivate Presque Isle to take a shot at online gambling as well, especially now that it’s owned by a company with financial muscle and an appetite for online gambling.
Churchill Downs hasn’t kept quiet on the topic of iGaming, and is already a force in the online horse betting space.
Of course the outrageous eight-figure iGaming licensing fees and 54% tax on online slots may make Presque Isle take pause, and in the end, might prove unworkable for the property.
However, with a solid platform, a rewarding loyalty program and substantial marketing effort, we believe that an online casino by Presque Isle could find success in the state.
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