Presque Isle Downs Online Casino Preview

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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 lawmakers passed legislation authorizing limited forms of casino gambling. The site’s unique, fully synthetic, horse racing track debuted later that year.

Early in 2018, the property was purchased by Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), a powerful track and casino owner, which also runs the popular TwinSpires.com horse betting site. Soon after the Supreme Court overturned a law which had largely banned sports betting in the US, CDI announced that it would open its own online gambling and sports betting site in PA through a partnership with platform provider SBTech.

During the initial application window for online casino licenses, Presque Isle neglected to submit an application, though it eventually scooped up permits for operating virtual table games and slots at a total cost of $8 million. Of the 11 casinos which have so far bought into online gaming, Presque Isle is the only one which opted not to purchase an online poker license. The operator was one of the most recent to have their application approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on October 31.

Either way, though Presque Isle may not be amongst the state’s top earners, with the backing of Churchill Downs its iGaming site could still be a formidable competitor in the market.

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, Churchill Downs had planned to develop its own iGaming software from the ground up, like Rush Street Interactive has for SugarHouse. Instead, the company opted to partner with SBTech, a leading platform provider, which offers the ability to offer casino games, but is more well-known for sports betting. Teaming up with a well-known company like SBTech will ensure that Churchill Downs comes out of the gate with a tried and true, solid and attractive product.
  • 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: Presque Isle online bettors will be able to enjoy their favorite games on well-polished mobile apps. SBTech excels in this regarding — in 2018 it took home the IGA award for Best Mobile Product of the Year.

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.

Desktop client

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.

Mobile apps

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, Presque Isle can immediately deploy a tried-and-tested, robust mobile platform for its players, thanks to the award-winning experience of SBTech.

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.

If Presque Isle Casino Online becomes a reality we would expect it to 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 some of the biggest slots libraries in the state, something that Presque Isle could rival if it followed their model. Proprietary platforms have also fared well, with PlaySugarHouse 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 could 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:

  • Baywatch
  • Jackpot Inferno
  • Merlin’s Millions
  • Divine Fortune (jackpot slot)
  • Starburst
  • Samurai Split

Blackjack

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.

Roulette

You would 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
  • Slingo
  • 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
  • PayPal

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
  • Email
  • 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.

Conclusion

At first glance, Presque Isle may not seem like it could compete with the state’s more well-known properties in the iGaming space.

But we know from the successes of smaller brands in New Jersey (e.g. Golden Nugget/Betfair) that this isn’t necessarily the case. Now that the casino is owned by a company with financial muscle, and that has confirmed it wants an online gambling site, we expect Presque Isle to ultimately pursue an internet offering that will become an attractive destination for gamblers.

Churchill Downs has been itching to get involved with online casinos and sports betting for many years. Now that it is finally in a position to do so, the company will likely want to put considerable resources into the project to make sure its investment in Presque Isle pays off.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.