With a new sports betting opportunity offered this week to patrons of The Downs at Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania has its 13th retail sportsbook, the third at an off-track betting parlor and the first in the Allentown area.
The OTB facility of Mohegan Sun Pocono began a testing period Monday under monitoring by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The public was able to bet during limited hours on the same events available at all of the state’s other operating sites.
If everything proves satisfactory after the second day of the soft launch, running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, the OTB sportsbook would be able to operate permanently.
“Our staff is on the ground there to monitor all aspects of operating the sportsbook,” said gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach. “Among many things, we are looking at how trained are personnel; the reliability of the systems in place including networks, software, and hardware; adherence to regulations and protocols; and management of all aspects of the financials.”
Parx has been operating the only OTB sportsbooks
Mohegan Sun Pocono officials had said they intended to add four teller windows and 10 kiosks for sports betting to the 28,000-square-foot facility located in Hanover Township, just outside Allentown. They are also mulling adding a sportsbook to a second OTB, The Downs at East Stroudsburg.
Parx Casino has operated the only two OTB sportsbooks in the state up to now, at the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook and the Oaks Race and Sportsbook in Montgomery County.
The South Philadelphia operation, with a highly desirable location close to the city’s sports venues, has demonstrated that OTBs can be just as attractive to sports bettors as main casino properties. In January, its $3 million in sports wagering handle was more than that of seven casinos. The Oaks location north of the city took $973,451 in bets.
Mohegan Sun Pocono uses European-based Unibet to handle its retail and online sportsbooks. The casino opened its sportsbook on site in September, and it took $1.9 million in bets in January.
Its Lehigh Valley location has the potential to be busy, as Allentown area residents currently have to travel nearly an hour or more if they wish to place a sports bet in person, whether at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Mount Airy Casino Resort, the Oaks OTB, or Parx Casino.
Sports betting is expected also to come to the Lehigh Valley this year at nearby Wind Creek Bethlehem, although the casino has not laid out a timeline for its plans. It is the only large casino in Pennsylvania without a sportsbook.
Mohegan Sun officials declined Tuesday to go into detail on their own operation and expectations.
“In the coming days, we’ll be able to share more information, including details on a grand opening event,” said David Parfrey, the casino’s vice president of marketing.
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