Unibet arrived online in Pennsylvania Tuesday to give the state’s gamblers one more sports betting and casino option, but not without some hiccups.
Some technical aspects delayed the scheduled noon soft launch by about 90 minutes and afterward prevented customers from depositing funds using credit cards, but those snags won’t hamper the European-based firm’s long-term prospects in the state, said Arnas Janickas, Unibet’s head of U.S. marketing.
“It’s a good thing it’s a soft launch — we get an opportunity to fix these things without exposing too many users to those issues,” Janickas said, promising that the credit card issue would be addressed by the time users log on Wednesday.
Under monitoring by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Unibet is simultaneously launching both the seventh online sports betting site and fifth iGaming casino in the state.
European firm had head start in New Jersey
Unibet has experience with both of those verticals in New Jersey, where it began operating this year as its first U.S. state, and has been in online gaming around the world for two decades. Its sportsbook and casino are available on the same site, pa.unibet.com, with users maintaining a single account and able to click a button to switch from one type of gaming to the other.
Unibet operates in Pennsylvania under agreement with the Mohegan Sun Pocono, where Unibet helps run the physical sportsbook that opened in September. The test period for its online sites continues from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, with hopes that state approval will then allow full-time operations beginning Friday.
Unibet joins multiple other Pennsylvania sports betting sites that partner with Kambi as their odds originator. It’s a natural fit from long-term ties between the two European firms, Janickas said, as Kambi was also once part of the Kindred Group — which owns Unibet — before splitting off in 2014.
To attract sports bettors, Unibet is offering a number of incentives:
- A $250 risk-free bet after depositing funds.
- A deposit match of up to $500, which is acquired over time as bets are made.
- Two $10 free bets of any kind.
- A “Free Bet Bonanza” during the first week, consisting of one designated contest each day on which any free $10 wager can be placed, including the Rockets-Clippers game Wednesday; Steelers-Browns Thursday; 76ers-Thunder Friday; Oklahoma-Baylor Saturday; and Eagles-Patriots Sunday.
Special parlay payoffs are among incentives
For parlay bettors, Unibet is also offering temporary bonuses that increase the payoff on a three-leg parlay by 10%, a four-leg parlay by 20%, and a five-leg parlay by 30%.
There’s also a potential $100,000 payoff for those hitting a certain magical six-team point spread parlay: Pick six NFL games against the spread successfully with a minimum $10 parlay wager, and if all your teams not only win but beat the point spread by at least 9.5 points, there’s a $100,000 bonus.
For casino customers, the company is offering $10 in free play and a deposit match of up to $500.
Janickas said the company will benefit from a close relationship with Mohegan Sun Pocono, “an established brand in the state of Pennsylvania that the customer trusts and has been around a while. We bring the technology, and we think it’s a good mix that will result in a successful venture.”
In addition to Kambi, its primary online technology partner is Pala Interactive, a supplier of casino games that, like Unibet, has operated around the world and first entered the U.S. market through operations in New Jersey.
Janickas said that while details are still being worked out to make Unibet’s app available to iOS customers in addition to Android users, those with iPhones can access the site by downloading the GeoGuard third party app and having that running in the background.
“It will be worked out shortly — it’s just a little more complicated process for now,” due to new technical requirements from Apple, he said.
Online casino rivals sportsbook for revenue
Much of what’s available through Unibet in Pennsylvania is similar to New Jersey, although Janickas said there are more casino games available on its New Jersey site because more vendors have been licensed there from getting a head start on Pennsylvania in interactive gaming.
Unibet’s Pennsylvania online casino is starting with 88 games for desktop — 13 of those being table games such as blackjack and roulette — and slightly fewer than that for mobile devices. More games will be added over time, Janickas said.
He said Unibet’s past experience is that the revenue its sites derive from casino games vs. sports betting “is a pretty even split. Unibet is primarily a sports betting brand, but we do know that sports bettors enjoy playing casino games and vice versa. It’s difficult to say what’s going to happen in Pennsylvania.”
He credited Pennsylvania for authorizing both online sports betting and iGaming at the same time, unlike what other states have done, and despite comparatively high tax rates for both, “we’ll do our best to ensure the best experience possible.”
While Pennsylvanians won’t face any different betting odds that will hurt them due to the tax rate, Janickas said, it might be a factor discouraging Unibet from offering them all the same promotions the company will offer in other states.
That could cut into the state’s ability to attract players away from illegal markets, he cautioned. But he acknowledged it would be hard to generally offer Pennsylvania residents a weaker version of what it offers than Unibet’s New Jersey site, due to the high volume of customers who can cross over between the two states.
“Our goal is to have consistent offerings,” Janickas said. “If you’re in South Jersey or Philadelphia, we don’t want to push customers to use one or the other app — they should get the same offers on the same.”
Unibet using Eagles, Devils to help build its brand
Janickas alluded to marketing partnerships the gaming company has begun with the Philadelphia Eagles and New Jersey Devils to build its brand recognition through the popular sports franchises’ physical and online sites. Unibet faces a challenge competing with Pennsylvania online sportsbooks such as fantasy sports leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, which are far better known to the gambling public.
“Probably our most important key going forward is ensuring we build trust, and that’s a big part of why we have partnered with the Eagles and Devils,” Janickas said.
Unibet is planning to expand into other states as they become legalized and new operating agreements are shaped — the Midwest is the most likely next step for the company — but for now the potential that Pennsylvania offers is extremely attractive.
“In terms of the overall size of the pie, we think Pennsylvania is going to be similar to where New Jersey is,” he said. “It’s slightly bigger but doesn’t have the New York City market as players, but it has Philadelphia, which is absolutely crazy about sports.
“For us, we’re excited, we’re hopeful. We believe we have a good setup, and our strong partnerships with the Mohegan Sun and the Eagles are a good recipe.”