Wind Creek And Betfred Debut Retail Sportsbook, With New Online Option Weeks Away

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Pennsylvania now has a 13th retail sportsbook with Wind Creek Bethlehem adding one this week, and its partner Betfred USA Sports will soon provide the 11th online/mobile option in the state.

Wind Creek quietly had a test period for the physical sportsbook Monday and Tuesday, and it announced Wednesday morning that it had received Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approval for permanent operations.

“Opening the sportsbook at Wind Creek Bethlehem provides yet another exciting gaming opportunity for our guests,” Jay Dorris, Wind Creek Hospitality president and CEO, said in a press release. “Partnering with Betfred USA Sports will allow us to bring a first-class sports betting experience in a high energy environment to the property.”

Wind Creek is the last of Pennsylvania’s large casinos to enter the sports betting market, which requires paying a $10 million licensing fee. Only Lady Luck Nemacolin in Fayette County, the state’s smallest casino, lacks a retail sportsbook or online partner.

The gaming board reported Tuesday that the state’s sports betting handle in the month of October amounted to a record $525.8 million, with gross taxable revenue from it (the amount lost by bettors) of $36.8 million.

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Online sports betting coming soon

When Wind Creek won sports betting licensure approval from the gaming board in June, its general manager said it expected Betfred’s digital operation to start before the retail sportsbook opened. That has turned out not to be the case.

Wednesday’s press release said to expect “the launch of the online sportsbook powered by Betfred Sports in the Wind Creek Casino mobile applications in the coming weeks.”

Betfred is a longtime British-based sportsbook that created a U.S. subsidiary and is already operating in tandem with casinos in Iowa and Colorado. It operates more than 1,500 betting shops in Great Britain.

“Pennsylvania is a massive sports betting market, and we look forward to making Wind Creek Bethlehem a go-to destination for sports bettors,” Betfred USA Sports COO Bryan Bennett said in the press release. He added in an interview, “I don’t think we’ve reached the apex of how big Pennsylvania can be,” in terms of future growth now that the statewide monthly handle has surpassed a half-billion dollars.

The sportsbook occupies space in the casino that was formerly Buddy V’s Ristorante. It has two video walls, 31 individual TVs, three betting windows, eight self-service kiosks, and a pub for dining and drinking.

Betfred enters highly competitive market

While the casino is hosting a “grand opening for invited guests” at the sportsbook Saturday, Betfred’s soon-to-launch mobile component will see far more betting action. About 90% of Pennsylvania’s betting handle comes digitally instead of in person.

Bennett told Penn Bets that the company would have liked to launch online by now, but with COVID, “everything has just taken a little longer than originally anticipated.” He said he is hoping Betfred will be available digitally by year’s end sharing the play.windcreekcasino.com website that provides the casino’s iGaming component, but the timing will depend on the state approval process.

The British operator will face a crowded market of better-known online operators. The Barstool Sportsbook of Penn National Gaming just arrived in September as the newest site, placing third in betting volume behind national titans FanDuel and DraftKings. The seven other digital sites combined claim less than one-fourth of the market.

Bennett said Betfred has always relied on an image of “providing the best value to the bettor,” and it is counting on its path into the Pennsylvania market being greased by the association with Wind Creek, the second-largest revenue generator among the state’s casinos.

“We’ll start out by leveraging the retail sportsbook space and converting players over to the online book,” he said. “I’m sure a number of them are already betting online with competitors, and our first order of business is to convert them over.”

In addition, BetMGM recently won licensing approval to provide sports betting in Pennsylvania, although it is unclear when and how it will do so. It would need to form a partnership with an existing Pennsylvania casino as its sports betting provider, and the casinos with sports betting licenses all already have relationships.

While Wind Creek is the newest retail sportsbook in the state, it will not be the last.

The new Live! Pittsburgh mini-casino opening to the public next Tuesday in Westmoreland County has a FanDuel sportsbook, and the Live! Philadelphia property to open in early 2021 will also have one.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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