When the online gambling expansion law first passed in Pennsylvania, no one thought Presque Isle Downs would be much of a contender. The racino in Erie, PA is only 10 years old. It is also one of the smaller casinos in Pennsylvania. The property features over 1,500 slot machines and around 40 table games.
That all changed in March of 2018 though. That was when Kentucky company Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) announced the purchase of Presque Isle Downs in a deal for two casinos in exchange for $229.5 million.
When speaking about the acquisition Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen was abundantly clear about why the company was moving into the Keystone State:
“We are excited about welcoming both of these properties to the Churchill family. Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”
CDI is a huge gambling company with a successful wagering program in TwinSpires.
Eldorado Resorts was the counter-party to the deal. Eldorado also owns the Lady Luck Casino in Nemacolin.
CDI now has stakes in two casinos in Pennsylvania, and big ambitions to expand elsewhere in the US. It will soon launch online sports betting and casino in New Jersey in partnership with the Golden Nugget.
Sports betting is the spur to that expansion. CDI has moved quickly to apply for a Pennsylvania license for Presque Isle.
At a cost of $10 million, CDI applied to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a sports betting license on December 7. The license will allow both online and live casino sports betting.
Presque Isle has also applied for interactive licenses that will allow online casino games and slots. It will not be offering online poker.
CDI’s technology partner for sports betting and online operations is SBTech. The two signed a deal in the same week that the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, so no surprise that Presque Isle is entering the sports betting market.
Presque Isle Downs online casino platform
At the beginning of November, CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen told investors that the company would launch online in New Jersey :
“We are in the process of obtaining our company and key employee gaming licenses. In addition, our gaming technology partner, SBTech, is in the process of getting their platform licensed. We believe we will be operational in the fourth quarter with the suite of online casino and sports betting products.”
The New Jersey launch will come before the Pennsylvania launch which is not expected until Q1, or possibly Q2 of 2019. The Jersey version of the online platform will give an early look at what Presque Isle will offer in Pennsylvania.
The decision not to offer online poker is a major change in strategy for CDI.
In 2011, CDI purchased BLUFF Media, a poker-centered magazine and website. The plan at the time was to leverage the BLUFF name should the online poker market open up. Since then, the company shuttered all but a bare-bones version of the site though.
The company also invested in the social games space by acquiring Big Fish Games. The company sold off Big Fish for $1 billion last December.
CDI has been around the houses in its plans, but finally it is clear that Pennsylvania customers will get live and online sports betting, online casino and slots games.
Browser and mobile-based play
In the regulated New Jersey online casino market, most every online casino offers both a browser-based version of its online casino and a mobile app.
On both versions, there are certain identification measure to ensure the player is over the age of 21. Additionally, there is geolocation technology which verifies players are within the state. These players do not have to be residents though, all they need to be is physically located within the state.
The same standards will apply in PA and for the Presque Isle Downs online casino.
Games at Presque Isle Downs online casino
SBTech offers 1,500+ Casino, Live Casino & Virtual Sports games. Partners include NetEnt, Microgaming, Kiron & other leading providers.
Presque Isle will choose from this selection what games it thinks will work best in the Pennsylvania market.
Whether or not live dealer casino games are offered is still up in the air. There may be regulatory issues that prevent or at least delay the launch of live dealer options.
Presque Isle Downs online video poker
Most online casinos offer at least a couple of versions of video poker. How many varieties a site like Presque Isle Downs’ offers depends on what it chooses from the SBTech options.
Blackjack at Presque Isle Downs online casino
Given its status as the most-popular table game, Presque Isle Downs will almost certainly offer real money blackjack. Moreover, online table games are taxed at a substantially lower rate than slots, so CDI will certainly try to generate as much table game revenue as it can.
Presque Isle Downs may not offer quite the bells and whistles a player may find in New Jersey though. Side bets and other elements of Blackjack, like insurance, vary based on state regulations.
In brick-and-mortar casinos in Pennsylvania, the Blackjack rules favor the casino much more than they favor the player, so expect a tighter game online.
Presque Isle Downs online casino slots
The taxes are high on online slot games in Pennsylvania, 54 percent to be exact. With such a high tax rate, slots may not play as big a role in gaming revenue as in New Jersey.
Slots players in land-based Pennsylvania casinos can also tell you that PA slots are some the tightest in terms of return to player (RTP) in the country.
Presque Isle Downs online casino rewards program
Presque Isle Downs Casino has a customer loyalty program for customers called One Club. With an online casino, it is likely the casino will incorporate One Club into the interface, linking the live and online casino rewards systems.
Given its relationship with CDI now, there could also be integration with other racetrack properties, though CDI does not have any sort of player rewards system as of now.
Banking options at Presque Isle Downs online casino
A Presque Isle Downs online gambling site should be ready to accept:
- Prepaid Cards
- Electronic checks
- Bank wire
- Cash at the Presque Isle Downs cage
Players should be able to receive payouts from Presque Isle Downs online casino the same way they make deposits. The most likely withdrawal options are electronic checks, wire transfers, traditional checks, Neteller, PayPal, and cash payouts at the casino cage.
Presque Isle Downs online casino customer service
When it comes to customer support, the ideal for Presque Isle Downs would be to offer all three channels for players to reach out 24/7. At the very minimum, expect prompt email support.
- Toll-free phone number
- Live chat