First Pennsylvania Sports Betting Licenses Go To Parx, Hollywood Casinos

Posted on October 4, 2018 - Last Updated on September 17, 2020

Wednesday, Oct. 3 was a big day for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). It awarded its first authorizations to conduct state-regulated sports betting in Pennsylvania.

The PGCB gave the go-ahead for three locations run by two gaming businesses:

  • The Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, owned by Penn National—authorized to launch sports betting at the Hollywood Casino and Racetrack
  • Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment—authorized for operations at the Parx Casino and South Philadelphia Turf Club

Penn National said that it expects to begin taking sports bets within a few months. Parx plans to get to the market first with a November launch.

Parx still has regulatory hoops to jump through

It is standard practice for Pennsylvania regulators to attach conditions to authorizations. These are not publicly disclosed, but involve the Office of Enforcement Counsel (OEC) signing off on the launch.

At the PGCB meeting, the OEC said that it intended to confirm that the new sports betting technology worked properly at Parx Casino before signing-off on a launch at the Turf Club.

This was news to Parx executives and caused some consternation. The OEC argued that delaying launch at the Turf Club was in the interests of protecting the public.

After a short gentlemanly debate, the OEC and Parx reached a middle ground where the delay would be minimized. However, a November launch may be less likely than Parx would like.

The football season has already started, and the World Series throws its first ball on October 23. The leisurely process followed by the PGCB is pushing launch dates further back than sports fans would like.

Sports betting brings major changes

It is fascinating to see how far the effects of legalized sports betting are spreading:

  • The legal gambling age in Pennsylvania is 21. Entry to the South Philadelphia Turf Club will increase from 18 to 21 to reduce the risk that underage gambling will take place.
  • At all three casinos and racetracks with new authorizations, substantial re-modeling will take place.
  • The Hollywood Casino will get a new sports betting area, as will the Parx Casino.
  • At the Turf Club, sports betting will co-exist adjacent to the horse race betting area.
  • The owners of all three establishments produced plans which involve massive additional banks of TV screens so that punter can watch live sports events from across the world.

In-casino mobile betting is coming

None of the operators will launch online or mobile sports betting in the first phase of operations. That will probably come in the early months of 2019.

That doesn’t mean players won’t be able to use their mobile devices to place bets. Casinos can now use their local wi-fi networks to geolocate players inside the casino, or even inside specific areas in the casino.

In-casino mobile betting is possible by allowing players to download a mobile app to their phone or tablet. The app then activates only when it is connected to the authorized wi-fi network.

After players fund their one-day account at the cage, they can place bets using the casino’s sports betting app. At the end of the day, the account is closed and players can cash out their winnings or what remains of their deposits.

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In-game betting will be massive

The PGCB heard that in-game betting would be a major revenue generator. In-game betting involves taking bets after a match has started. Customers can then bet on almost anything from who makes the next home run to which team will score first.

The Parx presenters explained that in the UK, in-play betting provides around 80 percent for sports betting revenues. The figure is already at around 70 percent in New Jersey.

Parx said that it expects to see similar figures in Pennsylvania.

It is not practical to take most in-game bets at the teller because events happen too fast. Parx explained that this was why almost all in-game bets are placed online, and around 80 percent of those are made on mobile devices.

More sports betting operators coming soon

Penn National was the first Pennsylvania casino to apply for a sports betting license and pay the $10 million license fee. Parx was second, but three others have also submitted an application:

Sugarhouse already has mobile sports betting up and running in New Jersey. Harrah’s owner Caesars has its own mobile sports betting app in NJ and live sports betting at two casinos in New Jersey and two casinos in Mississippi.

The next PGCB meeting is at the end of October. We can say with certainty that more sports betting applications will receive PGCB consideration.

The first quarter of 2019 is looking good for Pennsylvania sports bettors.

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood writes for a number of publications in the online gambling sphere. With a special focus on international markets, he writes for LegalSportsReport.com, OnlinePokerReport.com, and others. He also centers on sports betting, esports betting, and the emergent regulated US online gambling industry.

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