Rivers and SugarHouse are now entering a testing phase that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will oversee. If the testing period at Hollywood Casino is any guide, the books should be officially done with that phase in a couple of days.
The dual openings herald the first Pennsylvania sportsbooks to operate in the state’s largest cities. SugarHouse Casino is a Philadelphia-area property, and Rivers Casino is located in downtown Pittsburgh.
In fact, Rivers is within walking distance from Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are now two sportsbooks from which fans can access NFL stadiums on foot. The FanDuel Sportsbook, at Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, is only a few hundred yards away from MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets.
A tale of two Pennsylvania sportsbook launches
Both sportsbooks officially opened at 2 p.m. EST Dec. 13. They will run on modified hours during the test period, then settle into their regular scheduled hours.
Since both Pennsylvania casinos are essentially on identical timelines, it is fascinating to observe the differences in how the local management at each casino is approaching their sports betting debut. For instance, Rivers Casino Sportsbook has been tweeting about the launch almost nonstop and is treating the testing period like its grand opening.
The countdown is here to introduce the NEW Rivers Sportsbook! Join us Thursday at 2pm for the introductory period of the FIRST Sportsbook in western PA! Our introductory period has limited hours, is open to the public! Visit https://t.co/tTjbjDHkpq for details! pic.twitter.com/Z1ZwbXoAEV
— Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (@WinBigRivers) December 12, 2018
Note that this tweet appeared on the afternoon of Dec. 12. By contrast, SugarHouse only mentioned its debut on Twitter around noon Dec. 13 and had made no prior indication beforehand that it was anything more than a typical Thursday there.
It’s possible that SugarHouse doesn’t feel quite the same time pressure that its sister property does. The hometown Philadelphia Eagles are neither in playoff contention nor playing at home this weekend, so activity will almost certainly be lighter.
By contrast, the 7-5-1 Steelers are in first place in the AFC North and have a tough battle on Sunday against a top conference foe, the New England Patriots. Both teams are still jockeying for their playoff spots and trying to improve or retain their current positions. So, the stage is set for war.
The Eagles will play their final home game against the Houston Texans on Dec. 23. Ideally, SugarHouse is certainly prepared and battle-tested by that date.
SugarHouse looks ahead to online sports betting
However, don’t let SugarHouse’s seeming reticence deceive about its feelings toward sports betting. The Philly-area casino is gearing up for a major operation, and its online presence will be a particular point of focus for Rush Street Interactive.
At present, SugarHouse already offers an online sportsbook in New Jersey, where online sports betting has quickly eclipsed brick-and-mortar wagering by a 3-to-1 ratio. However, daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings Sportsbook is the clear market leader in the Garden State and controls roughly half the market by itself.
No doubt SugarHouse and Rush Street are hoping a similar situation takes hold in Pennsylvania, and that they can occupy a similar position that DraftKings has in New Jersey. While there is no online sports betting app with these launches, it won’t be long before there is one.