Pennsylvania Grants First 2 Legal Sports Book Licenses

By Ken Edwards, 9 October 2018

Pennsylvania Sports Betting

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board this month awarded an online gambling license to Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and to another casino.

However, in the biggest news of all perhaps, licenses to operate Pennsylvania’s first legal sports books were awarded to the operators of the Parx Casino in Bensalem and the Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County.

How did Pennsylvania arrive at legal sports betting so quickly?

The changes in Pennsylvania Gaming Laws have come since the U.S. Supreme ended the generation-long Federal law ban in May 2018 prohibiting legal sports betting. Pennsylvanian lawmakers (whilst not first cab off the rank) were quick to move and rapidly mobilized. Actually, some foresight on behalf of Pennsylvanian lawmakers was involved.

Pennsylvania’s lawmakers must be given a pat on the back for ensuring the Key Stone State has been included in the next batch of states rolling out legal sports betting before the end of 2018.

As part of a raft of changes in October 2017, Pennsylvania’s legislators gazed into their collective crystal balls and foresaw the Supreme Court’s decision by having legislation prepared to be ready for legal sports betting.

New law HB 271 paved the way for a rapid and meaningful expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania. The wide-ranging bill included a flurry of activity in legalizing online casinos, daily fantasy sports, online lottery sales and the bill established tax rates for online sports betting prepared as soon as the Federal law changed. The rest is now history.

The Casinos look to ‘dazzle’ the public with new sports betting venues

When Parx and Hollywood casinos sketched out their plans for sports betting venues to the Pennsylvanian gaming board, one common feature become quickly apparent. Both casinos are looking to supply their sports betting clients with a full-scale visual and sensory experience that they’ll never forget. By enhancing the wagering experience to these news levels of service and experience for the new millennium, it’s shifting the public perception of what a sports book is. Sports Betting, rightly or wrongly, was long thought of in its illegal framework, perhaps in smoky, dank rooms in establishments of gangsters speaking through clouds of cigar and cigarette smoke, undertaken by whiskey-swilling gangsters. Conversely, Pennsylvania sports betting will be offered as a legal pastime in luxurious and family-friendly surroundings.

Parx Casino has plans to transform its 360 Lounge into a temporary sportsbook, offering 12 self-service kiosks and seven betting windows. The luxurious lounge will present sporting events on two 16-by-9-foot high-definition television screens simultaneously displaying the latest betting odds and a score of 75-inch televisions showing all kinds of sports from across the globe.

Parax Casino

Parx is also spending $1 million to transform its South Philadelphia Turf Club off-track betting branch outlet as a satellite sportsbook, with lashings of new paint, improved security measures, new carpets throughout — and up to 150 HD brand-new televisions. As John Dixon, the chief technology officer of Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., Parx’s parent company explained;

“You can watch pretty much any game that’s on in the country,” said Mr Dixon.

Hollywood Casino not to be outdone

The Hollywood Casino sportsbook will be located in what is currently its existing 5,000-square-foot horse-racing simulcast theatre. The Hollywood Casino Sports Book will have almost 60 televisions and it should be ready to begin accepting customers and wagers in the “next few months,” said Daniel Ihm, the General Manager of the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

Other Casinos looking to begin Sports Betting in Pennsylvania

Until now, three other casino operators have filed sports betting applications with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, including Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino at Chester Downs, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, and Sugar House Casino in downtown Philadelphia.

It’s not anticipated, that any of the above casinos would have license approval before October 31 2018. Of the other casinos on the radar for releasing legal sports betting options in Pennsylvania;

  • Valley Forge – Considered to be very likely to delve into legal sports betting.
  • Live! Hotel and Casino – May offer sports betting immediately when it opens in Philadelphia in 2020. Live! Has already paid the $10 million for an online gambling license.
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono – Purchased online licenses but not sports betting licenses – yet.
  • Mount Airy Casino resort – Has already signed partnership agreement with two sporting betting software suppliers to operate their legal sports betting options (both in-house and online).
  • Presque Isle Downs – Another casino that not only has signed a deal with a sports betting software company to develop online and in-house options, but released a statement following the May 2018 US Supreme Court decision that the casino will be developing sports betting for its clientele.

The major difference between Pennsylvania sports betting and New Jersey and Delaware

Whilst legislators and casino operators in the Key Stone State may have not been as quick off the mark as New Jersey and Delaware with offering sports betting, they have played the ‘long game’ by spending a little more time. In a coup for Pennsylvania, sports betting operators can offer their clientele the possibility to bet on college sports.

It might not mean much now but when Penn State are going to the Rose Bowl, or Villanova go deep into ‘March Madness’, it could mean millions of dollars in difference for the tax revenue income raised in Pennsylvania.  Not only that, but gamblers in Pennsylvania will appreciate the more diverse gambling opportunities on offer in an industry in its infancy and sports books are looking to establish their brand awareness in the newly legalized industry.

It’s a big leg-up for Pennsylvania sports bettors and sports books with both looking to making the most of a state where college sports are strong.

(At time of writing, 8 October 2018), Penn State are 4-1 and the No.8 college football team in the nation and Villanova are expected to go deep into ‘March ‘Madness in 2019.


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