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State of the Nation: US Sports Betting Update: Online Wagering Drives Pennsylvania to Record Handle

Pennsylvania’s nascent sports betting industry grew by 23% to reach a new record monthly handle of $59.3 million in July. Most states have seen the handle plummet this summer due to a dearth of wagering options for sports fans, with the NFL, NBA and NHL all enjoying a well-earned break. Yet Pennsylvania keeps on growing and that is all thanks to the advent of online sports betting.

In November 2018, retail sportsbooks opened their doors for the first time across the Keystone State. However, sports fans could not place legal online sports bets, as no operators were ready to launch their digital offerings. That all changed in May 2019, when Rush Street Gaming launched its PlaySugarHouse app and website. It enjoyed a month-long monopoly, until an online offering from Parx Casino in Bensalem went live at the end of June. July, therefore, represents the first full month in which Pennsylvania residents could enjoy competitive online sports betting market.

The Benefits of Competition

The results were instantaneous. The overall sports betting handle shot up from $46.3 million in June to $59.3 million in July. The online sector accounted for roughly two-thirds of that handle. Sports fans wagered $39 million online during July, a significant increase in the previous month, showing the benefits of healthy competition.

There were three online betting sites operating for the full month. Rush Street Gaming accounted for two of them – one tied to its SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and the other to its Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh – and one from Parx. A FanDuel online sportsbook, attached to the Valley Forge Casino, went live towards the end of July, bringing the total to four. That has the potential to blow Parx and Rush Street Gaming out of the water, as FanDuel is absolutely dominating the more mature online sports betting sector in neighbouring New Jersey.

Rush Street Gaming Reigns Supreme

Yet for now, SugarHouse is top dog in the Keystone State. Its handle stood at $26.5 million during July, which equates to roughly 45% of all sports bets placed in the entire state. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board does not break that figure down into online and retail, but it is safe to assume that the lion’s share of bets was placed online. Rivers was second, with revenue of $14.3 million during the month. Both Rush Street Gaming Properties benefited from giving away almost $1 million in promotional credits during the month.

Parx was next on the list. It is the best performing casino in Pennsylvania, but when it came to sports betting it had to settle for third place. Total handle stood at $7.2 million during July. Greenwood Gaming owns Parx and it also operates retail sportsbooks at sites in South Philadelphia and Oaks. They brought in $2.7 million in sports betting handle between them, bringing Greenwood’s total handle to around $10 million. The Valley Forge Casino took $5 million and much of that can be attributed to the launch of the FanDuel sportsbook, which operates on its licence. It was only in operation for nine days of the month, and it could well dominate the market by the time August’s figures are revealed.

Total revenue stood at $5 million for Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry during July, although that dropped to $2.9 million when taking into account promotional credits given out by the sportsbooks in a bid to attract new customers. SugarHouse secured revenue of just over $1 million and Rivers held $133,634. Parx held revenue of $656,974 and Greenwood’s total revenue was close to $1 million when factoring in its other two sportsbooks. The state received $1 million in taxes for July.

Penn National Leading the Charge in Indiana

Penn National Gaming’s sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in Pennsylvania brought in a slightly more modest handle of $1.8 million during July. Yet Penn National remains ambitious and it is planning to launch two retail sportsbooks in Indiana on September 1. The Hoosier State will become the 12th state to allow sports wagering when books begin opening at casinos and off-track betting locations throughout the state next month. Ameristar Casino in East Chicago and Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg expect to launch on September 1, and Horseshoe Hammond Casino’s sportsbook will join the party three days later, just in time for the new NFL season.

“Our customers are very excited to start wagering on sports,” said Matt Schuffert, general manager at Ameristar Casino. “The passion for Indiana and Illinois sports teams runs deep in this region, and we look forward to becoming a destination for fans all year-round.” The site is located close to the Illinois border, 20 miles south of Chicago, so it should attract plenty of sports fans from the big city. Illinois has passed a law to legalise sports betting, but sportsbooks have not yet launched, so the Ameristar could enjoy a roaring trade in the meantime. FanDuel operates a retail sportsbook at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and it attracts a steady stream of New Yorkers, as it is just a few miles from Manhattan, so a similar situation could develop in East Chicago.

A Destination for Sports Fans

Penn National’s Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg is at the opposite end of the state, near the borders with Ohio and Kentucky. “We hope to become a destination for fans from Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky,” said assistant general manager Ryan Coppola. Cincinnati legends Anthony Munoz and Tony Perez will participate in a ceremonial ribbon cutting at Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg on September 7. Celebrating the first wagers at Ameristar East Chicago will be a pair of Chicago Bears legends in Mike Ditka and Devin Hester.

Penn National chief executive Timothy J. Wilmott noted that the enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed last year. Sportsbooks in states like New Jersey and Delaware have now been up and running for a year, and the industry is maturing. The new NFL season is looming large on the horizon, and we should expect to see the sports handle soar across the country in the months ahead.

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