Rhode Island will become the eighth state to offer legal sports wagering when the Twin Rhode River Casino throws open the doors to its new sportsbook on Monday. Executive chairman John Taylor, senate president Dominick Ruggiero and house speaker Nicholas Mattiello will place the first sports bets at the Lincoln-based casino. Twin Rivers is poised to launch a second book at its Tiverton casino in December as the industry gathers pace in the Ocean State. Rhode Island is taking a 51% tax on all revenue and hopes to rake in a significant amount of cash for reinvestment in public services.
“Sports gaming provides the state with revenue that offsets reliance on taxes to support essential state services, such as education and fixing roads and bridges,” said Ruggiero, who lobbied for the introduction of sports betting. The state’s lottery will run the sportsbooks in partnership with William Hill and IGT, so it feels entitled to take a large cut of the revenue. Just 17% will go to the casino, with 32% going to IGT and William Hill.
Rhode Island has budgeted for $23.5 million in sports betting revenue between now and June 30, 2019, but that assumed an October 1 start. There have been several delays in opening the Twin Rivers books, so that forecast is now likely to be adjusted. Analysts estimate the state has lost $12 million due to the delays, which saw it miss several weeks of the NFL, college football and NBA seasons, plus baseball’s World Series. The state hopes its sportsbooks will prove popular with sports fans in neighbouring Massachusetts and Connecticut, as they can easily cross over the border and visit those casinos with just a short drive time.
That could put pressure on fellow states in New England to introduce sports betting, rather than seeing their residents take money out of their states and spending it in Rhode Island. Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy has been trying to bring forward a sports betting bill, but resistance from legislative leadersforced him to shelve it. However, naysayers could change their tune if the economic argument for introducing sports betting becomes impossible to ignore.
Pennsylvania’s Hollywood Sportsbook Open For Business
In the past week Pennsylvania became the seventh state to begin offering sports wagering when Penn State’s Hollywood Casino sportsbook opened for business. Sportsbooks at two Greenwood Gaming properties, Parx Casino and the South Philly Turf Club, are set to quickly follow. The Hollywood sportsbook opened on Saturday with great fanfare. “Penn National is excited to be the first casino to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania,” said chief executive Dan Ihm. “The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”
Once again, William Hill runs the sportsbook at the Hollywood Casino. The British bookmaker controls sports wagering in Rhode Island and Delaware, and it is also present in Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey and West Virginia, so it is thriving in the new regulated sports betting industry in the US. Online sports betting is not yet up and running in either Rhode Island or Pennyslvania, so sports fans will have to visit brick and mortar books like Twin River and Hollywood Casino if they want to bet in a safe, legal environment.
Penn National said it expects to start taking online sports bets in the first quarter of 2019. That will open up a huge potential market for it, as it is a vast state and it can target many more potential customers online. Analysts at Eilers & Krejcikestimate that the sports betting market in Pennsylvania could be worth a cool $12 billion. Experts believe Pennsylvania will easily depose Nevada as the biggest state for sports betting once the market matures, as Silver State sportsbooks took just $4.8 billion in sports wagers in 2017. Despite the state holding out for huge licensing fees and high revenue taxes, Penn National and Greenwood Gaming both applied for licenses, and further sportsbooks will soon launch at Harrah’s and SugarHouse in Philadelphia and Rivers in Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania will be the first state with franchises in each of the four major professional sports leagues to offer legal betting. In Philadelphia, the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies and Flyers ply their trade, while Pittsburgh boasts the Steelers, the Penguins and the Pirates. “I would say both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are very strong sports betting towns, with a lot of enthusiasts,” said Greg Carlin, chief executive at Rush Street Gaming, an Illinois-based operator that owns SugarHouse and Rivers.
NFL Punters Beat the Bookies
Only four states – California, Texas, Florida and New York – have a larger population than Pennsylvania. New York is wrestling with plans to introduce sports betting in 2019, but it is not imminent in the other three. Smaller states seeking to introduce sports betting will be watching developments in Mississippi and West Virginia with a keen eye. Mississippi casinos enjoyed just $1.18 million in revenue off a handle of $33 million in October. That is a revenue drop of more than $4 million compared to September, despite a higher handle, as NFL fans battered the books with some shrewd wagers. Mississippi operators made a profit on basketball, baseball, parlays and other sports, but posted a $330,000 loss on football.
Sportsbooks in West Virginia are also struggling as they have lost money so far in November, again due to sharp selections from football fans. However, the industry is starting to gather a head of steam in the Mountain State as William Hill launched a sportsbook at the Eldorado-owned Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland, which is close to the border with Ohio. William Hill already runs a sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in West Virginia, another Penn State property, although there is a lengthy delay to the introduction of online sports betting, which has ensured a relatively small handle in the state. Yet Erich Zimny, vice president of racing and sports operations at Hollywood Casino, said: “Wagering volume has been very solid, the sportsbook has helped drive some foot traffic to the property and it’s added a new dynamic to our facility. There’s a lot of energy down there on the weekends since it’s not only where you place your wagers, but it’s also a great spot to watch a game at too.”
Kristian heads up the content and SEO team at Digital Fuel having worked in digital marketing for ten years. He’s as passionate about creative content as he is about Brighton & Hove Albion FC and when he’s not following football he’s writing about Brighton’s bustling pub scene