PA Sports Betting Forecast: Penn National Gaming

Martin Derbyshire September 14, 2018
hands around crystal ball

Wyomissing casino gaming and horse racing giant Penn National Gaming has its sights firmly set on the Pennsylvania sports betting market.

In fact, if things go as planned, Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course will likely open up the state’s first sportsbook.

On Aug. 17, 2018, Penn National Gaming’s Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, the company that operates the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, became the first PA casino license holder to apply for a $10 million sports betting license in PA.

Once the application is approved, Penn National Gaming will have the right to launch both live and online sports betting out of its Hollywood Casino location.

Penn National Gaming and William Hill US

After applying, Penn National Gaming also announced it will be partnering with leading US sportsbook operator William Hill US on both brick and mortar retail and mobile sports betting operations.

William Hill US is Nevada’s largest sportsbook operator. It recently opened two sportsbooks in New Jersey, at Monmouth Park Racetrack and Ocean Resort Casino. Plus, William Hill is the exclusive risk manager for the sports lottery-based sports betting operations in Delaware.

Penn National Gaming VP Fred Lipkin said the plan is to turn Hollywood Casino’s horse racing simulcast theater into a sportsbook:

“Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course today formally applied for a license to conduct sports wagering at our facility. We believe this will provide us another attractive amenity at Hollywood Casino, in addition to our full suite of the latest slot machines, table games, multiple dining outlets, exciting live racing and soon to be online gaming offerings.

“Our plan is to locate our sports book in a newly renovated simulcast theater area at Hollywood Casino and the operations will managed by William Hill US, the largest sports betting operator in the United States. Operations are expected to begin later this Fall upon final approval by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.”

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Ready to launch

When exactly operations will begin is debatable. In its application, the company claims it will be ready to launch sports betting as early as Sept. 30, 2018. However, recently released temporary sports betting regulations in PA ask casino license holders to apply for a license 90 days ahead of launch.

That would mean sports betting at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course will have to wait for mid-November. However, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) could approve its launch ahead of that.

The earliest that might happen would be PGCB’s Oct. 2 meeting.

In the meantime, Penn National and William Hill launched sportsbooks at five Mississippi casinos in September as well as Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia.

Penn National Gaming currently operates 28 casino and racetrack facilities in 16 states and Canada. In Pennsylvania, this also includes The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington, just outside of Pittsburgh.

PA’s┬ásports betting tax rate

In May 2018, Penn National Gaming was among several PA casino license holders claiming sports betting had a big problem. They said the state’s $10 million licensing fee and 36 percent tax rate made it hard to earn a profit.

In fact, spokesman Eric Schippers referred to the tax rate as the highest in the world. He said the company had yet to make a final determination on whether to pursue sports betting in PA.

Penn National Gaming has now made a final determination though, turning in the first sports betting application. As a result, it will likely be the first PA casino license holder to launch sports betting in the Commonwealth.

Two other casino license holders, Parx Casino and Mount Airy Resort Casino, have both announced plans for sport betting operations. However, Parx is the only other entity to apply for a license up to the final week of August 2018.