Legal, regulated sports wagering in Pennsylvania moved out of the hanger, onto the launch pad achieving blast off Saturday morning at the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. It’s now the first venue to accept legal sports bets in the Keystone State, situated about 100 miles northeast of Philadelphia, near Harrisburg.
William Hill US, a subsidiary of UK-headquartered bookmaker William Hill, is running the casino’s sportsbook operations. As part of its deal with Hollywood Casino’s parent company, Penn National Gaming, the sportsbook conducted what it called “live wagering test day” on Thursday to certify the staff and equipment are in compliance with state regulatory requirements. Additional testing was scheduled Friday from 2 p.m. to midnight, satisfying the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to subsequently authorize the facility to officially open at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Although without fanfare or a ribbon cutting seen at official launches in Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi or West Virginia (at least not one visible from afar), the sportsbook indeed went live on Saturday morning. Two William Hill officials confirmed to Sports Handle that the sportsbook at Hollywood Penn opened and is open for business.
After Regulatory Delays And Uncertainties, Legal Sports Betting Arrives In Pennsylvania At Hollywood Penn, Near Harrisburg
Although William Hill and Penn National did not reveal details in the August announcement of their alliance, it has been reported that they will equally split their profits from all monies remaining after expenses such as winning bets, state taxes and other costs have been paid.
Timothy J. Wilmott, Chief Executive Officer said, “Penn National is excited to be the first casino to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania. The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”
Penn National Gaming, based in Wyomissing, Penn., operates more than 40 gambling facilities in the United States and Canada, many of them under the Hollywood Casino brand. The company has undergone a major growth spurt in recent years and is now the largest regional casino gambling operator in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Penn revealed it would spend $300 million to buy the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit from Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As part of the deal, New York-based VICI Properties, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) affiliate of Caesars Entertainment, will buy the land and real estate assets for $700 million.
Last month, Penn National completed its acquisition of Pinnacle Entertainment, which operates 16 gaming facilities across the country.
Sports betting in Pennsylvania is expected to generate big business despite a lofty and much-maligned tax rate on the new enterprise. Pennsylvania’s licensed operators have to pay a $10 million licensing fee up front, a 34 percent tax on gross revenue, a 2 percent local share assessment tax, and a 0.25 percent federal excise tax on handle.
In neighboring New Jersey, where sports betting kicked off in June, also at a William Hill sportsbook, taxes are just 8.5 percent of gross revenue for in-person bets and 13 percent for online wagers, with a $100,000 licensing fee and a 1.25 percent local share tax. Proposed legislation is New York, expected to be considered in 2019, applies just a 8.25 percent tax rate on in-person and online sports wagers.
Mobile wagering, although legal in Pennsylvania, is not yet available to bettors. Penn officials told regulators at a license renewal hearing in early October that it will make a $10 million-plus investment as they offer live sports betting at Hollywood Casino at Penn National and subsequently through desktop browsers and mobile apps, which may be come available to patrons early in 2019.
The PGCB also announced Thursday that it had received its sixth application for a sports betting license in the state from The Valley Forge Casino Resort on Wednesday.
Although Sports Handle did not have boots on the ground in Grantville this weekend, safe to say there probably were a lot of displeased NFL fans.
The Pittsburgh Steelers exacted revenge on the Jacksonville Jaguars for last season’s Divisional Round defeat, however the Steelers did not cover 5.5-point spread in their miraculous 20-16 come-from-behind victory. Meanwhile the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles took the field against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome as roughly 8-point underdogs, and left in tatters, on the wrong side of a 48-7 blowout.
Accordingly, the first NFL Sunday of legal sports betting in Pennsylvania went to the sportsbook — probably.