Most everyone’s been guilty of being their own worst enemy at one time or another. Among states that proactively legalized sports betting pre-SCOTUS decision, Pennsylvania has been the pacesetter in that regard. And by a wide margin at that.
Self-inflicted wounds in the form of a $10 million initial licensing fee and 36 percent effective tax rate for sports betting had put the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board – the governing body charged with processing sports betting permit applications in the Quaker State – in somewhat of an awkward position for several months.
To put it another way – if sports betting permits are available and no one applies, does the state ever make a single dime?
Penn National breaks the ice
The answer appeared destined to remain an unequivocal “no” for the foreseeable future until Friday when Penn National stepped to the forefront. The gaming giant announced that it had “formally applied for a license to conduct sports wagering” at its Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg. It becomes the first of the state’s 12 (soon to be 13) casinos to formally file their application.
Given that the ice has finally been broken in Pennsylvania, two questions immediately come to mind:
- Will Hollywood Casino’s sportsbook beat the Sept. 6 deadline that marks the onset of the NFL regular season?
- Will Penn serve as the proverbial Pied Piper in the state, opening the door for a mini-avalanche of sports betting permit applications?
The answer to the first question appears to already be answered, and it’s not ideal. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board isn’t set to meet again until Sept. 12. Therefore, it appears the earliest Hollywood Casino can offer wagering will be for Week 2 of the season, yet that would be a best-case and likely unrealistic scenario. Some reports have final approval not being granted until October, but the timeline remains murky at present.
Who’s next in line on the PA sports betting front?
The second question has a bit more certainty associated with it, thanks to a trio of recent announcements by other prospective licensees in the state that actually predated Penn National’s Friday news:
- Parx Casino announced it would be partnering with London-based GAN for its Pennsylvania sports betting platforms back on July 30.
- Mount Airy Casino kicked off the week last week with the revelation that they’ll partner with The Stars Group – the parent company of PokerStars – for its future sports betting initiatives in the state.
- Back in May, Rush Street, owners of Sugarhouse and Rivers Casino in Pennsylvania, announced that Kambi Group would serve as its partner for retail and online sports betting.
Now that the clock is officially ticking on a Hollywood Casino debut, it will likely serve to accelerate the development curve of their future in-state competitors.