The Week In Sports Betting: Pennsylvania Launches In a Blizzard

Written By Eric Ramsey on November 16, 2018
PA sports betting

We have gotten used to busy weeks of sports betting news in the six months since the US Supreme Court erased PASPA. It has become the new norm in this brave new world, and it’s best if we all just learn to accept it. Things happen, and whatnot.

If you’ve been following the story since May, you know that many things have happened. And they continue to happen. States are lining up to pass laws and launch their own industries, leagues and teams are suddenly all aboard the money train, and operators both foreign and domestic are staking out their turf.

This week was more of the same.

What was already a busy stretch spun itself into a typhoon by Friday, as the list of states with sports betting suddenly grew by one. Host Matt Brown called it “a tsunami” on TheLines Podcast; it was definitely some sort of extreme weather event.

At long last, Pennsylvania earns its spot at the top of our weekly rundown.

PA sports betting is happening!

Until the past few weeks, the timeline to launch for PA sports betting looked like early 2019. Maybe, at best, jolly Saint Vig would swing through before the end of the holidays. December started to emerge as a possibility more recently.

Imagine our surprise when Hollywood Casino threw open its betting windows for testing on a regular ol’ Thursday. In November. During a snowstorm! Maybe a blizzard is a better metaphor for this week’s news, as launch comes beneath the overcast skies of the season’s first real winter weather.

Hollywood, near Harrisburg, is the first PA casino to book a legal wager, and Pennsylvania the seventh state to join the market. Official launch is Saturday. And as usual, William Hill is operating the first live sportsbook in yet another state. It also runs the show for Penn National in two others, with more to come.

Launch follows a year after state lawmakers passed an omnibus gambling package and six months post-PASPA. Four other PA casinos are also approved and approaching their own rollouts, and another (Valley Forge) just applied.

Welcome to the party, Pennsylvania. Have fun, behave yourself. There’s some Keystone Light in the fridge.

A trip to New Jersey

I will take this opportunity to call myself out for pulling an amateur move this week re: New Jersey. “October was a rough month to be a bookmaker,” I wrote about the newest NJ sports betting report.

While NJ bookmakers did hold a smaller-than-normal percentage of wagers, they still recorded a win of nearly $12 million in October. That is not a rough month by any measure. Handle came in at a record-setting $260 million, with plenty of ceiling left as the landscape fills in.

Online/mobile betting is increasingly dominant in NJ, and DraftKings Sportsbook is setting the pace there. Its revenue of about $5 million is easily tops in the state and 40 percent of the total, including retail. FanDuel Sportsbook did well itself, winning about $3.5 million between digital and land-based operations at Meadowlands.

Also from NJ:

  • DraftKings is going to take over branding and operations for the sportsbook at Resorts.
  • Parx plans to set up shop in NJ, and crossing the river might make sense for other PA casinos, too.

News from other states

Maybe one day Rhode Island will find itself atop this recap in a section to call its own. For now, though, the next (and littlest) candidate for legal sports betting gets roped alongside a few other states.

  • Rhode Island: The year will likely end with eight states booking legal sports wagers. RI sports betting still looks to be on track for a Thanksgiving-ish launch at the two Twin River casinos, if things go right.
  • Mississippi: DraftKings gets another mention, as it opened its very first retail sportsbook at the Scarlet Pearl Casino near Biloxi on Friday. It looks pretty dang nice to my eyes:
  • Michigan: More news for Penn National, too. It will take over operations of Greektown Casino in downtown Detroit, adding another property in a state that has been moving toward sports betting.
  • New York: Though NY sports betting is stuck in the snow, all four commercial casinos have secured partners. The last deal fell into place this week when Resorts World Catskills teamed up with bet365.

Takes and tidbits

That’s already a lot to take in, and I understand that. Trust me when I tell you that I can empathize. But we still have a few more things to talk about, including some movement inside the Capitol.

  • Sensenbrenner!: Remember the name of this Congressman from WisconsinRep. Jim Sensenbrenner chairs the subcommittee that conducted the most recent federal sports betting hearing, and his follow-up letter to the DOJ is the first step toward intervention.
  • Jeez, CG: Another chapter closes in the ongoing drama surrounding one of Las Vegas’ most prolific and troubled bookmakers. CG Technology will pay another $2 million in penalties to keep its Nevada sports betting license intact.
  • Big data: In not-terribly-surprising news, MGM/GVC signed a deal with Sportradar related to live betting data. Sportradar manages said data for the NBA and NHL, the two new league partners to MGM.
  • Giant betting interest: Some fresh data from BetStars NJ shows that the “hometown” New York Giants are the most popular team for local bettors. The two-win G-Men see almost ten percent of NFL action in NJ, running a modest 4-5 against the spread.
  • There are rules: More of a timely FYI than anything new here. Our friend Chops ran through the rules that govern the betting conduct of pro athletes and other personnel across the US sports leagues.

All right, that seems like plenty to drop on you for a Friday afternoon, so we’ll leave it there. If you want to hear four guys try to process all of this news as it happened in real time, you’ll enjoy this week’s episode of the podcast:

Have a happy weekend, y’all. And drive safely if you’re heading to lovely Grantville, Pa., to bet on sports.

Eric Ramsey Avatar
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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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