The oft-rumored launch of the sportsbooks at Rivers Casino and Sugarhouse Casino takes place Thursday as Pennsylvania sports betting finally pushes forward.
Rivers broke its news first via its Twitter account Wednesday afternoon:
The countdown is here to introduce the NEW Rivers Sportsbook! Join us Thursday at 2pm for the introductory period of the FIRST Sportsbook in western PA! Our introductory period has limited hours, is open to the public! Visit https://t.co/tTjbjDHkpq for details! pic.twitter.com/Z1ZwbXoAEV
— Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (@WinBigRivers) December 12, 2018
The soft launch of sports betting at Rivers and Sugarhouse opens a two-day test period required by Pennsylvania sports betting regulators. If all proceeds as planned Thursday and Friday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PCGB) will green-light full launch Saturday morning.
The openings puts a second and third sportsbooks into the PA sports betting market. Only Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course beat Rivers to market, opening the Pennsylvania sports betting market Nov. 15
Better late than never for Rivers
A Dec. 13 start date puts Rivers about two weeks behind its original plan. The Pittsburgh-based Rush Street Interactive property originally targeted a Dec. 1 opening, along with its sister casino Sugarhouse near Philadelphia.
In late November, the company pushed back both launch dates for unspecified reasons. The PCGB conditionally approved the sports betting applications of both casinos around the same time. Rush Street partners with Kambi to power its PA sports betting operations.
Although Rivers misses most of NFL season with a mid-December launch, the sportsbook still can capture football fans with the Steelers playing at home Sunday.
Sugarhouse next into Pennsylvania sports betting
Considering the casinos share a parent company, it naturally follows that Sugarhouse will open at the same time as Rivers.
According to one on-the-ground report, the Sugarhouse sportsbook facility appears to be close to ready for business:
Lotsa buzz at the SugarHouse sports book this afternoon (workers, suits, etc)..hunch is that it’s opening could be just days away..would be first in philadelphia region..it was curtained off, but it’s a nice looking place as temporary ‘books go pic.twitter.com/4qIhS8kYQX
— ed barkowitz (@edbarkowitz) December 12, 2018
Sugarhouse will not get the same NFL boost as Rivers for a weekend opening, as the Eagles play in Los Angeles.
The PA sports betting landscape
With fellow Kambi partner Parx also approved by state regulators and pending launch, a once-dormant Pennsylvania sports betting market looks primed to thrive.
How successful operators become within the state’s onerous regulatory framework remains in question. State legislators approved legal sports betting in 2017, long before the Supreme Court repealed PASPA in May 2018.
Pennsylvania lifted its sports betting tax rate to 36 percent and tacked on a $10 million licensing fee for sportsbook operators.
Those heavy costs froze the PA sports betting market for more than a year, raising questions about its viability. License applications became available just two weeks post-PASPA, but no one applied for one for two months. That’s when Parx made the first move to get into the market, soon to be followed by others eager to engage the state’s nearly 13 million residents.
For now, all Pennsylvania sports betting operations remain retail-only. Mobile sports betting will be legal in Pennsylvania, but state regulators want to proceed with retail first.