“Let’s take a state that has really screwed [sports betting] up. Pennsylvania. I mean, a rolling dumpster fire.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie minced no words when discussing the Garden State’s neighbor and competitor in the sports betting space at the Global Gaming Expo on Tuesday.
During Christie’s keynote address, he specifically called out the Keystone State for handling things poorly when it came to the state’s sports betting rollout.
He called out a couple of elements of the expansion, comparing the state to a nightmare version of a classic sports movie.
“It’s the opposite of Field of Dreams. If you do that, they won’t come.”
Christie cites up-front fees, high tax rates as problems
Christie attacked two of the most criticized elements of PA gaming expansion: high tax rates and high licensing fees.
In the case of sports betting, licensing fees alone are responsible for $110 million in PA gaming revenue so far. The sports betting tax rate is 34%, which is the highest in the nation.
“You cannot tax this unreasonably. If you do, reasonable people within the gaming industry will say no thank you,” Christie argued.
For now, though, Pennsylvania casinos are not politely declining. All but one of the 13 PA casinos are involved or plan to be involved in sports betting.
Moreover, with a single skin on each license and an eight-figure fee, most of the major operators found a partner in Pennsylvania, too. FanDuel Sportsbook works with Valley Forge, while DraftKings found a partner later in the game in The Meadows.
PA sports betting has long- and short-term problems, per Christie
When pressed, Christie acknowledged that operators are not turning away from Pennsylvania. He argues the taxation and fees remain problems, nonetheless.
“Ultimately, making the entire experience more accessible to the fans is what they need to do. Those fees are not going to encourage innovation. They are not going to encourage investment in the properties,” Christie explained.
“Every dollar you pay in licensing fees or in taxes is a dollar you don’t have available to bring new types of betting to the floor, to have state-of-the-art products to allow the experience to be more enjoyable. That’s why I think they are missing the boat.”
Christie went so far as to liken the rates and fees as “extortion.” While it may pay now in terms of tax dollars, it will not position them to be a national leader in the business.
” In the end, it’s a short-term problem and a long-term problem. The long-term problem is they’re not going to invest in getting Pennsylvanians the best technology because they spent all they are going to spend on the licensing fees and the taxes.”