Churchill Downs Pulls The Trigger On Presque Isle Online Gambling

Written By Grant Lucas on August 15, 2018 - Last Updated on December 11, 2023
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Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) is now officially part of the Pennsylvania gambling landscape. And soon, through its approved acquisition of Presque Isle Downs & Casino, CDI will offer online gambling.

As part of its Wednesday meeting, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the transfer of Presque Isle’s Category 1 Slot Machine License from previous owner Eldorado Resorts to CDI. Under the terms, CDI will pay a $3.75 million transfer fee.

The most noteworthy news: CDI applied for licenses to offer online slots and online table games, running the new owner a combined $8 million. The Louisville-based racing, gaming, and online entertainment company is choosing not to pursue online poker.

CDI makes quick work to enter market

On Monday, CDI announced that the company was in the process of finalizing the acquisition of Presque Isle. Though that deal was reliant upon another Eldorado property.

With the PGCB approving the casino’s license transfer to CDI, it also implies that the Louisville company has officially agreed to “assume management” of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, which will still be owned by Eldorado.

Now with Presque Isle in its portfolio, CDI has casino interests in seven eastern states. In Pennsylvania, though, it is about more than just casino ownership.

Despite staying away from online poker, CDI applied for licenses to offer online slots and online table games. Each license will cost the new owners $4 million. Down the road, CDI could also dive into another PA gambling market.

Sports betting on tap?

Online gambling is certainly a go for CDI and Presque Isle. The new ownership group has long been interested in entering the regulated sports betting industry.

In May, CDI parntered with SBTech to build an iGaming platform “consisting of the consumer website, mobile apps, and back-office systems to manage iGaming and sports wagering.”

As part of the announcement, SBTech CEO Richard Carter said the “combination of Churchill’s leading presence in the U.S. market, coupled with SBTech’s deep expertise in regulated sports betting markets globally, makes for an ideal partnership as we enter this monumental chapter in the U.S. gaming industry.”

During Wednesday’s PGCB meeting, however, CDI hedged a bit when it comes to PA sports betting.

“We’re very interested,” a representative said, “but have some concerns.”

PGCB still sorting out regulations

By no means is Churchill Downs the first to have such a response. Consider that, as of July, there were no applicants for sports betting licenses. Concerns surround the $10 million licensing fee as well as the 36 percent tax on sports betting revenue.

Some properties might be waiting for the PGCB to adopt permanent regulations. (Though Parx Casino did make steps toward building a sports betting operation after partnering with GAN late last month.) Though, after the PGCB meeting adjourned, the board did release a new set of temporary regulations on Tuesday. That gives casinos a better idea of how the industry will operate.

However, unless there are drastic changes to the fees and taxes — not to mention the restrictions to online skins (none) — it may not be considered a sound investment to enter the sports betting industry in the Keystone State.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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