PA Gaming Review: DraftKings & FanDuel Grab Headlines, Horse Fund Woes Continue

Posted on February 27, 2020

Last week was a bad one for the ponies, but a great one for online sports betting, especially at FanDuel and DraftKings.

DraftKings Sportsbook quickly moved up to a healthy second place in the niche after just three months in operation. And they vaulted over other more books established earlier in PA in the process.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf‘s plan to create a scholarship program by breaking into an equine trust fund he had protected by law in 2017 – while unlikely to gain needed bipartisan approval – has cast a pall over an industry which employs 23,000.

DraftKings gaining ground on PA sportsbook leader FanDuel

FanDuel has topped the field among online sportbooks in PA since August and they continue to pull away.

But DraftKings Sportsbook has confidently pulled into the two spot. DraftKings operates through a partnership with The Meadows which is in turn owned by Penn National.

In November, they finished third in revenue and fifth in handle. Then December saw handle rise, putting DraftKings in second place behind FanDuel, but in terms of revenue they slid to fifth.

During January, DraftKings made a big jump, taking $58.6 million in wagers and posting $2.8 million in revenue. That made them a firm second place in Pennsylvania.

Getting to second mean vaulting over Parx, Rivers Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse), FOX Bet, and Rivers Pittsburgh.

In addition to brand recognition, promotional credits helped drive the climb. DraftKings handed out $4.8 million in promo credits since November. Only FanDuel has given away more.

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FanDuel Online Casino makes a splash in January debut

Speaking of FanDuel, they launched an online casino at the end of January in time for Super Bowl Sunday, and got off running. In just eight days live during the month, FanDuel Casino posted impressive numbers that rivaled apps that were live the entire month.

FanDuel ranked second of the seven operators reporting revenue for January. Amazingly, it ranked first in total table games wagers and revenue with $84.7 million and $1.7 million respectively.

You can bet much of the instant success is due to the large customer base already established in their dominant sportsbook app, which houses online casino. The hot start for the new offering could signal big numbers ahead to fuel an even bigger boost to the PA online gambling market.

Wolf scholarship proposal is saddled on the ponies’ trust fund

Everyone likes the promise of free money, right?

Especially when the money educates students, lightens debt loads, strengthens state universities, and creates a stream of Keystone State residents to fill the job pool.

And if you can do it without tapping taxpayers? Like hitting the trifecta.

Except of course the money has to come from somewhere.

State Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson (R-Bucks) has said he was shocked on Feb. 4 when Wolf announced his plan with what’s become Wolf’s signature punchline:

“Are we going to bet on horses or are we going to bet on our kids? I’m going to bet on our kids.”

Tomlinson, who opposes what the governor has repeatedly termed “repurposing,” knew the pot of money which comes from a slice of casino slot revenue was enticing. Never mind the money is in a locked trust fund under gambling expansion law Wolf signed himself in 2017.

And while no one sees the governor’s proposal readily gaining needed bi-partisan support, Wolf’s announcement blindsided the horse business in PA.

The state’s racing commission has rejected the proposal, but the industry remains as skittish as a young colt.

Meanwhile, the governor is talking up his plan during a tour of the state, seldom discussing details of paying for his proposal.

Kevin Shelly Avatar
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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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