The whispers that November is the month sports betting launches in Pennsylvania are getting louder.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved a slew of applications. The headliners were the three sportsbook and two online casinos.
There was another important application in the bunch though.
PGCB approved William Hill’s application to do business in Pennsylvania as a sports betting provider. The European gaming giant is the sports betting partner of Penn National Gaming, owner and operator of Hollywood Casino.
This application was a key component of the conditions Hollywood Casino Sportsbook needed to satisfy in order to launch. With that hurdle cleared, the property expects to start taking bets as soon as two weeks from now.
Why does the William Hill application matter?
When PGCB approves a PA sports betting license applicant, it is conditional. That means the casino must check off a list of to-dos issued by the PGCB Office of Enforcement Council before they can actually open up shop.
Each sportsbook applicant has a list of roughly two dozen conditions. They tend to all into two categories: applications and trials. You can’t really start trials until you have applications squared away.
Now that William Hill is an approved sports betting operator, the application boxes are ticked. No more waiting for PGCB to sign off on paperwork.
What comes next for Hollywood Casino Sportsbook?
Now Penn National and William Hill move on to the last set of conditions — testing.
This piece of the puzzle contains several parts. The good news is that William Hill’s experience in the field should serve them well.
William Hill and its New Jersey partners Monmouth Park Racetrack, Ocean Resort Casino, and Tropicana Casino just went through this process in New Jersey. In William Hill’s case, they just went through it three separate times.
Certainly, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have different regulatory standards, but familiarity with Garden State should hasten the process and reduce the number of errors during the testing period.
The two companies already launched a retail betting product in West Virginia as well, which should make integration of William Hill into the Hollywood system much smoother.
Should we give thanks for PA sports betting?
Penn National told Penn Live they hope to launch its retail sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in “mid-to-late November.” Looking at the calendar, it is hard not to think that Thanksgiving weekend would be an ideal time to be up and operational. The high-profile NFL games plus time off from work to potentially make the trip to Grantville sounds like a winning recipe.
With the NFL regular season already halfway over and NCAA football conference titles on the horizon, every week matters to the sports betting world. All the more reason it makes sense that Penn will push to launch before Thanksgiving.
One final reason we are hoping Penn and PGCB agree on the green light before Turkey Day? Those holiday days off are days where people are not at work to approve what needs to be approved, pushing a launch date back even further.
No mobile betting app just yet
To be perfectly clear, this launch will only be for the retail sportsbook on property at Hollywood Casino. While New Jersey was content to greenlight retail and mobile at the same time, PGCB is playing it more conservatively. Casinos will need to demonstrate that their retail book is in order before it gets the go on mobile betting.
There should be mobile betting on property early on in the process, which means you can dodge the lines and use your phone. Betting from your couch while the game is on will not come in 2018 though.