Although Hollywood Casino still seems well on its way to becoming the first Pennsylvania property to offer legalized sports betting, a hiccup will delay the opening of its Hollywood Sportsbook.
According to Fred Lipkin, the vice president of marketing for the casino, the last of the regulatory paperwork still needs approval. Hollywood’s PA sports betting partner, William Hill US, must submit fingerprints of its employees to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
Lipkin says the paperwork from the company’s United Kingdom headquarters is still en route. As a result, Lipkin said in an email, the Grantville casino’s sportsbook opening has been “set back … for a few weeks.”
Even with the delay, though, Hollywood still expects to launch the first sportsbook in the state.
Nothing to be alarmed about
In a phone call Tuesday, Lipkin emphasized that the fingerprints hiccup is no fault of any party. Simply, the paperwork had to arrive from across the pond, which takes time.
He said he expected them to arrive Monday, though the waiting game continues as of this writing.
The delay, however, is not a set timeline, Lipkin assured.
“That’s absolutely worst case,” he said.
“Something could change tonight. Maybe a carrier pigeon brings them. I don’t know. Anything could happen. But that’s where we are as of 1:10 this afternoon Eastern Standard Time.”
William Hill already operates sports wagering at Penn National properties in West Virginia and New Jersey.
Hollywood primed to be the first
Hollywood was the first PA casino to apply for a sports betting license, submitting its application in August.
At the time of the announcement, Lipkin noted Hollywood planned to construct a sportsbook in a “newly renovated simulcast theater area” on the property. He expected operations to launch later in the fall.
That timeline became more realistic after the PGCB gave conditional approval for Hollywood’s petition in early October. By the end of the month, William Hill received the thumbs up from the board to operate in the Keystone State as well.
With both major hurdles cleared, Hollywood appeared destined for a November launch, well ahead of SugarHouse Casino and Rivers Casino, both of which are targeting Dec. 1 openings for temporary sportsbooks.
Now, Hollywood hopes to sneak in just before that date.
November launch still possible
As noted, Lipkin said the absolute worst-case scenario pushed things back a few weeks. Other than this final bit of regulatory paperwork and some PGCB testing of the Hollywood Sportsbook, the casino has its ducks in a row. Lipkin elaborated:
“We’re ready to go. The sportsbook is built. The odds boards are up. We’ve trained our employees and are doing more training today on test mode, of course. We’re ready. It’s just a question of that last set of regulatory paperwork to be completed. Then we’ll have a couple of test days overseen by the Gaming Control Board, where they watch live bets come in and stuff like that. And then we’ll have our grand opening.”
While the casino is ready to go, “we adhere to strict regulatory guidelines similar to those in other facets of the gaming industry,” Lipkin added.
The sportsbook will not open during the week of Thanksgiving, Lipkin confirmed. “Because Thanksgiving week, you can’t really do much. Because people go away.”
The week after, however, “I think is what we can really, realistically shoot at.”
“But, again, until the fingerprints are here, or until the final part of the licensing process is completed, I can’t say,” he explained.
Being first still a goal for Hollywood
Lipkin said becoming the first PA sportsbook sits atop the wish list for Hollywood. Certainly, simply opening and becoming operational remains the overarching goal. Yet the significance of becoming the first seems invaluable.
“I think we worked hard and we’ve cooperated with the state on this,” Lipkin said. “We paid our $10 million gaming fee for the sportsbook license. We would like to be the first to show to our customers that we understand that they want sports wagering, they enjoy it. This way they don’t have to drive all the way to New Jersey, which is closest, or Charles Town, which is our sister property, or Delaware, also.”
“We’re surrounded by (sports betting). It would be nice, on a personal property basis, to be the first.”