Kambi’s Pennsylvania Plans Extend Far Beyond Brick-And-Mortar Sportsbooks

Written By Grant Lucas on January 16, 2019 - Last Updated on April 25, 2022
chapter one of book

The 12 self-service kiosks within the sportsbook prevented excess waiting times for incoming bettors. So did the additional 14 kiosks on the casino floor.

Certainly, though, lines built at Parx Sportsbook when it opened to the public last week. Not within the property, certainly. The above amenities and full staff made sure of that.

Because of ample enthusiasm in the area, however, Max Bichsel found himself in awe at times. After all, while no queues built inside the newly opened sportsbook. Nonetheless, they certainly existed outside the doors, waiting for the facility to open during the first few days of operations.

“Holistically, it’s been an exciting time for us, mostly because we saw success in New Jersey,” Bichsel, the Kambi US director, said in a phone interview. “Now we get to prove ourselves in Pennsylvania.”

The bookmaker for Parx, as well as two other PA sportsbooksthree NJ online sports betting products, and another retail book in the Garden State, Kambi has obviously made giant strides in becoming a US sports betting power.

And the group is not done yet. Not in Pennsylvania, long a target of Kambi’s and a cash cow just waiting to be tapped.

South Philly, Valley Forge Turf Clubs await launch

Kambi’s foray into the US sports betting industry came via New Jersey.

The sportsbook provider landed partnerships with three online products, including powerhouse DraftKings Sportsbook, and powers the retail DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts Atlantic City. All told, through December, two of the top three platforms in terms of year-to-date revenue are Kambi clients.

With the openings of Rivers Sportsbook in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Sportsbook in Philadelphia, Kambi took its first steps into Pennsylvania. Parx expanded the group’s portfolio, which expects to grow even more this week.

In announcing the opening of its sportsbook, Parx noted that South Philadelphia Turf Club was launching this week. The property is located within a mile each of Philly’s major professional sports venues. To boot, a sister property, Valley Forge Turf Club, also plans to house a sportsbook.

A timeline for Valley Forge Turf Club opening is not set according to Bichsel. However, he said launching there is “imminent.”

All of this further drives Kambi forward in becoming a major sports betting player, Max Meltzer, Kambi’s chief commercial officer, said in a press release at the time of the Parx Sportsbook opening.

“Today’s unveiling marks Kambi’s fourth (brick-and-mortar) sportsbook launch in less than three months and cements our position as the leading online and on-property sportsbook supplier in the burgeoning US market.”

PA sports betting long a goal for Kambi

Of course, Pennsylvania plays a key role in Kambi’s growth. The bookmaker has known that for some time, according to Bichsel.

“Pennsylvania has been on our radar probably since June 1,” he said. “Since then, we’ve been focused on Pennsylvania.”

“We placed a high priority on the US, and that’s a testament to the fact that we’ve been able to launch a fourth retail sportsbook, and the fifth will be hopefully open (Thursday) in South Philly. We’re making considerable progress.”

While the Keystone State has sat as a target of Kambi’s for some time, the European supplier still needed an entry point into the US. With New Jersey, Kambi got its foot in the door. It also enjoyed a burgeoning industry to jump-start its American business.

“It’s definitely been an important stepping stone for us,” Bichsel said of New Jersey, “and an important milestone for us to prove ourselves not only from a retail perspective with DraftKings but also online with three operators in New Jersey.”

“We have considerable market share. I think you’ll see something similar in Pennsylvania. Currently, three out of the four current sportsbooks that are open in Pennsylvania leverage Kambi. And soon to be a fifth. So we’ll have the lion’s share of the market in Pennsylvania. We’re hoping to continue that as we see other states and legislation come down.”

Future of PA sports betting remains bright

While its lofty $10 million licensing fee and 36 percent tax rate remains a sticking point, and a deterrent for revenue, Pennsylvania still holds the status of a cash cow.

Consider, mostly, that Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state in the country, Bichsel said. That fact “is certainly not lost on me or Kambi” when it comes to “the importance of Pennsylvania.”

Additionally, the state boasts some of the most avid fanbases in all of sports. That also is a point Bichsel and Kambi take into account.

While financial forecasts are rarely exactly right, Bichsel says Pennsylvania, “is a risk we’re willing to take.”

These reasons are why Kambi dove headlong into the Pennsylvania waters, and why it will power several online sportsbooks when state regulators give the green light later this year.

“If we continue to find the right partners, like Parx, like Rush Street, like DraftKings, I think we’ll be successful,” Bischel predicted.

“It’s certainly very exciting. … Now we can sit back and watch. We’re off to the races.”

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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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