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Newly Approved PA Sportsbooks Set Sights On November 2018 Launch

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Three sportsbooks took first steps Thursday morning toward becoming the first to open in Pennsylvania.

During a public hearing of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), a sports betting petition by Penn National and two by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment received conditional approval by the PGCB.

Penn National did not indicate a specific timeline for opening its sports betting operation at Hollywood Casino. All it did say is it would open within the next few months.

Greenwood, meanwhile, noted a November target date for opening a sportsbook at Parx Casino. The company’s petition to offer regulated wagering at South Philadelphia Turf Club was also approved. The Office of Enforcement Council (OEC) recommended the facility does not launch sports betting until Parx successfully gets through its testing period.

Hollywood gets first crack

The first to apply for a sports betting license, Penn National laid out its partnership with established and respected bookmaker William Hill. The sportsbook company currently operates live operations in the only other states with activated legalized sports betting: NevadaNew JerseyMississippiWest Virginia, and Delaware. Additionally, it is one of the biggest operators in Europe.

John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National, said Hollywood’s retail sportsbook would open first. Self-service kiosks on the casino floor and a mobile application would enter the fold “at a later date.” Finamore, though, emphasized the significance of mobile wagering.

“Mobile sports betting, we think, is very important,” he said, “and something we want to offer as soon as possible.” This stands in stark contrast to comments from Penn National just yesterday that they were still only thinking about mobile wagering.

A look at the Hollywood Casino Sportsbook

The Hollywood Casino Sports Book will take its place within the simulcast theater of the existing racebook, on the second level of the property. Stretching 5,000 square feet, the sportsbook will have several features.

  • Six betting windows
  • Two odds boards (one behind the counter, one in viewing area)
  • A 110-inch video wall
  • Three dozen 55-inch TVs
  • NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice, NBA League Pass and other college and international sports packages

Pending regulatory approval, according to Hollywood general manager Dan Ihm, the sportsbook would open “within the next few months.” Per Finamore:

“We’re excited to get this new amenity to our customers. There’s been a lot of awareness at our property and a lot of questions from our guests. … It’s a product they’re very interested in and excited about. We will diligently work through them all (the conditions) so we can get the green light (to launch).”

In order to launch, Penn National needs to satisfy a set of 22 conditions set forth by OEC.

Greenwood follows, could be first to open

Second to apply for a sports betting license, and second to make its pitch to the PGCB: Greenwood.

Making presentations for two properties, Greenwood began with its flagship at Parx. Senior Vice President of iGaming & Sports Matthew Cullen said the casino would begin with a temporary sportsbook at its 360 Lounge on the casino floor. Construction on a permanent sportsbook, he added, has already begun. He estimated the permanent spot opening by the end of the second quarter in 2019.

In the meantime, Greenwood targets a November opening for the temporary space. The book will offer retail and mobile wagering via a closed Wi-Fi network. That network, Cullen said “would not be able to be used outside the casino.” Public mobile sports betting, Greenwood hopes, will launch in January, coinciding with the Parx online casino.

Among the features of the temporary sportsbook:

  • Seven teller positions with OTC terminals
  • 12 self-service kiosks
  • Addition of 30 kiosks throughout the casino
  • Multiple 6-by-9-foot HD televisions

Also aiming for November launch: Greenwood’s South Philadelphia Turf Club, which is in the process of a $1 million renovation. The OEC, however, recommended that Parx go through testing first. Once passed, the turf club would then undergo its testing phase. (Greenwood also laid out a plan to spread sports betting to Valley Forge Turf Club.)

Penn National and Parx are the first of five sports betting applicants to appear before the board. Rivers Casino, SugarHouse Casino, and Harrah’s Philadelphia will have to wait until at least the end of the month for their turn to present sports betting plans. The next PGCB meeting is scheduled for Oct. 31.

About

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.