Only Logical For OTB’s and Mini-Casinos To Get In On PA Sports Betting

Written By Nick Garcia on September 6, 2018 - Last Updated on December 11, 2023
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The first week of college football has come and gone and Pennsylvania remains without sports betting, which was part of the states gambling expansion bill passed last year.

But while brick-and-mortar facilities wait patiently for the state to pass regulations to allow for online/mobile wagering, other gambling sites such as off-track betting (OTB) parlors and new Category 4 (satellite casinos) might be looking to capitalize on the expansion bill as well.

Will OTB’s and mini-casinos push for sports betting?

Robert McLaughlin, an attorney with HodgsonRuss in Albany, New York, said it’s only logical.

“The key for sports betting is you want to have it in as many locations as possible to attract as many of the natural players as possible and make it as convenient as possible,” McLaughlin said.

Parx Racing has three OTB’s in operation:

  • Northeast Turf Club
  • South Philadelphia Turf Club
  • Valley Forge Turf Club

Mohegan Sun Pocono operates two off-track wagering facilities:

  • The Downs at East Stroudsburg
  • The Downs at Lehigh Valley

Penn National Gaming operates two off-track wagering facilities in Lancaster and York counties, while Meadows Racetrack and Casino has one OTB in operation, Meadows Harmar.

But not only do OTB’s check all the boxes as potential sports betting operators. So do satellite casinos.

Part of PA extensive gambling bill allows for up to 10 new mini-casinos which can have up to 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games.

Current list of satellite casinos:

So far, five out of the 10 satellite casino licenses have been distributed. Penn National currently holds two of the five licenses.

  • Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing – Hollywood Casino ($50,100,00)
  • Stadium Casinos – Philly Live! Casino ($40,100,005)
  • Mount Airy Casino ($21,888,888.88)
  • Parx Casino ($8,111,000)
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National ($7,500,003)

Potential first to market with sports betting

Currently, only two applications have been filed with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to conduct sports betting.

The first was Hollywood Casino at Penn National and the second is Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment which operates Parx Casino in Bensalem.

A second application would also allow Greenwood to have sports betting at its OTB location, the South Philadelphia Turf Club, which is a short walk from the stadiums of Philadelphia’s major sports teams.

OTB’s, such as the Turf Club, would need the approval from the Horse Racing Commission but would not have to cough up the steep $10 million application fee. The Turf Club would be covered under Greenwood’s initial application fee for Parx Casino.

It remains to be seen if other mini-casino or OTB operators will follow Greenwood’s path.

Mount Airy Casino and Stadium Casino LLC did not return request for comment.

Eric Schippers, senior vice president of Public Relations for Penn National said the possibility of petitioning the gaming commission to allow sports betting at their satellite casinos is a possibility still being discussed.

“We’re still exploring that possibility,” Schippers said. “We haven’t even picked our first [satellite casino] site yet – so that’s where our focus remains.”

Who could be next?

As far as sports betting and its 36 percent tax rate are concerned, Kevin Braig, an attorney with Shumaker, Loop, and Kendrick in Columbus, Ohio said, for some properties, establishing a foothold even if they break even makes sense.

“Penn National has its foot in the door and Parx Casino has the turf club down by the stadium so they know they are going to be in PA a long time,” Braig said. “But the economics might not make sense for other operators.”

Greenwood and the Cordish Cos. form the Stadium Casino LLC group which is on track to build the state’s fifth standalone Category 2 casino, which will go in Stadium Park in Philadelphia.

The states other Category 2 casinos are:

Should that partnership apply for a sports betting license, Greenwood would hold a tight grip on the market close to the city’s sports venues.

For now, it remains to be seen what the gaming commission plans to do with the remaining five satellite casino licenses. The April 18 auction resulted in no bidders. Will the PGCB open a third round of bidding open to non-casino license holders? Anything might be fair game at this point.

The Keystone State has six horse racing facilities that are authorized to offer simulcast and off-track betting on the property.

Those tracks are:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
  • Part Casino and Racing
  • Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
  • Presque Isle Downs and Casino

College football kicked off with a bang last week and the NFL season is set to begin today. Operators are hoping the PGCB releases finalized regulations for sports betting soon so they can be up and running before they lose out on anymore betting action.

Photo by igorstevanovic /

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