PA Gaming Review: Barstool Sportsbook and Skill Games Dominate Headlines

Posted on September 25, 2020 - Last Updated on October 26, 2020

Pennsylvania just had a good gaming week, but a potential political storm is brewing in Harrisburg at the start of October that could reshape gambling in the commonwealth.

For starters, we’ll go with the good news. Live! Pittsburgh Casino should be open around Thanksgiving, with details to come.

Penn National Gaming‘s Barstool Sportsbook app joined the crowded online sports betting market in PA, sprinting toward a likely top-tier position among the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings. Barstool is the 10th online sportsbook in Pennsylvania.

PokerStars PA is in the midst of the Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker, and it ends Oct. 5.

On the horizon, though, there is Senate Bill 1256. The legislative proposal will finally see the light of day in public during a hearing on Oct. 6 in Harrisburg. The bill would greatly change the wagering landscape, widely legalizing video gaming terminals, or VGTs, and allowing for the licensing and placement of devices dubbed skill games in all sorts of locations.

No complaints with the Portnoy Effect

Penn National boldly bought into Barstool Sports, a sports digital brand with numerous podcasts and a gazillion followers led by Dave Portnoy, at the end of January. The 36% stake in Barstool for $163 million in cash and stock was meant to help shift Penn toward a younger demographic.

PENN stock has mostly popped since.

And early numbers showed a high interest in signing up for the recently launched app. While data is limited because the app is so new, projections indicate it should place Barstool among the top ranks of PA sportsbooks.

Online poker only option with poker rooms closed

Card-starved PA gamblers have only one place to play due to virus shutdowns of poker rooms, but they can make up for that by entering PACOOP at PokerStars PA.

The tourney features guarantees totaling $1.5 million across 50 events. PlayPennsylvania has the full schedule and details.

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Expanding VGTs and legalizing skill machines on the agenda

Sen. Jake Corman, the Republican majority leader, is pushing Senate Bill 1256, a 29-page legislative proposal focused on expanding video gaming terminals, or VGTs, and expressly legalizing games of skill.

While there was lots of closed-door discussion in the Republican caucus, the measure gets its first public hearing on Oct. 6.

PA casinos hate the proposal. A discussion of the proposal coincides with the beginning of the second round of budgeting for the state.

But skills game company Pace-O-Matic also hates it. They see Corman as sympathetic to rival skill games companies from outside PA.

Kevin Shelly Avatar
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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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