The opening of a Pennsylvania sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs & Casino appears to be delayed.
According to the Erie Times-News, the Erie casino is targeting June 1 to debut its PA sports betting operation. Kevin O’Sullivan, Presque Isle’s vice president and general manager, noted that the sportsbook will feature 50 kiosks and that employees “have been hustling” to prepare following Pennsylvania’s decision to legalize sports betting.
Yet that opening date is two months later than the apparent initial timeline. And if the casino lives up to that date, it will come six months after Presque Isle initially applied for a sports betting license and five months after its new owner took over.
Presque Isle sportsbook bucking the trend
To be fair, during Presque Isle’s presentation to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) late last year, the casino did not offer a timeline for opening a sportsbook.
That said, when taking into account the timelines of other PA properties, deductive reasoning provided something of a projection.
Consider Presque Isle petitioned the PGCB in December. It received conditional approval from the board in early February.
A month before Presque Isle applied for a sports betting license, Valley Forge Casino sent in its petition to offer legalized wagering. The King of Prussia property received conditional approval in December. Its FanDuel Sportsbook finally opened to the public in March.
Naturally, then, an April launch for Presque Isle’s BetAmerica-branded sportsbook seemed appropriate.
In fact, of the eight PA sportsbooks currently open, not one needed longer than three months to open its retail operation after receiving PGCB approval. Presque Isle, meanwhile, will enter its fourth month after approval. And its sixth month after initially ai applying.
Why the delay for PA sports betting in Erie?
Presque Isle endured a lengthy process in adopting a new owner.
Last year, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) began the process of acquiring Presque Isle. That deal became finalized in January, nearly a full year since CDI announced its intentions.
Along the way, however, CDI and Presque Isle laid the groundwork for a seemingly seamless transition, thereby preventing any delays in either group’s plans to expand its gambling offerings.
In March 2018, for example, CDI partnered with SBTech. By December, Presque Isle applied for a PA sports betting license. After CDI closed its deal to take over Presque Isle, the casino presented to the PGCB a sportsbook branded by BetAmerica and powered by SBTech. Churchill already has a horse racing version of the BetAmerica app operational in several states. Additionally, the company recently launched
Perhaps Presque Isle could have petitioned the PGCB sooner if CDI finalized its transaction at an earlier date, resulting, potentially, in a retail sportsbook opening in time for March Madness. Alas, as O’Sullivan told the Erie Times-News, Presque Isle’s sportsbook will not open its doors until June.
Messages to CDI and Presque Isle have yet to be returned.
What will Presque Isle sports betting look like?
During its presentation to the PGCB, Presque Isle detailed a 1,275-square-foot brick-and-mortar sportsbook within existing casino space. Casino representatives indicated the sportsbook will be adjacent to the poker room and simulcast area.
The sportsbook will feature 50 self-service kiosks as well as 50 large HD televisions throughout the property. Those screens, according to the presentation, will show sporting events and customizable odds boards displaying pre-match and live wagering options.
That all takes up Phase I of the casino’s sports betting plans. Phase II, Presque Isle reps said at the time, includes the launch of a PA online sports betting app.
When that app launches is up in the air as well. PGCB will not let a property launch an online app in advance of or concurrently with a retail sportsbook. That means the app won’t come any earlier than the first week of June. Since it is unclear precisely what is holding up the online launch of apps at existing retail sportsbooks, it is difficult to predict whether or not Presque Isle will have a similar delay for online betting.