PA Gaming Review: False Starts For Horse Racing And Penn National Stock

Posted on May 14, 2020 - Last Updated on August 24, 2020

It’s a mixed-bag week for wagering news in Pennsylvania amid the new normal brought on by the virus pandemic.

The state governor, who had said he would consider allowing the resumption of horse racing without spectators, now appears to have ruled that out. He lumped racing in with theaters and casinos for a future return date.

Penn National Gaming made a $600 million stock offering to raise cash even as executives talked up their ambitious plans for sports wagering in Q3 via their investment in Barstool Sports. The market reacted by lowering the value of PENN stock.

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Wolf shuts door on an early resumption of racing

Gov. Tom Wolf killed hope for an early resumption of racing with safety protocols on Tuesday.

The state’s Horse Racing Commission had formally requested he considers the move in a letter sent to the governor on May 1.

Plans for reopening were submitted to the commission by May 8 from the state’s six tracks. Three of the tracks had continued through the shutdown with active back stretches, filled with people and horses. No documented health issues resulted, which seemed to bode well.

The governor, without offering specifics, had even said he would consider a resumption.

But Wolf’s formal response to the commission on May 12 left no room for early openings even with safety measures. The governor said tracks would reopen with casinos and theaters, in the “green phase.”

Penn National talks up Barstool, seeks cash infusion

Cash-strapped Penn National Gaming sent some mixed news over the past week.

During an investor call, executives talked up the prospects for new retail and online sports wagering business projected for Q3 based on its investment in Barstool Sports the month before the virus pandemic upended business as usual.

As a result, the company furloughed 26,000 employees and shut down brick-and-mortar expansion projects. The company also tapped $430 million in credit as a lifeline, drawn from its $700 million in revolving credit.

After the Penn earnings call, The Daily Beast dropped a scathing story quoting emails from Barstool editor-in-chief Keith Markovich telling four staffers the site is “hemorrhaging money” and warning one of them not to negatively write about an advertiser.

Then just days after the investor call, the company made a previously unannounced stock offering. First, it was posted at $500 million, and then quickly upsized to $600 million.

The market reacted by setting a lower price for PENN stock.

Online casinos fill the void

Reopening 12 retail casinos in PA is a long way off, but since the state has 10 online casinos, the action never stops for slotsblackjackvideo poker, and roulette at home.

PlayPennsylvania tracks monthly bonus offers, specials, and new games so you can easily find what suits you.

Kevin Shelly Avatar
Written by
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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