The quick transformation of Rivers Sportsbook has astounded Rivers Vice President of Slot Operations Andre Barnabei.
With little marketing behind hyping up the Pittsburgh property, it still has taken on a life of its own, Barnabei said in a phone interview.
According to Barnabei, Rivers, which opened in mid-December, both the business and the energy on the property has been good since launch.
“It’s taken off,” Barnabei said. “We’ve got 98 seats here in our temporary sportsbooks, and it’s challenging to find a place to sit.”
Like the other five sportsbooks in PA, most of Rivers’ business comes on the weekend. Especially for those during the end of the NFL season, or during the NFL playoffs and college football bowl season.
But no weekend so far will hold a candle to that of Feb. 3 and Super Bowl LIII. The game is projected to feature record-breaking sports betting numbers.
For PA sports betting operators, that rings true.
Big business coming for Big Game
Evan Davis cannot predict the how much in wagers SugarHouse Sportsbook, will take in during Super Bowl weekend. But that does not stop the casino vice president and general counsel from gearing up for a bustling few days of betting. Davis explained in a phone interview:
“I can tell you we’ve seen a lot of interest every NFL weekend we’ve been open. And obviously the NFL playoffs were no exception to that.”
“I would absolutely anticipate we’d have a lot of interest for the Super Bowl, as well. That means not only wagering on the game, but also being here to take in the game, whether that be reserving a table in our sportsbook or visiting one of our food and beverage establishments we have here.”
Since the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA to clear the way for state-regulated sports betting, more than 250 legal online and retail sportsbooks have opened nationwide.
To put that growth in context, consider that Nevada set an all-time high with $158.6 million in handle just for the Super Bowl last year. That figure accounted for nearly 40 percent of the state’s total handle in February 2018.
It’s projected that New Jersey will near, or even eclipse, $100 million in accepted wagers for the big game as part of $325 million in nationwide handle.
With six activated sportsbooks, though without online sports betting, Pennsylvania could surely claim its fair share of the action.
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PA sports betting growing ahead of Super Bowl
“Looking around the sportsbook,” Davis said, “I can tell you it was filled with people and we saw a steady stream of folks coming up to the ticket windows.”
Rivers was operational for two Pittsburgh Steelers home games, Barnabei noted. The amount of traffic throughout the property “certainly increased, to say the least.” However, a massive snowstorm through the area inhibited business for the AFC and NFC championship games.
“But,” Barnabei added, “it was still a good day.”
Which sets up Super Bowl Sunday — and the weekend — for an even better day.
PA sportsbooks readying for the busy weekend
Rivers features 12 self-service kiosks and six teller windows. Like SugarHouse, those kiosks are self-service.
In preparation for the Super Bowl, both properties have more on the way. Rivers, in particular, will up its total to 12 writer stations for Saturday, and 18 kiosks will be accessible Sunday. In addition, the property will open up its brand-new events center on the second level, one used for concerts and weddings and trade shows, for a Super Bowl watch party.
All of this is in anticipation of potentially the single-biggest day for PA sportsbooks to date.
“I’d wrap that into the weekend,” Barnabei said. “That Saturday-Sunday combo.”
“I think the building is going to be incredibly energetic and excited, as it has been every year for the Super Bowl. The fact that we’re able to offer sports betting and have the game on in such a great environment like the sportsbook is only going to add to the excitement we’ve seen in years past.”