Sports Betting at The Downs Gets a Thumbs Up

Posted on December 20, 2019 - Last Updated on December 23, 2019

The holiday was in full swing in Harrisburg on Wednesday. Light flurries fell outside. Inside, the halls of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s headquarters were decked.

At the last PGCB meeting of 2019, there was still business to tend to. In a year filled with rapid gambling expansion across the state, there was still room for growth.

The Downs set to offer sports betting

Mohegan Sun Pocono received approval to add sports betting to The Downs, its OTB race parlor, in Lehigh Valley. Plans include a renovation, ten sports wagering kiosks, and four tellers.

Opening of the new sportsbook will occur after a successful test period. Anthony Carlucci, President & General Manager of Mohegan Sun Pocono, said that launch is expected in early Q2 of 2020.

Here’s a timeline on sports betting’s path to Lehigh Valley:

  • May 15, 2019: PGCB okayed Mohegan Sun Pocono’s petition to conduct sports betting.
  • Sept. 2019: Unibet announced the opening of its retail sportsbook in partnership with Mohegan Sun Pocono marking its official launch into PA and its second U.S. market entry.
  • Nov. 14, 2019: Unibet launched its app which includes an online casino integrated with a sports betting app. Unibet is one of the biggest betting sites in Europe.

Carlucci commented:

“Mohegan Sun Pocono is excited to announce an expansion of our partnership with Unibet. In addition, we are evaluating the Stroudsberg location for future opportunities as well but we do not expect to have an update on this location until the Lehigh Valley project is complete.”

What The Downs can expect in terms of handle

Parx represents a comparable situation to Mohegan Sun Pocono with its two OTBs, South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook and Oaks Race and Sportsbook.

Here’s a look at the handle for each location from opening to present:

  • South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook handled $858,130 in bets in Jan. 2019. In Nov. 2019, that number had expanded to $3,620,304 in monthly handle.
  • Oaks Race and Sportsbook, formerly known as the Valley Forge Race and Sportsbook, took $706,089 in wagers in its first month, March 2019. The handle for November was $1,353,013.

How OTBs add up

Sports betting at OTBs only contribute a minuscule amount to the overall sports betting numbers in PA. In November, Pennsylvania sportsbooks and betting apps took more than $300 million in wagers. More than 80% of those bets were placed online.

Regardless, adding a retail sportsbook helps to drive business and revenue for OTBs, and The Downs should be no different.

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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