Saddling up for the sportsbook race, Presque Isle Downs & Casino began a two-day soft launch of a new retail book in conjunction with BetAmerica.

The book opened for business from 4 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday and continues Thursday from 2 p.m. until midnight.

A full opening is expected to begin at noon Friday with the assent of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

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Presque Isle plants the sportsbook flag

Presque Isle becomes only the second retail sportsbook in Western Pennsylvania. Rivers Pittsburgh, two hours south of Erie, is the only other retail book in the region.

BetAmerica Sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs will feature 50 kiosks, some within the sportsbook property, but also placed throughout the casino.

Presque Isle hoped to open the brick-and-mortar sportsbook in early June. But getting approval by the PGCB took longer than planned.

Presque Isle aiming for an online sportsbook presence

Still, opening the retail book at Presque Isle is the first step in the race, with sports betting wagers shifting dramatically to online options as they come online.

Regulators have, so far, only allowed operators with a physical sportsbook to launch online. Thus, an online operation should come next, but there is no announced timetable.

The online wagering market clearly motivated the $178.9 million purchase of Presque Isle facility by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI). Churchhill Downs is the owner of the track, which hosts the Kentucky Derby and a portfolio of other gambling venues.

As CEO Bill Carstanjen explained in a first-quarter earnings call earlier this year:

In January, we completed the acquisition of Presque Isle Downs and Casino, an excellent brick-and-mortar facility, which also provides us an opportunity to launch our retail BetAmerica Sportsbook at the Casino and launch our BetAmerica online sportsbook and iGaming platform across the entire Pennsylvania market later this year.

Details and the NFL

The property first opened in February 2007; it operates approximately 1,600 slots, 32 table games and a poker room.

There are sports betting kiosks throughout, including:

  • The high-limit area
  • The nonsmoking area of the sportsbook
  • The Hub Center bar
  • Bar 90

The sportsbook’s celebratory opening hoopla begins at 4 p.m. Aug. 8.

That’s the official start date of the NFL preseason games with Pennsylvania’s cross-state rivals. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles are playing, but not against each other.

The Steelers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home while the Eagles host the Tennessee Titans.

Rivals already online and on the ground

Competitors in PA’s online sports market already include Hollywood Casino, Parx Casino and SugarHouse Casino.

FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino online site launched earlier in the week.

Presque Isle became the ninth retail sportsbook in the state and two more, Mount Airy and Mohegan Sun Pocono, are in the pipeline.