Just A Few Days Of Online Betting Revenue Has All Of PA Optimistic

PlaySugarHouse.com PA managed to generate more than half a million dollars in bets in just its first four days of launch in the Keystone State.

Sometimes convenience beats user experience.

Pennsylvania’s first sports betting app, PlaySugarHouse.com, was not available to iPhone customers and had limited deposit options. It didn’t seem to bother customers who are accustomed to summoning meals and rides from the palm of their hand. Sugarhouse’s online sportsbook  generated $573,163 in bets in just four days after launching in late May.

“Though a small sample size, it shows that online sports betting should not only draw significant action over digital channels, it could also help grow the state’s retail sportsbooks,” said Jessica Welman, sports betting analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com.

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Numbers snakebitten by Apple

PlaySugarHouse app is still not available in the Apple Store. Developers are working to meet Apple’s new policy change that requires the apps to be written in code native to the iOS system.

Android users can access the app and Mac users are able to use the desktop version of the SugarHouse sportsbook.

“The Apple policy change has not only limited access to SugarHouse Casino’s online product, it has also significantly slowed the launch of other online sports betting products in the state,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania. “The problem appears to be a bigger hurdle for online casinos than online sportsbooks, but no doubt this will slow the progress of both.”

A summer of sportsbook launches? 

PlaySugarHouse.com is currently Pennsylvania’s first and only online sportsbook.  Expect more to follow this summer. In-progress online betting apps include:

  • Parx Casino Sportsbook
  • BetRivers
  • FanDuel at Valley Forge Casino
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National’s William Hill app
  • Presque Isle Downs’ BetAmerica

No official dates have been announced for official launches. But it’s a safe bet there will be four or five up and running by football season.

Right now, convenience beats user experience. But when there are multiple players in the online game, consumers who get frustrated with a wonky app will have other options.

Limited release, big numbers

One of the golden rules of marketing is to make yourself known. PlaySugarHouse.com did little marketing to promote the launch. They still took in $573,163 in bets across four days. If they kept the same level of action across a month, it would have reaped over $4.4 million in online bets.

May sports betting revenue comes in at $36M

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released May’s sports betting revenue numbers this week. Pennsylvania’s retail sportsbooks generated $35.9 million in bets and $2.8 million in revenue in May. Compared to April, Pennsylvania’s May handle dipped 2.3% from $36.8 million. Revenue was down 32.2% from $4.2 million.

May’s overall handle for Pennsylvania sports wagering was $35,934,215.  March 2019 marked the highest handle with $44.5 million. It came as a result of the openings of FanDual at Valley Forge and Valley Forge Race and Sportsbook along with March Madness betting.

In May, SugarHouse topped all state’s sportsbooks with $711,845 in revenue followed by  Rivers Casino $641,029, and  Parx $639,922. 

Here is the full list of revenue results:

PropertyHandleGross RevenueTax
Rivers Sportsbook$7,924,510$641,029$230,771
SugarHouse Sportsbook$7,934,839$711,846$256,264
Parx Sportsbook$6,809,662$639,922$230,371
Hollywood Sportsbook$3,816,054$210,637$75,830
FanDuel at Valley Forge$2,739,475$240,766$86,675
Harrah's Philadelphia$2,589,147$138,094$49,714
South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook$2,745,803$168,815$60,773
The Oaks Race and Sportsbook$1,385,725$110,744$39,868
Total$35,934,215$2,861,853$1,030,267

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: SugarHouse Transforming To Rivers Philadelphia

The popular Philadelphia casino SugarHouse is ditching the name and fully rebranding. Be ready to start calling it Rivers Philadelphia, effective this fall.

Will a casino by any other name be just as sweet?

SugarHouse Casino is betting on it.

At Wednesday’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting, representatives from SugarHouse’s parent company, Rush Street Gaming, presented plans to rebrand the property to Rivers Casino Philadelphia.

Upgrades on the way

A series of property upgrades later this year are the highlights of the rebrand.

They include:

  • A new state-of-the-art permanent sportsbook
  • A new signature restaurant
  • An online casino experience that complements the brick-and-mortar operations.

The physical transformation of the property will occur over the next several months, including signage, gaming pieces, Team Member uniforms, and more. Rivers Casino Philadelphia will debut in Philly later this fall.

This rebranding represents a $15 million reinvestment in the property. Local companies and contractors will complete all changes to the facility. Additionally, a $164 million expansion in 2016, will continue the property-wide transformation.

Four casinos under one name

Rush Street Gaming and its affiliates own and operate SugarHouse. The company currently has three other casinos in the U.S. operating under the Rivers Casino brand:

  • Rivers Pittsburgh
  • Rivers Des Plaines
  • Rivers Schenectady

Rebranding SugarHouse Casino will enable regional and national marketing to promote one Rivers Casino brand across multiple markets and channels.

There’s no change in ownership of the property.

SugarHouse’s 1,600 employees bring Rush Street’s total workforce to approximately 6,000 across four states. SugarHouse Team Members voted the casino a leading Philadelphia workplace for the 14th time in 2019. Rivers Casino Team Members have similarly lauded their employers many times.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia will remain committed to its Fishtown neighborhood and to the city. The Penn Treaty Special Services District will continue to receive a $1 million annual operating grant from the casino, even after the name change.

Sports betting and online casino advantage

A main reason behind the rebrand is the advent of online sports betting and online gaming. The goal is a seamless brand platform that will enhance customer experiences throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.

“Since receiving our casino license in 2006, gaming in Pennsylvania has evolved tremendously,” said Greg Carlin, CEO of SugarHouse Casino and Rush Street Gaming.

“Keeping pace with the changing landscape has been paramount to our success. Creating a unified brand is another example of how we’re anticipating and responding to the competitive market for gaming.”

PGCB acknowledged SugarHouse’s plans to rebrand during the board’s June 12 meeting.

SugarHouse says guests can expect a seamless transition, expanded players’ club benefits and a 360-degree, full-service gaming experience that includes land-based, mobile, and online.

PlaySugarHouse.com Pennsylvania will align with the Rivers brand later this year. The transition will also be seamless for online players. It is still unclear how this will pan out with the launch of the Rivers Pittsburgh’s real-money sports betting app later this summer.

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Timeline of Rivers Casino Philadelphia rebrand

  • Now: Rebranding announcement
  • Early summer: Begin property transformation, including internal controls (signage, gaming items, etc.)
  • Midsummer: Launch iGaming
  • End of summer: Launch of expanded, permanent sportsbook
  • Fall 2019: Ceremonial Rivers Casino Philadelphia launch

Philadelphia-area casinos and sportsbooks

Sugarhouse Casino, Philadelphia’s first casino, opened on Delaware Avenue in 2010. But it’s not only one. Since opening in 2010 other casinos have joined the fray and, especially recently, upped the ante.

Parx Casino, about twenty miles from Philadelphia, opened in 2009 and is now the state’s highest grossing property.

Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia, formerly Harrah’s Chester, opened in 2007 with slots and hose racing. The casino added table games in 2010.

Valley Forge Casino Resort opened in 2012 and is twenty miles from downtown Philadelphia. In January, they announced the addition of 250 new slot machines as part of a complete renovation of the gaming floor.

The renovations “reflect the continued momentum and growth coming from Valley Forge Casino Resort which has invested over $40 million over the past year.”

The $600 million Live! Hotel & Casino is currently being built on the site of the former Holiday Inn north of Citizen’s Bank Park. The property should open in late 2020.

The South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook (a short walk from the Philadelphia sports complex) and Oaks Race & Sportsbook are operated by Greenwood Racing Inc., the parent company of  Parx Casino. Both properties received upgrades earlier this year when sports betting launched.

SugarHouse Casino revenue

In March, SugarHouse was the only Philadelphia-area casino that did not see a year-over increase in total gaming revenue. SugarHouse’s $27.5 million revenue in March was a (distant) second in the state and down four percent from over year.

According to a May 2019 report by the PGCB, SugarHouse’s gross slot machine revenue was $15,563,286.02, a small 0.09 percent gain compared to their 2018 numbers.

In April 2019, Rivers and SugarHouse sportsbooks were second and third, respectively, when it came to sports betting revenue.

What’s in an app name?

SugarHouse launched the state’s first online betting app, PlaySugarHouse.com Pennsylvania.

The western side of the state shouldn’t have to wait too long to join the online betting app action as well. The Rivers Pittsburgh sports betting app is reportedly a few weeks away from launching.

How the rebrand will affect the existing PlaySugarHouse apps in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania is still unclear.

Pennsylvania Cashing In On Economic And Social Contributions Of Casinos

Casinos get a bad wrap as blights on communities, but PA casinos create jobs, outreach, and tax revenue for local communities.

Winners aren’t just limited to inside the confines of a casino.

Pennsylvania is experiencing a jackpot of jobs and an economic windfall as a result of the casino gaming industry.

On May 29, at a Get to Know Gaming event, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released their latest report, Casinos & Communities – Pennsylvania. It provided an in-depth look at the gaming industry’s economic and social contributions to communities across the state.

Highlights of the report included:

  • 33,171 jobs supported
  • $1.8 billion in wages generated
  • $2.5 billion generated in taxes

In 2004, Pennsylvania legislators passed the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, legalizing casinos and racinos. Today, there are 12 commercial casinos and racinos across the Commonwealth, which have rocketed Pennsylvania to the second-highest commercial gaming revenue in the United States, behind only Nevada.

“Over the last 15 years, gaming companies across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have served as an anchor for state and local economies, generating billions of dollars in tax revenue and operating as good stewards and community partners in the places casinos call home,” said Bill Miller, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association.

Casinos as a beacon of hope

The growth of the gaming industry helped fill the void left by the downturn of the mining and manufacturing industries.

Ravaged by the high unemployment, crime and poverty for decades, the 2007 opening of Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s Philadelphia provided a beacon of hope. In May 2015, Harrah’s reported:

  • 1,400 jobs created
  • $1.6 million in charitable contributions
  • $1.4 billion in taxes
  • A $100 million economic impact in the city of Chester

Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland explained that when the shipbuilding, steel and automobile industries left the city, jobs were limited and businesses were not coming.

“Harrah’s was the first real economic development that we had in this city for quite some time – for decades. They took a bet on the city. Folks now feel good about going to work in the morning. The casino has provided them with the opportunity to better take care of their families. And not just jobs, because jobs can come and go, but they provide them with career opportunities.”

Boosting the economy and nightlife

Twenty-five miles south of Chester, King of Prussia is in many ways, a world apart. It is home to the largest concentration of commercial office, industrial and flex buildings in the Philadelphia suburbs.

However, the area needed a boost from the 2008 recession. Boyd Gaming’s Valley Forge Casino was a “big, big part of that transition from a bad economy to a good economy,” said Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia’s Business Improvement District.

The casino created job opportunities and attracted visitors while keeping entertainment dollars in the community with their nightlife offerings such as musical acts, stand-up comedy, dueling pianos and Valley Beach, a pool bar with entertainment every Friday and Saturday night during the summer months.

“In the past four years, we’ve added almost 40 new restaurants at King of Prussia, which is crazy. You must have a lot of people to support that level of new business. The casino is obviously helping with that,” Goldstein added.

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Casinos as community partners

The impact of Pennsylvania casinos is not limited to their utility as economic engines. They boost local government budgets, support many community causes and are actively involved in the areas they call home.

In April, SugarHouse hosted a veteran-focused job fair to recruit over 100 candidates. In early 2019, SugarHouse was recognized for the seventh time as a “Top Workplace” by the Philadelphia Inquirer and also earned multiple “Best Places to Work” honors from the Philadelphia Business Journal. The Philadelphia-based casino is known for offering employees exceptional benefits, immediate 401 (k) vesting, and tuition reimbursement for continuing education.

Parx poured $90 million into over 800 organizations. Their representatives sit on the boards of addiction facilities and homeless shelters in the Bensalem area.

When the Greater Washington County Food Bank needed a new location, local grant funding from casino revenue “made it possible,” said Executive Director Connie Burd.

The new building with its 800-square-foot cooler and 400-square-foot freezer has enabled the food bank to “get out a lot more fresh produce to people” than before the grant. Employees from The Meadows regularly volunteer their time giving out food to low-income families and seniors.

Winning in western Pennsylvania

The western side of Pennsylvania is winning, too. Communities in and around Pittsburgh have benefitted from an economic upturn from Rivers Casino and the Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Before Penn National Gaming’s Meadows Racetrack & Casino opened in Washington County in 2009, lifelong resident Larry Laggi recalled a stagnant economy with the area “losing jobs, losing people and losing families.”

Laggi equated the economic impact and excitement generated by the casino with the boon days of the local coal mining and steel industries.

“Every community, large and small, has prospered and benefited from gaming being in Washington County.”

Over the past 11 years, gaming has generated almost half-a-billion dollars for Washington County. That money funded job creation, infrastructure and workforce development projects, according to Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

“Those monies go right back into our economy. They go right back into new projects, encouraging more and more population growth, business investment and things of that nature in our community.”