West Virginia Passed Online Gambling; Should Pennsylvania Worry?

Pennsylvania casinos, namely the ones near Pittsburgh, will soon have to contend with competition for online casino players from neighboring West Virginia.

Pennsylvania’s neighbor will soon join the Keystone State in the world of online casino gaming.

Last Wednesday, West Virginia legalized online casino gambling when House Bill 2934 became law. Gov. Jim Justice failed to act on the bill, just as he did with West Virginia’s sports betting last year. Even though he did not act, the bill become law after 15 days of inaction per WV law.

“There are a lot of different things out there that I guess people do (in online casino gaming),” West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers said in an article on MetroNews. “I think there are even some video lottery games like we have in the casinos to a smaller degree that you could even play.”

WV online gaming takes cues from other states

West Virginia is now the fifth state to legalize at least some form of online poker and online casino gambling, joining Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. PA passed its online gaming law in October 2017.

The West Virginia law is similar to those passed by other states. Anyone 21 and older, and who is within West Virginia’s state lines will be able to play online casino games with a computer or mobile device. Each of the state’s five casinos are eligible to purchase a permit to host online gaming:

  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
  • Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
  • Wheeling Island Hotel

Currently, the most popular online casino games are poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and slots.

WV online casinos shouldn’t greatly affect PA’s gaming

While the Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland and Wheeling Island are only about an hour away from the Pittsburgh area, it’s unlikely West Virginia’s new law will steal substantial business from its neighbor. That is good news for the city’s two casinos, Rivers and The Meadows.

First of all, Pennsylvania’s online casinos are expected to launch much earlier than West Virginia’s. Most estimates expect PA’s online gaming to arrive in June or July. West Virginia will likely be more than a year behind that.

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PA online gaming will feature numerous options

Furthermore, Pennsylvania is on track to provide online gamblers with a wealth of options. The PA Gaming and Control Board has already provided conditional approval for 10 of the state’s 13 casinos to offer online poker, slots, and table games.

Presque Isle Downs, Mohegan Sun Pocono, and the upcoming Stadium Casino project will just offer online table games and slots.

Furthermore, qualified gaming entities (QGE) from outside of Pennsylvania were allowed to apply for the remaining online gaming licenses. Both MGM Resorts and Golden Nugget Atlantic City have filed paperwork. Each group is expected to offer some form of online gaming in Pennsylvania upon launch, pending PGCB approval.

West Virginia’s online gaming is more likely to target other states

Pennsylvania’s early action on online gaming will likely keep most of its online players within the confines of the Keystone State.

However, the new law in West Virginia is aimed beyond its borders. The online gaming legislation is hoping to attract gamblers from neighboring states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland. Those states have not yet legalized online gaming.

And that’s the biggest reason the bill drew bipartisan support in the WV state legislature.

“iGaming has the potential to bring millions of dollars in revenue to our state,” West Virginia legislator Jason Barrett said in the PlayWV article.

Put simply; the new online gaming bill is a boon for West Virginia. But not a major threat to its neighbor in Pennsylvania.

March Madness: Three New PA Lottery Millionaires So Far This Month

Three PA Lottery players have collectively won more than $7.5 million from lotto games including Powerball and Cash 5 so far this March.

March Madness has hit the PA Lottery.

This past week, Pennsylvania’s state lottery delivered three jackpots worth a combined $7.5 million. The biggest victory was a $4.15 million Match 6 ticket sold in Doylestown, Bucks County.

That ticket matched all six winning numbers (20-21-28-35-36-45) to win the massive jackpot.

The winner will remain unknown until the prize is claimed and the ticket is verified.

PA Lottery presents record-breaking Cash 5 check

In contrast, the big winner in Berwick stepped into the spotlight this week. Columbia County resident Luther Coleman Jr. received a commemorative check worth almost $2.5 million.

A Sheetz in Coleman’s hometown sold the record-breaking ticket worth $2,488,733. The jackpot was the highest in the nearly 27-year history of the game. Cash 5 is the Pennsylvania Lottery’s longest-running jackpot game.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to congratulate the winner of this historic jackpot,” Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko said in the state lottery’s press release.

Coleman, who has worked at a nuclear power plant in Berwick for more than 31 years, said that he’s a frequent player of lottery games.

Lottery jackpot arrives on a whim

According to the release, on the day of the record Cash 5 contest, Coleman said he made his usual stop at Sheetz. He purchased items inside the store that left him with $1 and change.

Even though he had previously bought some tickets for the Cash 5 drawing that night, he decided to use that remaining dollar to buy another one at a machine outside the store.

Some players encountered problems with lottery machines on the day of the Cash 5 contest, but Coleman had no such trouble. He bought a $1 Quick Pick ticket that turned into the Cash 5 jackpot winner.

“When someone hears a story that I went out and bought the ticket with a $1 Quick Pick, you have to say that it can happen,” Coleman said. “My joke was that I was hoping to get my retirement package out of the machine. Lo and behold, it happened.”

Cash 5 adds to impressive total for Sheetz

The Cash 5 win was also a highlight for Sheetz, which earns a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.

“This is one of the largest tickets ever sold from a Sheetz store location and continues a streak of good luck for our customers, who won over $124 million in lottery cash prizes in 2018,” said Sheetz AVP of Brand Strategies Ryan Sheetz.

Sheetz has 274 locations across Pennsylvania, each of which offers customers lottery-based terminal games and a number of instant lottery options as well.

Philly’s million-dollar Powerball ticket

Another big lottery win arrived near Philadelphia, at the ShopRite in Roxborough.

The ticket correctly matched all five white balls drawn in the March 16 contest (30-34-39-53-67). However, the ticket missed the red Powerball 11. That was still good enough to net $1 million less applicable withholding.

The winner, who is still unknown, will have one year from the drawing date to claim the prize. Lottery players are reminded to check every ticket, every time.

One easy way to chek your draw games tickets is to down the PA online lottery mobile app. One of its many features is a ticket scanner.

Jackpot wins provide bright spot for PA Lottery

The trio of jackpots provides some positive public relations for a PA Lottery system facing a great deal of pressure.

The state lottery, which funnels all of its proceeds to programs that support the state’s older residents, is navigating a new ruling by the US Justice Department. Said ruling redefines the scope of the federal Wire Act. That ruling has raised concerns about the lottery’s interstate backup system in Georgia.

The lottery’s revenue projections were also a point of contention at a recent meeting for the state’s Senate Appropriations Committee. Some members of the committee worried the lottery’s expectations were overly optimistic, which could create budget shortfalls in the future.

Those issues will certainly be addressed at a later date. For now, the lottery – and its players – can soak up the sunshine provided by these big wins.

For PA Fantasy Operators, Baseball Season Can’t Come Soon Enough

With only the Super Bowl on the schedule in February, PA fantasy sports numbers predictably decline with the end of football season.

Just like the average fan, Pennsylvania’s fantasy sports revenues seemed to be missing football in February.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) released the February Fantasy Contests Revenue Report on Friday. That report revealed a total adjusted revenue decline of nearly $500,000 compared to January. Total revenue dipped from $2,116,499 to $1,629,178.

The drop in revenue can be traced in part to the end of football season. February featured just one football game — the Super Bowl — which limited daily fantasy platforms to single-game contests in the sport.

Overall, Pennsylvania will still receive $244,376.75 from the daily fantasy providers, which are assessed a 15 percent tax on their adjusted gross revenue. That money is then deposited into the Pennsylvania Commonwealth General Fund.

Here’s a look at the total revenue breakdown for February:

Fantasy operatorAdjusted monthly revenuePA tax due
Fantasy Football Players Championship$47,744.12$7,161.62
Yahoo Fantasy Sports$9,726.89$1,459.05
Sportshub Technologies$6,536.89$980.53
Fantasy Draft$5,818.57$872.79
Full Time Fantasy Sports$3,985.25$597.79
Boom Fantasy$2,151.45$322.72

DraftKings remains ahead of FanDuel

DraftKings once again led all of the fantasy providers, including its close competitor FanDuel. DraftKings had a total of $906,451.16 in adjusted revenue for its fantasy contests in February. FanDuel was second with $622,815.68. Pennsylvania’s remaining seven daily fantasy sports (DFS) outlets all generated total revenues of under $50,000.

According to Legal Sports Report, FanDuel was actually ahead of DraftKings when Pennsylvania DFS revenues were first reported in June 2018. More recently, DraftKings has been the leader. FanDuel is looking to close that gap and could receive a boost from its branding deal with FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino Resort, which opened last week.

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Baseball’s return will enhance March revenues

Major League Baseball’s regular season starts on March 28. The first few days of the season and some showcase DFS contests should boost this month’s earnings. However, it’s hard to predict if those increased revenues will be enough to push March’s total past February.

How will PA sportsbooks affect DFS?

The other development to monitor is how the spread of Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks will affect daily fantasy contests. Total daily fantasy revenue has dropped from more than $2.86 million in December to about $1.63 million in February. Many people believe sports betting and daily fantasy games can coexist. And the FanDuel-branded casino is uniquely suited to provide some opportunities for that.

PA budget continues to benefit from gaming

All in all, Pennsylvania’s state budget will continue to benefit from all forms of gaming. Based on their 2018 earnings, daily fantasy providers will pay nearly $2.3 million in state taxes. Furthermore, the expansion of sports betting — which should include mobile betting in July and at least nine sportsbooks by the start of football season — will provide a boon several times that number.

So, as the wagers and daily fantasy contests continue, the tax revenue will pour in too.

FanDuel Beats Turf Club To Launch In Valley Forge Battle

It’s a busy couple of days for PA sports betting. Valley Forge Turf Club began testing on Tuesday. FanDuel at Valley Forge Casino starts testing Monday.

Two new sportsbooks are arriving in Pennsylvania just in time for March Madness.

Both Valley Forge Turf Club and FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino began testing this week. Now area bettors have two new options for gaming before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off on March 21.

FanDuel Sportsbook started testing on Monday. Valley Forge Turf Club followed suit on Tuesday. The Valley Forge Casino book launches officially on Wednesday. Turf Club’s full launch is set for Thursday.

“The goal the whole time was to be open for March Madness,” Jeff Lowich, senior director of retail for FanDuel, told Philly.com. “It’s hard to understand it until you’ve either been through it or seen it. Once you go through that, you don’t want to sit at home and watch a fight or a game on your couch. Whether you’re with friends or even strangers, when you’re in a sportsbook, it’s just fun.”

Former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek is scheduled to attend the sportsbook’s grand opening. He will place the ceremonial first bet.

FanDuel looking to build on NJ success

Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming purchased Valley Forge Casino last September. Since then, it added more than $40 million in upgrades to the property.

The casino’s sportsbook aims to continue the success of the FanDuel brand, which launched its first sportsbook last summer at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. According to Legal Sports Report, FanDuel’s Meadowlands property led all New Jersey sportsbooks in combined digital and retail revenues from December to January, taking in over $16 million.

Now, the brand will branch across the region with its first sportsbook in Pennsylvania, a rapidly growing sports betting market. The Keystone State should have at least nine sportsbooks open before football season.

“People are already familiar with FanDuel,” Boyd Gaming spokesperson David Strow said in January. “It’s a reason for people to come to Valley Forge Casino Resort and give our product a try.”

Valley Forge Turf Club is Parx’s third book

Valley Forge Turf Club in Oaks, PA, started taking bets on Tuesday. The sportsbook recently completed a $500,000 renovation to prepare for the opening. The improvements include several high-definition televisions and improved surveillance equipment.

Last month, Greenwood Gaming, which also owns Parx Casino in Bensalem, opened a sportsbook at South Philadelphia Turf Club. With the arrival of the Valley Forge property, Greenwood will become a clear leader in Pennsylvania’s sports betting industry with three of the eight PA sportsbooks.

In court filings for its bid to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the company highlighted the strengths of Valley Forge Turf Club.

“Situated near Philadelphia’s ‘Main Line,’ the facility is ideally suited for a sports wagering operation as it is easily accessible to sports fans and travelers,” Greenwood’s court filings read, according to Philadelphia Business Journal.

PA closing the gap on NJ sports betting

With the arrival of two more sportsbooks this month, Pennsylvania is moving closer to challenging its neighbor New Jersey on the sports betting front. New Jersey is home to more sportsbooks. More importantly, the Garden State’s big edge is digital wagers. Online betting accounts for roughly 80 percent of all wagers in New Jersey. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania isn’t expected to launch online betting until July.

This month’s wagers might provide an interesting glimpse into what the future holds. With Pennsylvania claiming about 3.8 million more people than New Jersey, PA could soon overtake its neighbor in gambling revenue once mobile betting arrives. For now, the state’s casinos can simply expect record revenues in February for its relatively new betting industry. Hopefully, the Super Bowl gave the industry a big boost compared to January.

As for March, PA has two new properties are entering the fray and the immensely popular NCAA Tournament, which should make for another good month.

PA Helps Push Other Sports Betting States Ahead of Nevada

A release from the American Gambling Association revealed that, for the first time ever, other states besides Nevada collectively took more bets than NV.

The king of sports betting is facing more competition every month.

The latest evidence arrived Friday, in a news release by the American Gaming Association. For the first time ever, wagers in new legal sports betting markets in January exceeded those in Nevada.

Sara Slane, AGA’s senior vice president of public affairs, elaborated in the press release:

“For the first time in the history of U.S. gaming, Nevada’s sports betting handle has been eclipsed by the rest of the country. The demand for legal sports betting is abundantly clear, with the majority of legal wagers now being placed in markets that didn’t even exist a year ago. What’s more, this strong consumer appetite for legal sports betting is matched by action from state legislatures and sovereign tribal nations. Two-thirds of jurisdictions have now taken steps to legalize sports betting, marking an unprecedented amount of growth for this new sector in just ten months.”

PA ranked 4th in sports betting in January

Pennsylvania brought in $32 million in sports betting handle in January, ranking it fourth among sports betting states. But that total, combined with the other new sports betting states, helped push their combined handle ahead of Nevada, giving the new markets a slight majority of 50.2 percent. The other states collecting wagers in January were:

  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
Credit: American Gaming Association

Pennsylvania’s future already visible in NJ

It’s expected that sports betting apps won’t arrive in Pennsylvania until July. But a quick glimpse at neighboring New Jersey provides a good idea of what to expect.

According to Legal Sports Report, New Jersey’s sportsbook operators took in $385 million in wagers in January, more than 10 times Pennsylvania’s total.

So what’s the difference?

Gamblers in New Jersey already have access to online sports betting, which accounted for about 80 percent of the state’s total sports betting handle. Clearly, the ease and accessibility of mobile sports betting lead to a natural increase in revenues for the sportsbooks.

Thus, New Jersey’s success is good news for its next-door neighbors. If you applied similar projections in Pennsylvania, estimating that online betting might be four times the retail handle, the Keystone State might have topped $150 million or more in January wagers. This, in a month in which sports betting activity often slows too.

March Madness should bump PA profits

With sports betting options expanding, it’s reasonable to expect that the newly-minted sports betting states could continue to exceed Nevada’s handle in the months ahead.

In Pennsylvania, total sports betting handle nearly doubled from December to January. Handle rose from $16.17 million to $32 million. That robust growth should continue. March features one of the most popular events for sports bettors, the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Last year, the American Gaming Association released a report estimating that Americans bet more than $10 billion on the tournament. Only 3 percent of that amount was legally wagered in Las Vegas.

This year, expanded sports betting will give Pennsylvanians many more outlets to legally bet right in their home state.

That should produce record numbers for their PA casinos.

PA Lottery Fighting Multiple Battles To Protect Revenue

Facing pressure from both the Department of Justice and illegal skill games, the PA Lottery is growing concerned about its revenue.

The Pennsylvania Lottery can consider 2018 a success. However, the first few months of 2019 have already presented a number of obstacles.

According to an article on PennLive, state lottery officials said profits for 2018 were up about $50 million over the previous year. They were also ahead of projections for the early portion of this year.

But a ruling last month by the US Department of Justice, some budgetary concerns from the state’s senate, and some competition from rapidly spreading dubiously legal games of skill have stalled all that momentum. They’ve also raised concerns about the lottery’s long-term health.

New ruling leads the list of concerns

Last month, the US Department of Justice issued an opinion that extended the federal Wire Act to apply to any form of gambling that crosses state lines. This includes online gambling and online lottery, not just sports betting which had been the previous stance.

“It represents a huge threat to the lottery industry as well as the Pennsylvania Lottery as well as the gaming industry,” Drew Svitko, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lottery, told PennLive.

If that decision stands, it could force the Pennsylvania Lottery to move its backup data center in Georgia. The data center would then move in-state. This process would carry an exorbitant cost.

In response, both Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (the top lottery lobbying group) have authored letters challenging the new position of the Department of Justice and asking for further clarification.

Senate Appropriation Committee has lotto questions

At a meeting last week of the PA Senate Appropriations Committee, Republican senators raised concerns about the state lottery’s revenue projections, according to PennLive.

Senators worried that the lottery revenue projections were overly optimistic. The fear is revenue and could fall short by $50 million or more. That kind of deficit creates a huge budgetary problem. After all, the state lottery funds a wide variety of entitlement services and financial support for seniors.

“If you qualify, you get them,” Senate Appropriations Committee member Pat Browne told PennLive. “If we don’t have the money (to pay for them), the exposure is huge.”

Growth in games of skill also a concern

The Pennsylvania Lottery launched online games in May 2018 and has nearly tripled its game offerings in the ensuing months. The online lottery games have fared well, but the monitor-based games such as keno and Xpress Sports, which launched last year, haven’t been quite as successful. According to PennLive, those games produced just $9 million for the lottery fund in the first six months of the fiscal year.

Svitko blames the spread of illegal games of skill for some of the lottery’s struggles. Games of skill typically return greater revenues for their owners than the commission the lottery pays. This makes them popular options for some retailers.

The fact that the state police considers the games illegal hasn’t seemed to slow the spread of them either.

“We still feel that the (skill) machines are illegal,” Major Scott Miller, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, told PennLive.

Svitko told PennLive that almost 18 percent of lottery retailers have at least one skill game machine. A year ago, it was half that. But in the absence of a higher court decision that will eliminate the games of skill as a competitor, the state lottery is left to take up the challenge on its own.

The growing senior population needs the PA Lottery

The state lottery already has a number of hurdles in its path. Yet another one will appear in the near future. Last week’s PennLive article cited statistics from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office highlighting the growth projections for Pennsylvania’s senior population. The number of senior citizens in the Keystone State is expected to grow 23 percent by 2025. That increases the total number of seniors to nearly 2.8 million people.

And thus, the PA Lottery, which already funds essential services for existing seniors, will have to do even more to keep pace in the years ahead.

“The expectations are really high,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell told PennLive. “We have to be concerned about where things are going.”

Presque Isle One Step Closer To Western PA’s Newest Sportsbook

Churchill Downs’ Erie casino Presque Isle Downs is one step closer to opening up its retail sportsbook and online betting brand BetAmerica in PA.

The excitement and economic impact of PA sports betting will soon extend into another corner of the Keystone State.

During a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting last week, Presque Isle Downs received conditional approval from the PGCB to move forward with plans to open up a sportsbook inside its Erie casino.

Sportsbook launch date still uncertain

Although the sportsbook’s opening date has yet to be determined, Presque Isle Downs revealed other essential elements of its sportsbook plans. The Churchill Downs-owned casino will feature 1,275 square feet of sportsbook space with 50 self-service sports betting kiosks and 50 large HD televisions.

Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, spoke about the plans in a statement:

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania and the opportunity to participate in the sports betting and online gaming market throughout the state. This acquisition is projected to be immediately accretive to our shareholders. We are excited about welcoming Presque Isle and its employees to the Churchill family.”

Sportsbook will open as BetAmerica

The Presque Isle sportsbook will carry the BetAmerica brand name. The brand is already used in certain parts of the country as a horse race betting app.

Before the Erie location opens permanently, the sportsbook must satisfy the final conditions of the PGCB. After that, it must successfully navigate a two-day “soft-open” period that will be closely monitored by the gaming board. Following that, the sportsbook will be fully functional. Mobile sports betting should follow in the spring.

Presque Isle’s sportsbook continues PA sports betting

Presque Isle’s sportsbook will be the seventh in the state and provide another attraction in the state’s western region.

The PGCB also confirmed that the Valley Forge Turf Club has submitted paperwork to offer sports betting at its off-track betting parlor in the near future. Furthermore, Valley Forge Casino, which has partnered with FanDuel Sportsbook, has targeted a March opening for a sportsbook of its own.

PA sportsbooks could see record revenues in March

According to statistics released last year by the American Gaming Association, US citizens wager an estimated $10 billion annually on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which tips off every year in March.

With easier access to sports betting nationwide – and especially in Pennsylvania – that number will likely grow even bigger this year. Pennsylvania’s newly-minted sportsbooks could see record revenues and unprecedented levels of activity during that month.

And Presque Isle’s sportsbook could be right in the middle of it.