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.