Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course became the first venue to take legal sports bets in Pennsylvania on Thursday, as the casino started the first of two live wagering test days designed to ensure that everything is ready to go once sports betting can officially launch.
Penn National Gaming announced that the sportsbook at the Hollywood Casino would be taking bets starting at 3 pm Thursday, and again from 2 pm to 11 pm on Friday to make sure that both the staff and equipment being used were in compliance with state standards.
Pennsylvania Joins Growing List of Sports Betting States
The test days are necessary to ensure that the sportsbook, which is being operated by William Hill, can receive full approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Once that final approval is given, sports bets will be taken from 11 am through midnight on weeknights, and from 10 am through midnight on weekends.
“Penn National is excited to be the first casino to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania,” Penn National CEO Timothy Wilmott said in a statement. “The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”
The wagering during the test days is entirely real, with gamblers risking real money and the sportsbook paying out winning bets. That means that the bets taken on Thursday made Pennsylvania the sixth state to begin taking single-game wagers on sports this year, following Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, and New Mexico.
“We are extremely appreciative for the tireless effort and support of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board,” Hollywood Casino general manager Dan Ihm said in a statement. “They moved heaven and earth to get us to this point and we couldn’t be more excited to be Pennsylvania’s first sportsbook.”
Operators Look Past Costs to Open Sportsbooks
Pennsylvania appears as though it will have a vibrant sports betting market, something that wasn’t a certainty just a few months ago. When state lawmakers first announced the regulations for sports wagering, operators balked at the costs, which include a $10 million licensing fee and a 36 percent tax rate, far higher than in other states.
But even that expensive price tag didn’t dissuade casinos from applying for licenses. A total of six casinos throughout the state have submitted applications, including the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, which filed its paperwork on Wednesday.
Pennsylvania could prove to be a lucrative market both because of its size and the fact that teams in all four major American professional sports leagues play in the state. That means more fans to turn into bettors, and more partnerships and sponsorship opportunities that could help the sportsbooks gain brand awareness with the public.
“I would say both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are very strong sports betting towns, with a lot of enthusiasts,” Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin told ESPN.