Presque Isle Downs & Casino Announces Date of Sportsbook Launch: June 1, 2019

Presque Isle Downs & Casino Announces Date of Sportsbook Launch: June 1, 2019

Presque Isle Downs & Casino made headlines last week, announcing that the casino will be bringing a legal sportsbook to the Erie, Pennsylvania region. Unfortunately, locals will have to wait a while for it to arrive – Presque Isle won’t be opening their already approved sportsbook until June 1, 2019.

In an announcement, Presque Isle Downs Vice President and General Manager Kevin O’Sullivan, praised employees who “have been hustling” to prepare the new sportsbook. Presque Isle is rushing to join in with other PA casinos who are moving as quickly as they can to enter the newly created legal sports betting market in Pennsylvania.

Presque Isle’s sportsbook launch is coming much later than expected

Observers of the new sports betting market in PA can’t help but be puzzled by how slow this sportsbook launch is. Time = money in every market, but especially so for newly opened markets.

Presque Isle applied in December 2018 for a license to operate a sportsbook. With an announced launch date of June 1, 2019 launch date, we have a six month gap between application and operation. That’s significantly slower than the mark set by other casino operators who “hustled” a bit harder to get their sportsbooks open for business.

Looking at the most recent example, Valley Forge Casino applied for their sportsbook license in November 2018 and by March 2019 had their FanDuel Sportsbook open and accepting wagers. If Presque Isle casino operators had kept to that same timetable, they would have their new sportsbook open sometime this month (April), rather than two months later in June.

Pennsylvania is currently home to eight different sportsbooks. These various books are operated by five distinct in-state casinos (Parx Casino runs three of them). In each of these cases, no casino operator took more than three months from the date of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approval to the first day of operation.

Presque Isle’s sportsbook is clearly lagging a bit, much to the frustration of sports betting enthusiasts in the Erie area.

The delay likely caused by Presque Isle’s recent change in ownership

Presque Isle Casino’s slow pace in this matter can be excused though. The property just went through a very lengthy transition in ownership. The casino’s new owner, Churchill Downs Inc (CDI) finalized the purchase this January but the process began almost a full year ago. The arduous length of the acquisition process in this case clearly impacted the speed with which Presque could move on their sportsbook launch.

While CDI took their time, they clearly didn’t waste it. During the purchase process, casino operations and customer experiences weren’t disrupted. Further, during the transition CDI was able to secure two critical ingredients to their future success. They chose an excellent technological partner (SBTech) and a well-respected sportsbook partner (BetAmerica) all while making sure their customers experienced a seamless ownership transition (if they noticed at all).

A look at the coming sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs:

Once Presque Isle’s new sportsbook arrives on June 1, what will it be like? We can get a snapshot of the future from the presentation they made to the PGCB during their application process. In that presentation they described a sportsbook that comprises a 1,275 square foot space within their casino. This area will be located adjacent to the horse racing simulcast area and the poker room.

Sports bettors will be able to make their wagers at 50 self-service kiosks. Also, the sportsbook will have 50 large high definition televisions upon which patrons can view various sporting events. In addition, there will of course be customizable “odds board” showing the various contests that can be bet on as well as the associated odds/lines/etc.

Will Presque Isle Downs offer mobile sports betting?

Presque Isle Casino has made it clear that mobile sports betting is in its future, but exactly when, they cannot say.

This time, Presque Isle isn’t the source of the delay. The PGCB is withholding final authorization for licensed sportsbook operators to launch any mobile (online) sports betting apps. The PA regulatory body wants to be sure that a sportsbook operator has demonstrated proficiency and compliance with their retail location(s) before allowing mobile betting operations to commence.

That means Presque Isle couldn’t possibly launch a mobile sportsbook app until late in June 2019 at the earliest. By that time, it’s very possible that other Pennsylvania sportsbook operators may already have their mobile apps up and running, having long ago demonstrated a proficiency in retail sportsbook operation.

Or maybe the PGCB will keep all casino operators from launching mobile apps until they all can do so en masse. This seems to be their plan regarding the launch of online casino gaming (slots, table games, poker), so there’s a kind of consistency to such an approach.

It’s hard to say. So far, the PGCB hasn’t made clear their intentions so we (and Erie area sports bettors) will have to wait.