Will New Competition Disrupt Rivers Casino’s Sportsbook “Monopoly”?

Will New Competition Disrupt Rivers Casino’s Sportsbook “Monopoly”?

For the last four months, Rivers Casino has operated the only sportsbook in the western half of Pennsylvania with no competition in sight.

Located in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino’s sportsbook is on an island. The other seven PA casino sportsbooks are located in and around the Philadelphia area. That gives Rivers a big leg up in the Pennsylvania sports betting market that officially began in November of last year when when the first sportsbook opened in the state at Hollywood Casino. Last December, Rivers Casino’s sportsbook opened in Pittsburgh and they’ve been off to the races ever since.

If Rivers Casino is going to face any serious competition, it won’t be coming from within the Keystone State. Instead, Rivers’ most worrying competition will come from West Virginia and Ohio.

Rush Street Interactive (RSI), the owner and operator of Rivers Casino, isn’t concerned. According to RSI President Richard Schwartz,

“For us, it’s not about whether there are other competing casinos in the region. It’s about doing everything we can to provide players a positive experience at any property where we are a supplier.”

Rivers Casino sportsbook leads the way in PA

Still, being a virtual monopolist in the Western Pennsylvania area has to help.

Rivers Casino is absolutely crushing it. Through February, they boast the highest sportsbook handle of all PA sportsbook operators. Rivers has the second highest sports betting revenue total (trailing only its sister property, SugarHouse (in Philly) and only trails by less than $200,000.

Here’s more evidence of Rivers’ dominant position: Since December of last year, Rivers has accounted for more than 28% of the sports betting handle in all of Pennsylvania. That’s a lot. For example, Rivers has one of PA’s eight currently operating sportsbooks. That means that although they comprise 12.5% of the state’s retail sportsbook locations they still manage to take in over twice that percentage of the overall sportsbook handle in the state.

Here’s another angle on how well Rivers is doing: The average casino sportsbook’s total revenue in the Philadelphia area is $854,000. Rivers Casino’s total sportsbook revenue is $2.55 million. 

Clearly, being the sole provider of legal sports betting in Western PA is a huge boon to Rivers Casino.

RSI runs Pittsburgh and Philly sportsbooks identically.

Despite facing such different market dynamics, RSI (and sportsbook partner Kambi Group) run the sportsbooks at both locations exactly the same.

Customers in both properties will see the same odds, lines, and pricing regardless of location. This might seem odd. One might guess that RSI and Kambi might run “leaner” in cut-throat Philly and offer less competitive pricing in Pittsburgh but that’s not the case at all.

There are probably a few reasons for this. First, a proactive one: perhaps RSI wants to make sure state regulators at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) stay happy with them. Second, maybe this approach makes the job of Kambi Group less complicated technically. And lastly, perhaps this strategy will simplify RSI’s situation when they begin rolling out mobile sports betting apps, presumably on the same platform.

Whatever the reason, the books are run identically on purpose.

Will WV and OH eat into Rivers’ sportsbook market?

Rivers Casino’s biggest competition won’t be coming from within Pennsylvania, but rather from outside the state.

South of Pittsburgh, West Virginia is on its eighth month of legalized sports betting. WV’s nearest casino to Pittsburgh is Mountaineer Casino just an hour away by car.

Even more threatening is the prospect of competition from mobile sportsbook apps. Using apps, Western Pennsylvanians would only need to drive to the state border to make wagers.

Mobile sports betting was already up and running in WV, but the site(s) went down recently due to a dispute between casino owner Delaware North and sports betting partner Miomni. These operators will eventually iron out their issues. Furthermore, DraftKings and FanDuel are also up and running in WV and will have their mobile betting platforms operational very soon.

Ohio, to the west, will be authorizing sports betting in the next year or two. When that legislation passes, it will come with mobile sports betting provisions. Again, competition via mobile apps is coming.

For now, Rivers Casino doesn’t seem concerned and they don’t need to be.

RSI and Kambi are making hay while the sun shines. And when you’re the only sportsbook for miles around, the sun shines brightly.