The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has awarded the first two sports betting licenses in the state, opening the door for operators to start taking bets later this year.

Pennsylvania sports betting licenses
Pennsylvania sports bettors could be placing legal bets on Carson Wentz (11) and the Eagles as early as November. (Image: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty)

In a Wednesday meeting, the PGCB awarded licenses to Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, which will run sports betting operations through Parx Casino and the South Philadelphia Turf Club, as well as Penn National, which will launch a sportsbook at Hollywood Casino and Racetrack.

First Bets Expected by November

Parx will likely be the first to market, as it plans to start taking bets sometime in November. That will allow the casino to have wagering up and running for at least the last few weeks of the NFL regular season, as well as the playoffs.

Betting at the Turf Club will likely have to wait longer. During Wednesday’s meeting, the Office of Enforcement Counsel said that it would like to see a successful launch of sports betting technology at Parx Casino before it signed off on bets being taken at the potentially lucrative South Philadelphia location.

After land based operations begin in earnest, Parx officials are hoping that online sports betting can be available to customers in January 2019. Mobile betting will likely be allowed on site at sportsbooks earlier than this in order to allow for easier in-play betting.

“Online, there’s a lot more pieces to the puzzle,” Greenwood CEO Tony Ricci told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There are a multitude of vendors involved, and they all need to be licensed and tested.”

Penn National has been less specific about its timetable for taking bets at Hollywood Casino.

“After a period of testing both by PGCB as well as the property, we hope to have the sports wagering facility operating within the next could of months,” Hollywood Vice President and General Manager Daniel Ihm said on Tuesday.

Operators Flock to Sports Betting Despite Tax Rate

All three venues attached to the two approved operators are likely to undergo significant renovations between now and the time their sports betting operations are up and running. At Hollywood, an existing horse-racing simulcast theater will be upgraded to include a sportsbook and have close to 60 televisions displaying games.

At Parx Casino, the 360 Lounge will be turned into a temporary sportsbook with a dozen betting kiosks and seven betting windows.  The South Philadelphia Turf Club will be upgraded with 150 HD televisions as part of a $1 million renovation.

While Pennsylvania included sports betting when it passed a gaming expansion bill last October, it was unclear how many operators would be interested in applying for a license. Not only do casinos have to pay a $10 million licensing fee to open sportsbooks, but the tax rate was set at 36 percent, far higher than what is paid on sports wagering in other states.

But that hasn’t stopped several applications from being submitted to the PGCB. Three other operators are likely to be considered by the gaming board at their October 31 meeting, including SugarHouse Casino, Harrah’s Philadelphia, and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.