Pennsylvania regulators on Tuesday gave SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia the green light to launch online sports betting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, the first casino in the state to venture into the new frontier of internet gambling.
Just don’t try it from an iPhone.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board allowed the casino to begin taking interactive sports bets from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, and plans two longer test periods Wednesday and Thursday before a full launch is expected on Friday, said Richard McGarvey, a gaming board spokesman.
SugarHouse’s bettors in Pennsylvania can use the same internet address, PlaySugarHouse.com, as they do in New Jersey, where online sports betting began last year (Pennsylvania users will be automatically rerouted to Pa.PlaySugarHouse.com).
But bettors will need to register separately in Pennsylvania, because the operator is unable to share account information across state lines, the result of a Justice Department opinion in January that strictly reinterpreted the federal Wire Act, which prohibits interstate wagering.
Though the SugarHouse betting app can be accessed on an Android phone, a desktop PC, or a Mac, it is unavailable on the Apple mobile platform, iOS, for now. That is because Apple has been clamping down on new apps that are “wrapped” versions of an operator’s website, which has held up the launch of online gaming in Pennsylvania, said Mattias Stetz, the chief operating officer of Rush Street Interactive, a unit of the casino’s parent company, Rush Street Gaming.
It’s unclear when the Apple system may be ready to go, but SugarHouse officials were trying not to let the glitch tarnish the occasion.
“It’s just an unbelievable day for us at SugarHouse and for sports bettors across the commonwealth," said Evan Davis, general counsel for SugarHouse Casino. "We see in New Jersey the appetite for wagering on sports online.”
“It’s a big day for us,” said Stetz. He said SugarHouse’s successful online betting operation in New Jersey, as well as a combined casino and sportsbook in Colombia, sped up the regulatory approval in Pennsylvania.
Before approving online sports betting for public launch, regulators ran SugarHouse’s online systems through the paces for several days to test the accounting systems, the mechanisms to exclude underage gamblers, and the geolocation technology, which makes sure that only bettors inside the state boundaries are wagering, said McGarvey.
Other Pennsylvania casinos, which began taking sports bets in November at their brick-and-mortar locations, are expected to quickly follow suit. “Others are getting close, but we don’t have specific dates for them,” said McGarvey.
With the launch of online sports betting, industry experts say betting will grow dramatically in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, customers placing bets on mobile platforms or from desktop devices now account for about 80 percent of the sports betting volume.
Online sports betting in Pennsylvania is launching just in time to capture heightened interest of bettors for the championship playoffs for both the NBA and the NHL. But U.S. sports betting overall is expected to slow somewhat during the summer months until professional and collegiate football begin in the fall.
Pennsylvania sports betting has generated modest returns since launching in November at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, generating $5.5 million in gross revenue in March on $44.5 million in bets. By comparison, New Jersey reported nearly six times more revenue from sports betting — $31.7 million in revenue on $372.5 million in sports bets in March.
SugarHouse uses a proprietary in-house platform to operate its online gambling offerings, such as managing the accounts, said Stetz.
The SugarHouse sports betting lines and odds are managed by Kambi Group PLC, a European operator that is locating its North American headquarters in Philadelphia. Kambi also manages the sportsbook for Parx Casino, whose officials told regulators recently that they expect their systems to be ready for testing by the end of May.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are among the first states to legalize sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court decision a year ago that overturned a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada.