So much for legal bookmakers shunning Pennsylvania over its high sports-betting taxes.
The operator of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Dauphin County on Friday became the first applicant to offer sports betting in Pennsylvania, which is likely to trigger a flurry of petitions to launch sports wagering.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will not consider Hollywood's application before its Oct. 3 meeting, so sports wagering will not be in place before the Sept. 6 kickoff of the NFL season in Philadelphia. The casino, in a statement, said it expected to launch "later this fall."
The Grantville casino's sportsbook will be operated by William Hill USA, the giant British bookmaker that operates two legal sports-betting sites that opened in June at the New Jersey Shore.
Hollywood Casino's petition was filed two days after the Gaming Control Board approved the final installment of temporary regulations, governing sports betting in Pennsylvania. Only the state's 13 licensed casino operators are allowed to apply for sports-betting licenses.
Executives of Hollywood Casino and William Hill had been among the most vocal critics of the high fees and taxes set under Pennsylvania's 2017 sports-betting law, which fixes the license fee at $10 million and the tax rate at 36 percent, far higher than other states'. New Jersey's rate is 8.5 percent for sports wagering in casinos and 13 percent for online sports betting.
But state legislators had expressed confidence that casinos would swallow their displeasure and sign up to offer sports betting, despite the high taxes.
Several casinos have confirmed recently they intend to get on board.
Parx Casino in Bensalem announced July 30 it has partnered with GAN, a London-based gaming firm, to run its on-site and online sportsbooks. Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos announced last week it signed with the Stars Group of Canada to run its online wagering.
Fred Lipkin, Hollywood Casino's vice president of marketing, said the casino plans to locate its sportsbook in a newly renovated simulcast theater area.
"We believe this will provide us another attractive amenity at Hollywood Casino, in addition to our full suite of the latest slot machines, table games, multiple dining outlets, exciting live racing and soon to be online gaming offerings," Lipkin said in a statement.
The $10 million license fee, which goes into the state treasury, is due to be paid 60 days after the license is approved, but must be paid before the casino begins accepting bets.