State regulators on Wednesday approved three more Pennsylvania casinos to run sports-wagering operations, including SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, which said it plans to begin taking bets on Dec. 1.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board also approved sports-betting licenses for Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh.
Harrah's did not specify a start date. Rivers Casino, which like SugarHouse is owned by Rush Street Gaming LLC, said it planned to launch by Dec. 1.
Only five of the state's 13 casino license holders have applied for sports betting licenses, and the gaming board now has approved all of them. On Oct. 3, it approved Pennsylvania's first two sports betting licenses, for Parx Casino in Bensalem and Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County. Parx has said it hopes to launch in November.
New Jersey and Delaware began sports betting in June, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized nationwide sports wagering in May Pennsylvania regulators needed time to complete drafting regulations governing the business.
Pennsylvania's $10 million license fee, along with a 36 percent tax rate — four times higher than New Jersey's — were considered big impediments to the rollout of sports betting.
SugarHouse and Rivers said they would initially open sportsbooks in smaller temporary locations inside their facilities, and planned to construct more elaborate venues that would open early next year. Both casinos plan to remove some slot machines to make room for sports wagering.
The SugarHouse temporary sportsbook will occupy 1,800 square feet near the casino's north entrance next to the poker room and will contain seating for about 70 people. The permanent location will be built on the central gaming floor in an area now occupied by the Lucky Red Lounge.
Harrah's officials said its permanent 4,322-square foot sportsbook will be built in place of an existing concert venue, which will provide the stage for an array of flat-screen televisions surrounded by stadium-style seating.
Plans for internet sports betting will take several more months to develop, since interactive systems — including age-verification software and geolocation services — require more testing.
In just a few months of operation, interactive sports betting has become an important part of New Jersey's gambling industry. More than half of the $40.4 million sports bets placed in September were wagered online.
SugarHouse's parent company already operates an integrated casino gaming and sports-betting app in New Jersey under the PlaySugarHouse.com brand.
In other action, the gaming board approved interactive gaming licenses for Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie and Stadium Casino LLC, which has a permit to build and operate a casino in South Philadelphia. The two casinos sought licenses to operate online slot machine and casino table games, but not peer-to-peer poker games.
The board has previously approved seven licenses for internet gaming licenses for Parx, Harrah's, Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos, SugarHouse, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Sands Bethlehem, and Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia.
None has launched operations yet, as the regulatory agency needs to approve online service providers, to review the casinos' internal controls, and to test its equipment before betting can begin.
The board on Wednesday also approved a proposal by Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia to add 250 new slot machines to its gaming floor, taking its total to 850 machines.
The casino, which was recently acquired by Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas, plans to add the new equipment in phases in November and December.
The project will cost $9 million, including a $2.5 million license fee to the state, and $600,000 for new carpeting throughout the casino floor.