New Philly Sportsbook Set to Open as Harrah’s Introduces “The Book”

If all goes well with a two-day testing period scheduled for today and tomorrow, Delaware County will see the opening of the new sports betting venue at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack on Thursday.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) will be running tests at “The Book” (as Harrah’s has named the venue) for several hours a day. Harrah’s applied for a sports betting license in September last year.

“We are excited to bring sports betting to Delaware County and allow our guests from the tri-state area to experience our property in a whole new way,” said Harrah’s Philadelphia Senior Vice President and General Manager Chris Albrecht.

“With our gaming offering, live harness racing, our event center, award-winning restaurants and now the sportsbook, Harrah’s Philadelphia remains a must visit destination in the Philadelphia region.”

PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach said PGCB staff would be present during the test period to make sure all casino staff are prepared to handle customers, properly manage wagers and are able to identify signs of problem gambling.

Wagers and payouts will be live during the test period, but final approval from the PGCB will allow The Book to move to permanent hours of operation. The sportsbook plans to be open every day from 11 AM until midnight during the week and from 10 AM to midnight on weekends.

Introducing The Book as the Latest Addition to Philadelphia Sports Betting

Philly’s newest sportsbook is located at the back of the casino floor and will offer wagers on a bevy of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, soccer, hockey and college athletics. Customers can also choose from a multitude of bet types, ranging from straight bets to parlay bets, in-game betting, totals and more.

The Book boasts 19 lounge seats, high-top tables, bar seating and 45 large screen TVs to allow patrons to watch their favorite games in real-time. The casino plans to offer a food and beverage menu tailored specifically for days when games are live. Not too far from The Book, customers will also have easy access to regular casino table games, horse racing terminals and other gaming options.

The casino has announced a first-day promotion awarding the first 1,000 people to place sports bets on Thursday with a commemorative The Book t-shirt. And starting now, every sports wager made will earn Harrah’s Total Rewards points for members of the casino’s long-running loyalty program.

A page on the Harrah’s Philadelphia website announces that “full contact sports betting” is now a reality at The Book. “It’s time to break up with your bookie, and step up your game at an all-new style of sports book!”

The Daily Times also reports that when Harrah’s submitted an application to offer on-site sports betting, officials estimated the launch of The Book will create 10 new full-time jobs. The casino will offer mobile and interactive sports betting as well in partnership with Caesars Interactive Entertainment.

The EVP of Gaming and Interactive Entertainment for Caesars, Christian Stuart, told The Daily Times this:

“The launch of retail sports betting at Harrah’s Philadelphia is another exciting milestone, showcasing Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to leading this expanding industry.”

When “The Book” opens, it will be the fourth sports book in the Philadelphia area, and the sixth in the entire state since the landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court last year. In short, the ruling found the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) unconstitutional, which paved the way for states such as Pennsylvania to introduce legal sports betting.

PA Sports Wagering Revenue Reported

 In its latest press release from January 17th, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board published its December 2018 monthly report for sports wagering. The report incorporated full month revenue returns from the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and partial month revenue from SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. The two latter casinos introduced sports betting operations in the middle of the month.

Over the course of December, all three sportsbooks together handled more than $16 million in wagers for more than $2 million in revenue and $722,356 in tax revenue.

Broken down, the numbers look like this:

  • Rivers Casino: Revenue – $1,066,157; Taxes – $383,816
  • SugarHouse Casino: Revenue – $641,167; Taxes – $230,820
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course: Revenue – $299,222; Taxes – $107,720

From the $722,356 in tax revenues from sports wagering in December 2018, state taxes grabbed the bulk at $682,225, while $40,131 went to local share assessments. Pennsylvania assesses a 36% tax on sports betting revenues, which is the highest in the nation not counting Rhode Island’s Lottery-run sports betting regime.

The PGCB released these figures on the same day as Parx Casino in Philadelphia became the state’s fifth legal sports betting location. Over in Philadelphia, the people at Parx Casino spent about a million dollars updating and modifying the Turf Club to transform it from a pure horse racing facility into a combined racebook/sportsbook.

And What About Online Gambling?

 As sports betting rushes full steam ahead in the state, one can’t help wonder why the introduction of online gambling in Pennsylvania continues to stall. When casinos were required to declare by last July whether they wanted to pay $10 million for online poker, slots and table game licenses, it seemed the industry would be launching imminently. However, here we are six months down the line and still waiting for something to happen.

PGCB spokesman Richard McGavey told Philly.com earlier this month he believes online gambling will make its appearance during the “second quarter” of this year.

Pennsylvania’s implementation of online gambling hasn’t been helped by the recent Department of Justice decision to reverse its opinion regarding the Wire Act, either. Last week, the PGCB notified online gaming licensees that they must take extra care to ensure all online gaming infrastructure takes place entirely in state.

The key portion of the notice read as follows:

“While we fully recognize that this change may alter the plans of licensees in implementing expanded gaming offerings. It is a change not of the Board’s making but one commanded by the changing interpretation by federal law enforcement authorities. It is your obligation to comply with the federal law in all respects in establishing your gaming operations which must now be entirely ‘intrastate’.”

Pennsylvania’s online gaming regulations previously allowed operators to host servers out-of-state for certain aspects of processing online wagers. The sudden change in the DOJ’s interpretation of the Wire Act has shaken things up throughout the industry, so a delay in Pennsylvania is not completely unexpected.