Year in Review 2019: Sports betting takes center stage at local casinos
It was a huge year for the gambling industry in Philadelphia. Pennsylvanians wagered millions in online sports betting as it was rolled out this summer, and local casinos jumped in to the game with major investments, from in-house lounges to online apps and websites for bettors.
Here's what happened this year in the casino and gambling industries:
The chief executives of two of the largest gaming entities retired this year.
longtime head of Penn National Gaming and stalwart of the local gaming industry, announced his retirement this summer. He will leave at the end of 2019 and will be succeeded by Jay Snowden, 43, who has served as chief operating officer since 2014 and president since 2017.
Wilmott joined the Wyomissing-based casino owner in 2008, leading Penn National’s acquisition of Pinnacle Entertainment in 2018 for $2.8 billion.
The CEO of Greenwood Racing Inc., parent company of Bensalem-based Parx Casino, retired with little fanfare this year as well. Anthony Ricci left the company with no successor.
Ricci was named CEO in 2012 and previously served as chief financial officer, a position he held since 1993. He retired in April, and the casino has been governed by an executive management committee since he left. The committee consists of the CFO, chief operating officer and general counsel, the company said.
New player in town
Cordish Cos. is opening next year its first Philadelphia casino, the $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia. It will be the first casino in the city to have a hotel attached, with more than 200 rooms throughout its 12 floors. Cordish developed Xfinity Live! in the adjacent Sports Complex and will open the city’s first dedicated esports venue, the $50 million Fusion Arena, in 2021. The Baltimore company isn't stopping at the hotel and casino: Cordish is pursuing expanding its presence in Sports Complex district in the coming years.
Betting on sportsbooks
Casinos spent millions on opening sportsbooks this year after Pennsylvania legalized sports betting.
Parx Casino opened its $10 million sportsbook in August. The 7,400-square-foot space's walls are lined with a 155-feet wide television screen airing games from across various leagues for bettors to wager on. The space includes a full bar with about 40 seats and 150 recliners that visitors can sit in while watching games.
Recently-rebranded Rivers Casino — formerly known as SugarHouse Casino — also opened a sportsbook; a $5 million investment for the casino. The 5,300-square-foot sports betting space came as part of a $15 million rebrand for Rivers.
Not only have several casinos pursued sports betting through physical sportsbooks — they’re trying to capture the market for online sports betting as well.
Penn National teamed with DraftKings, PointsBet, theScore and The Stars Group to operate online betting in casinos it operates across 19 states. The company launched its online “iCasino” in Pennsylvania in August. Rivers even opened up a sportsbook-style lounge in the Wells Fargo Center with massive tv screens broadcasting other games and live odds. Fans can bet on games as they’re happening from their mobile devices with Rivers’ app.
Cordish was approved to have a full sportsbook and online sportsbook for the Live! casino as well. The company recently announced a partnership with online sports betting entity FanDuel for its sportsbook in Philadelphia.
Philly sports teams are also getting in on the action with casino marketing deals: the Eagles have a partnership with Unibet, the Flyers secured a partnership with Rush Street Interactive and Rivers Casino and the Philadelphia Union and the Sixers have partnerships with Parx Casino.
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By Kennedy Rose