After announcing plans for sports betting offerings in West Virginia and Mississippi, Penn National Gaming has made yet another bold move by applying for a sports betting license in the state of Pennsylvania. This became official last Friday when the Berks County-based casino operator submitted a petition to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the state regulator. The petition outlined the operator’s plans to operate a sports books at its facility in the state, that is, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in East Hanover Township.
“Our plan is to locate our sports book in a newly renovated simulcast theater area at Hollywood Casino and the operations will be managed by William Hill US, the largest sports betting operator in the United States. Operations are expected to begin later this fall upon final approval by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board,” said Fred Lipkin, the vice president of marketing for the property.
Braving the High Costs
The 107-page application was a sign that Penn National Gaming was bold enough to agree to the upfront cost that amounted to a whopping $10 million licensing fee plus the 36 percent state and local tax rate that the sports betting operators in the Keystone State will be subject to. In fact, many of the state’s licenses casino operators have chosen to stay in the sidelines due to these costs.
Pennsylvania’s tax rate is about five times the tax rate in Nevada – it is also bound to go even higher to up to 41 percent when the federal tax and effective tax rate in Pennsylvania are all factored in.
“While we continue to have concerns about the tax rate, we ultimately decided to try to make a go of it, while continuing to educate the legislature on the importance of a competitive tax rate,” Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers commented. “We felt the best way to do that is to share our firsthand experience with them.”
While the move by Penn National Gaming is indeed a step forward in the right direction for sports betting as a whole in the state, there are worries that the rather high fee structure will force Penn National and other operators to offer unattractive or unfavorable betting odds in order to recover the costs they will incur due to the high tax rates.
Even so, Penn National’s application for the sports betting license is very likely to trigger a wave of similar petitions from the remaining 12 Pennsylvanian casino operators regardless of the controversial tax rate.