Hollywood Casino Sportsbook Draws in Younger Crowd of Bettors

Hollywood Casino Sportsbook East Hanover

Pennsylvania sportsbook taxes are twice as high as in New Jersey, where Borgata is a top operator.

Hollywood Casino in East Hanover Township in Dauphin County is the first legal operating sportsbook in Pennsylvania. According to early reports, local bettors are enthusiastic about the casino’s bookmaker operation.

Early reports also suggest that the sportsbook is drawing in a younger crowd than usual to Penn National Gaming’s casino in East Hanover.

Fred Lipkin, the VP of Marketing for Hollywood Casino, said, “I think we’re seeing a little bit of a younger crowd than we’re used to seeing in the casino.”

Lipkin added, “A lot of people never came out to the casino. They just thought it was slot machines and table games but it’s an entire entertainment experience. It’s dining. It’s gaming.”

Sportsbook Draws Younger Bettors

Hollywood Casino’s management long thought the sports betting operation would attract a younger crowd. That was the plan, so the casino took steps to take advantage of the new crowd, such as drawing attention to the kind of casino games younger bettors might enjoy.

Sports betting has a small margin, so the betting activity does not always have a direct effect on a casino’s bottom line — at least a big effect. Instead, sports betting draws in visitors who would not normally step foot in a casino.

Once inside, the visitor might engage in other forms of gambling that have a higher margin, such as table games or slot machine play. Or they might enjoy the ambiance of the casino and decide to stay in the hotel or eat in the restaurants. Sportsbooks are another draw for customers, and often one which involves younger players.

Hollywood Casino Sportsbook Opening on Nov. 17

Receiving the first sportbook license, which allowed Hollywood Casino to start taking bets on November 17, was a huge coup for Penn National Gaming. NFL and NCAA football were entering the key phases of their seasons, while the NBA and NHL were beginning their regular seasons.

Lipkin said of the current time frame, “The months from September through March Madness are going to be the most powerful months at a sports book.”

It is no coincidence Penn National Gaming won the first sportsbook license. Penn National is a Pennsylvania-based gaming company, while many other casino owners are from out of state. Also, Penn National Gaming played nice during the Category 4 “satellite casino” bidding process. Penn National made the biggest bid on a $50.1 million casino license, then became the only two-time auction winner when other operators declined to make bids on mini-casinos — a bidding process designed to swell the Pennsylvania treasury’s coffers with casino license fees.

Penn National Gaming also paid an additional $10 million for a sportsbook license. Offering Penn National the first sportsbook license is a way to pay back a loyal operator and a local business owner. The Hollywood Casino can build a loyal player database before its competitors open their sportsbooks.

Local Sports Bettor Raves on Sportsbook

The reception so far has been enthusiastic. Joseph D’Amato, a horse racing enthusiast, said the excitement was palpable among local sports bettors. D’Amato, one of the first to make a bet at Hollywood Casino’s sportsbook, said, “I was here to bet the races and came down from upstairs and came where they usually have this. Next thing I see, they have the boards.”

“I knew as soon as I saw the boards set up, sports betting was here. I think everybody’s been waiting for it.”

Pennsylvania Sports Bettors Are Pleased

Fred Lipkin says Pennsylvania gamblers are pleased, because they can stay in the region and engage in gambling usually associated with the Las Vegas Strip. Lipkin said, “We’ve heard so much favorable about ‘boy are we glad sports betting is here. They don’t have to go to Vegas. They don’t have to drive to Delaware.”

Pennsylvania is as sports-friendly as any state in the Union. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh area sports fans now can place bets on the Eagles and Steelers, the Phillies and Pirates, and the 76ers.

Pennsylvania Sportsbook Competition

When the full Pennsylvania sports betting industry launches, the competition with Hollywood Casino should be fierce. Parx Casino in Philadelphia will be a strong competitor, because it will draw in many sports bettors from the Philadelphia area.

Bethlehem Sands Casino & Resort, which soon will be owned by the Poarch Band of Indians (Alabama), also could be tough competition. Under its current ownership, Las Vegas Sands Corp, the Bethlehem Sands casinos installed 150 electronic roulette machines in an electronic gaming studio.

The electronic roulette studio is designed to appeal to younger gamblers. They get to play using technology, as they are used to. Their social interaction with strangers is less, though they can visit the casino with friends and enjoy gambling with their own social group. DJs are on hand to provide musical entertainment as the players play. If millennial age sports bettors walk into a place like Bethlehem Sands, they are likely to stay for other forms of gambling.

In the end, all of Pennsylvania’s casinos with sportsbooks are going to prosper from the new sports betting laws. Depending on their approach to marketing, some will prosper more than others.