It didn’t take long for Pennsylvania to move from 11 to 12 online sportsbooks, as Betfred received state approval Wednesday for permanent operation of its site.
The longtime British bookmaker, whose Pennsylvania operation is tethered to the Wind Creek Bethlehem casino, had a real-money test operation Tuesday and cleared requirements to go live for good at about noon Wednesday.
The approval comes less than a week after BetMGM launched the state’s 11th online sportsbook and a little more than a month after Wind Creek opened its retail sportsbook using Betfred USA Sports, the U.S. subsidiary of the British company.
The retail sportsbook, like all those in Pennsylvania, is closed until at least Jan. 4 as a result of a statewide order shutting down the casinos due to COVID-19 concerns.
Pennsylvania is Betfred’s third state
Betfred previously launched retail and online sportsbooks in Colorado and Iowa and gives Pennsylvania bettors yet another option in shopping lines and bonus offers for wide-ranging professional and collegiate sports across the U.S. and around the world.
Rather than creating its own Betfred website and app in Pennsylvania, the sportsbook is piggybacking off of the existing play.windcreekcasino.com site and app that the casino created in July for its iCasino games. The site provides a toggling option between accessing the online casino or sportsbook, and a promotions tab advertises a 100% welcome match for a first deposit of up to $400.
Betfred USA Sports COO Bryan Bennett told Penn Bets last month the goal was to be operational digitally in Pennsylvania by year’s end, and he was glad Wednesday to have met that.
“Sooner is always better. We would have liked to be out earlier in the football season, but these things take time,” he said. “It works out nicely now, given the start of the NBA season and all of the sports going on, starting a new year with the Super Bowl only a month away and March Madness soon after that. Those big events were really the impetus.”
Betfred will not have the same U.S. name recognition as many of its competitors in the increasingly crowded Pennsylvania market, which is why it’s attaching itself to Wind Creek’s brand and digital platform. The three largest-volume sites — FanDuel, DraftKings, and Barstool — collectively claim more than three-fourths of the online betting handle.
Wind Creek is the second largest casino in the state in terms of revenue, and Betfred hopes foremost to attract its regular casino customers who also have interest in sports betting, whether or not they are already signed up with other online sites.
“At core, everyone has all the same markets, similar in terms of bet options,” Bennett said of the sportsbooks. “For differentiating, for me and Betfred it really comes down to providing the overall best guest experience — getting the deposits in, getting the deposits out, offering competitive pricing and bonuses and boosts, and making it easy for guests to do business with Betfred and Wind Creek.”
He said he expects the site next month to begin offering special welcome promotions tailored to sports bettors. The $400 deposit match offered now is one that applies to all customers who are new to the Wind Creek site, regardless of betting on casino games or sports.
Will new sites spur more betting volume?
Betfred’s arrival comes at a time when Pennsylvania has experienced a curious drop in sports wagering. In November, when the sports handle increased from the month before in comparable states , the volume of betting declined in Pennsylvania 6.4% to $491.4 million from a record $525.8 million in October.
Now the question becomes whether, with the addition of two more online sites in BetMGM and Betfred, that number will resume increasing. Bennett believes it will.
“I definitely don’t think it’s plateaued,” he said. “Coming into the state, we still think there’s a lot of growth to be had, especially once the retail casinos can open again safely. We think there’s lots of room for growth and are very bullish on the state.”
At the same time, the company has further ambitions for 2021. Bennett said Betfred is certain to launch its online and retail operations in Nevada next year and hopes to do so in up to five other states as well. He said that number will depend on the regulatory process in newly legalized states such as Virginia and Louisiana.