Pennsylvania Gambling Regulator to Consider Presque Isle Casino Sale at First 2019 Meeting

Presque Isle Downs & Casino awaits regulatory approval on Churchill Downs takeover, launch of legal sports betting

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is set to consider the sale of Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie to Churchill Downs at its first meeting of this year. If the transaction receives the necessary regulatory approval, it could officially close as early as Friday morning, local news outlet Go Erie reports.

Churchill Downs first announced its plan to buy Presque Isle Casino in February 2018. The company said back then that it had entered into two definitive agreements with Eldorado Resorts to buy the Erie property as well as Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi for a total consideration of nearly $230 million.

Casino takeover deals typically require approval from the gambling regulators that oversee the activities of the venues that are being sold. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is set to meet today for the first time this year and the Presque Isle Casino sale occupies the top spot on its agenda. If Churchill Downs receives regulatory approval to buy the Erie-based gambling venue, the deal could be finalized as soon as Friday.

Presque Isle Casino opened doors in 2007. The property operates 2,000 slot machines and a number of table games. According to information from Pennsylvania’s gambling regulator, the property recorded slot machine revenue of $114 million and table game revenue of $125 million during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018.

Sports Betting Could Soon Arrive to Erie

Presque Isle Downs & Casino is also seeking approval from the Gaming Control Board to operate sports betting at the property. The gambling venue filed its sports betting petition with the regulator on December 7. Kevin O’Sullivan, General Manager of the casino and horse racetrack, told local media that they hope to be on the board’s February docket to “present [their] sports wagering format.”

Mr. O’Sullivan went on to say that they are currently looking at “carving out space” on their existing gaming floor to make room for a designated sports betting facility. Some of the lower-performance slot games at the casino will be replaced for the purpose, it also emerged.

The Presque Isle Casino GM further dwelt that customers have been excited and have been asking how long it will take before the sportsbook becomes operational and whether it will go live for March Madness.

Pennsylvania was the seventh state to launch legal sports betting following last year’s SCOTUS ruling that lifted a federal ban on the activity. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course was the first state property to file a sports betting petition with the Gaming Control Board and the first to open a sportsbook. That happened in mid-November.

Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia went live with sports betting a month later, and Parx Casino in Bensalem soft-launched its sportsbook this past Tuesday. The property is currently undergoing a 48-hour testing period and if it goes as planned, it will open officially its sports betting facility on Thursday. Valley Forge Resort Casino and Harrah’s Philadelphia have both been given the green light to operate sports gambling but are yet to undergo a testing period.

Commenting on the anticipated launch of betting, Mr. O’Sullivan said that they do not believe it will overtake slot machine and table game revenue, but it will still appeal “to a strong niche and carry over to additional revenue.”

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