Rivers Casino launches online sportsbook | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Rivers Casino launches online sportsbook

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People place bets on various sports games at the Rivers Sportsbook inside Rivers Casino on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.

Think the Steelers will bring home the Vince Lombardi trophy this year?

You can place your bet online now.

Western Pennsylvania’s first online sportsbook — BetRivers.com — launched Tuesday through Rivers Casino and sports betting provider Rush Street Interactive.

Fans can now bet on the go, with all the features of the on-site sports betting kiosks that are located inside the North Shore casino. Games from around the world are available and include baseball, football and basketball.

A test period will run from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday and again from 2 p.m. to midnight Wednesday. Bets placed during the trial run will be real-money wagers. Following approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the app, available on desktop and some mobile platforms, will be live 24/7.

Immediate interest in the app could be muted since there typically is a lull in sports betting before the NFL season starts up, said Dustin Gouker, an analyst for the sports betting news site PlayNJ.com.

Issues with an update to Apple’s review guidelines for app functionality also could hinder growth for Pennsylvania sports betting apps as operators across the state struggle to get make their apps available for download on iPhone or iPad, Gouker said.

Android users can download the Rivers app to their phones from the BetRivers.com site and must be at least 21 to register.

Sportsbook operator Rush Street Interactive is working with Apple to test and review an app for iPhones and iPads, said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive.

Overall expectations are high for the Rivers app given the brick-and-mortar sportsbook’s strong performance, Schwartz said.

The Rivers sportsbook brought in the largest handle — $7.9 million of the statewide total of $35.4 million — of the state’s eight sportsbooks in May, according to figures provided by the state Gaming Control Board.

The Rivers’ sister casino in Philadelphia, SugarHouse, came in second with a $7.3 million on-site handle, the amount wagered, state figures show.

The SugarHouse online sportsbook, the first in the state, collected an additional $573,163 in bets over three-and-a-half test days in May.

Combined with the online handle, that translates to $711,845 in revenue for SugarHouse and $256,264 in taxes to the state, according to state Gaming Control Board figures.

“The way we see the app is as another partner in the business,” said Andre Barnabei, Rivers’ vice president of slot operations, adding that in-game features could offer a wider variety of bets. “I think the app is going to be an incredible tool for in-game or live betting.”

Future enhancements to the app could include chat features for bettors to talk to each other, along with features and promotions that allow users to redeem loyalty points and other benefits at the casino, Schwartz said.

The app will use geofencing technology, which analyzes data transmitted from the phone to monitor whether users are in Pennsylvania, Barnabei said.

Users must be in Pennsylvania in order to place a bet.

Philadelphia-based Parx Casino also launched online sports betting this week.

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s year-old sports betting environment is rivaling Nevada’s, bringing in $318.9 million in May bets, according to sports betting news site PlayNJ.com.

There are currently 14 sportsbook apps and 10 brick-and-mortar books in the state.

New Jersey’s nine online sportsbooks operating in May brought in a $263.6 million handle — about 82% of the state’s total sports betting handle, according to PlayNJ.com — for $13.7 million in revenue, earning $1.8 million in taxes for the state.

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