Churchill Downs to Invest in New Jersey, Pennsylvania Sports Betting Markets

During an earnings call with investors, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen (l.) said the company plans to invest in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sports betting markets during 2019 and is looking for further expansion in the U.S. sports betting market.

Churchill Downs will continue to invest in online sports betting in markets like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois and continue to develop online products, according to CEO Bill Carstanjen.

During an earnings call with investors, Carstanjen said the company is looking to expand its online offerings into new markets.

“We will spend a modest amount on sports betting and iGaming markets in 2019 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Carstanjen said. “We like states that we believe may ultimately grant access to sports and online casino gaming to their brick-and-mortar casino license holders. We have a deeply experienced online team, and an important objective for this team is to lead us beyond horse racing into sports betting and online casino wagering.”

Carstanjen said the extent of the company’s investment will rely on factors such as obtaining regulatory approvals and return on its initial investments. The company, however, has been pleased with its initial results in New Jersey.

 “We’ve been surprised how well we started in New Jersey because we have not yet marketed in any material way,” Carstanjen said. “We’re still awaiting approval from Apple to put our iOS app in the Apple Store.”

Churchill Downs is partnered with BetAmerica for its sports betting and online casino operations and also plans to plans to open a BetAmerica sportsbook at Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Downs casino in Erie Pennsylvania this year. The company acquired the casino from Eldorado Resorts for $178.9 million. Carstanjen said the 1,275 square-foot sportsbook will feature 50 self-service betting kiosks and 50 televisions.

The company is also looking to enter the Illinois market by acquiring 50.1 percent of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. The company signed a $407 million agreement in October that could potentially increase its ownership to 62 percent.

“If Illinois ultimately grants sports betting and iGaming rights to brick-and-mortar casino license holders,” Carstanjen said, “Rivers is in a casino market we have always valued.”

Churchill Downs generated net revenue of $219 million in the fourth quarter on 2018, up 22 percent from the prior quarter.