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Jay Snowden

President and CEO, Penn Entertainment

Jay Snowden

Penn Entertainment is one of the largest casino companies in the industry, with 43 casinos across the U.S. Jay Snowden has been CEO since 2017, and has led the Penn charge into the online sports betting and iGaming space. After a first misfire arrangement with Barstool Sports, Penn recently partnered with ESPN, and their ESPN BET has quickly become one of the leading online sportsbooks in the nation. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the East Coast Gaming Congress in April. To see and hear a full version of this interview as a GGB Podcast, visit the podcast article, here.

GGB: Do you consider any one of your 43 casinos as your flagship?

Snowden: It’s an interesting question. I think for a lot of companies, our competitors, the answer’s more obvious. Caesars Palace for Caesars, and Bellagio or MGM for MGM Resorts. For us, we don’t have that prime Las Vegas Strip asset, but we’ve got all of these amazing properties across the country. The only one we have in Las Vegas is a beautiful property, M Resort, where we just broke ground on another 400-room hotel. But I don’t know if I would say we have a flagship.

Let’s talk about Louisiana. You’ve got beautiful properties in that state. How are those properties performing?

Louisiana has been a stellar market for us. We have some premier assets in Lake Charles and Baton Rouge. The other one in that market that is a great asset is the Margaritaville property in Bossier City, which we acquired. Two of those were built ground-up, and one was done through acquisition. And all three of those are best in market, best in class.

You’ve got a property in Illinois, where they also have the video gaming terminals. How did that impact the slot drop at Penn casinos there?

This is a really, really interesting topic. In Illinois, the games that you see at bars and taverns are regulated and the entities that run those operations are licensed. There’s a regulatory system in place. They make more money on VGTs now than we do in the casinos, which is pretty amazing. So there has been an impact.

We decided pretty early on to get involved in the route operation business, because it’s legal, because it’s regulated, and it was impacting our casinos’ double-digit percentages. So if it’s going to impact your casino revenue, we wanted to at least try to protect them, so we got involved in the route operation. We bought a company called Prairie State Gaming, and we have a really good team that’s running that for us now. It’s in growth mode—we’re in the top five in terms of operations in the state of Illinois.

In your home state of Pennsylvania, they just had a court decision which held skill games are legal. What are you looking for the state to do now?

We think that was a bad interpretation. Obviously, if you sit down at one of these machines and you play them, you realize it’s a slot machine. So you can defend them all day calling them skill and showing how it’s skill. But if it’s not something that you feel when you’re sitting there, I think that has to be something that is considered, but it wasn’t. So we’ll continue to fight it legally.

Tell us how the ESPN sports betting deal came together.

It’s very interesting. I think ESPN really was looking for a while at how they wanted to get involved or engage with online sports betting. And I think that it took them a while to come to the conclusion that they wanted to actually jump in. ESPN did a lot of research, now that it’s legal in so many states, and concluded that betting on sports is just part of the entertainment experience for a sports fan. It’s fun, it’s exciting. And so they got to a point where they had come to the conclusion that they were ready to lead with their brands. Then it was, “Who do we want partner with?” They went through a process. They really liked our team. They liked our technology stack, they liked that we owned it all. We controlled that roadmap. And so we struck a deal; we announced that in August. We went live in November. It’s early days.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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