PlaySugarHouse.com? Sure, why not? By Justin Martin, CDC Gaming Reports June 13, 2019 at 8:00 pm In the wide-open sports betting climate that’s emerged in the U.S. post-PASPA, there are basically two questions that every jurisdiction has been hearing: when are you going to legalize sports betting, and when can we do it online? Brick-and-mortar market saturation and Wire Act uncertainty notwithstanding, we all essentially live online now, and there’s likely no real way a state’s legalization of sports gambling, or any other form of gaming, will carry much weight unless it’s accompanied by a way of wagering, if not via app, then at least via website.The PlaySugarHouse.com homepage As it happens, I live in Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Wolf not long ago signed a sweeping bill legalizing mini-casinos, sports betting, and online wagering of virtually all types. When the PlaySugarHouse.com platform went live last week, I thought it might be interesting to take it for a spin, just because I could. I suppose it’s worth noting that, though I’m a reasonably committed sports fan, I’ve never really gambled on sports. I play the horses occasionally, but other than that, I’ve been happy to just have my rooting interests and watch the games. I’ve never even played fantasy; it always seemed like too much headache. That said, it’s good to try new things. So here’s what I learned after playing around with PlaySugarHouse.com for a couple of days. This may reflect my never having used an online betting platform before, but the first thing I thought after logging into PlaySugarHouse.com was how potentially overwhelming it was. Looking at it carefully, it didn’t take all that long to figure out what the array of names, odds and buttons meant. But given my short attention span, I completely overlooked the code, offered in a popup when you first visit the site and hidden thereafter in what amounts to plain sight on the top graphics bar of the main page, that allows you to double your initial deposit up to $250. This doesn’t even touch on the mesmerizing, and somewhat intimidating, array of wagering options available. Intimidating not because they’re difficult to understand, but because there are just so many of them. I counted more than 100 different individual wagering options available for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals alone. The betting opportunities seemed almost gloriously absurd – for instance, whether or not the Blues’ fourth line defenseman would score the first goal of the game. He wouldn’t, most likely, but a $1 bet would win you $200 if he did. I got the feeling that, once in-play wagering takes off in the U.S., the granular opportunities to make – and lose – money are probably going to make 100-plus wagers on one game seem low-key. And bettors that stick to the money line, or straight win, might feel they’re living in a different world altogether. As for the bonus, I asked a representative about it and was told “it happens all the time, don’t sweat it.” I answered my security questions, and seconds later my account was credited. That was gratifying, although, considering that, since this was an experiment, I’d only deposited $10 initially, part of me thought, “That’s pretty pathetic. Maybe you should have deposited $50 or something. You only get the bonus once.” Which, of course, is what you’re supposed to think. There are also promotional options available on the site that have nothing to do with sports betting which likely indicate the sorts of enticements that will be undoubtedly be coupled with online sports betting. For example, SugarHouse offers a players rewards program that guarantees free money – if patrons visit the casino. One thing I found particularly interesting – and sort of unsettling – is how easy it was to not only place a bet on the site, but how quickly my thoughts turned to placing more of them, especially as I watched a wager go down the tubes. In other words, after a lifetime of not being interested in sports betting at all, it took two visits to PlaySugarHouse.com – probably no more than an hour of time on-site, all told – for my thinking to change almost completely. I’d put a cheap bet down on the second game of the New York Mets/New York Yankees doubleheader, Yankees and +9.5 runs. I figured the game would be high-scoring, and I took the Yankees because the game was at Yankee Stadium and the Mets are the Mets. The Yankees were starting the erratic but hard-throwing James Paxton; the Mets had journeyman Jason Vargas going, whose history at Yankee Stadium was, putting it mildly, not very good. Naturally, the Mets hit Paxton all over the Stadium, and Vargas’ change-up, or whatever he throws, was working well. By the fifth inning, with the Mets up 9-3, I knew that my feeling about the line had been right, and that I should never count on the Yankees for anything but misery. It meant the loss of about thirty dollars’ profit – not really a big deal, and this was only an experiment, anyway – but I was irritated because I’d initially wanted to take the Mets and had talked myself out of it. But – instead of shutting down the computer and going to read or watch TV, or just going to another website – I spent the next hour or so looking at other potential bets, largely without even realizing why I was doing so. I didn’t wind up placing any other bets, and I’m not sure I ever will, but the temptation was strong. And I might have bet tonight if I’d been able to access my account; I’ve still got twenty dollars in my account. (Incidentally, that’s another thing worth noting – my ancient ThinkPad had no problem with SugarHouse’s geolocation software, but my fairly new desktop couldn’t read the plugin in three different browsers.) I’m not sure this means anything for U.S. sports betting in general. All I can say for certain is that I was very surprised how easy it was to go from being completely naïve about sports betting to thinking about parlays and money lines as though I’d been doing it for years. The site looks busy, but the learning curve is shallow, and I think most sports fans know what a money line is even if they don’t gamble themselves. My suspicion is that there will be a few years of serious profit for most operators and some bettors, and then a vocal and fervent backlash from people wondering just why it was so easy for so many people to lose so much money. Because at PlaySugarHouse.com, it’s not money – it’s just a number on a screen. And there’s always another temptation sitting there, waiting for you. Justin Martin is the associate editor of CDC Gaming Reports.