MGM and Golden Nugget are well known to US gambling enthusiasts and are inching ever closer to being online casino gaming operators in PA.
Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Executive Director Kevin O’Toole told the board that the two industry giants had been approved worthy of Qualified Gaming Entity (QGE) status. As such, MGM and Golden Nugget are now theoretically eligible to hold one or more of the state’s new online gaming licenses.
No fire sale – but licenses still left on the table
The PGCB created the QGE category when they failed to “sell out” of the 39 online gaming licenses they created. They made three types of license (online slots, online table games, and online poker) for each of Pennsylvania’s existing 13 land-based casinos – if they wanted them, that is. The pricing structure was $4 million per license or a casino could take the 3-pack for $10 million.
Only ten casinos applied for licences – and three of these opted not to take the online poker license. That left the PGCB holding 12 licenses: nine for online poker and three each for online slots and table games. That’s when they opened up the door for out-of-state applicants and conceived of the QGE status.
The PGCB expected a flood of applicants wanting a piece of PA’s online gaming market, going so far as to plan out an elaborate lottery system to deal with the hordes clamoring for licenses. Well, they can relax about the lottery. Only MGM and Golden Nugget showed up. Even worse, while MGM is expected to apply for all three licenses, Golden Nugget will only apply for slots and table games.
This omission, combined with the three land-based PA casinos who declined the online poker license tells us that industry experts expect online poker to be a difficult market to recoup license fees in and generate a profit.
The net result will be that the PGCB will fail to sell all the licenses they created. Unless something dramatic happens, seven of these licenses will never be issued and used.
Next step: the actual online gaming license application
MGM and Golden Nugget have now overcome the first hurdle to operating online gaming in Pennsylvania. Next they must submit the same applications the other PA casinos did and wait for approval. This won’t be a rubber-stamp process, but it is easily to predict they will be approved. None of the ten in-state casinos had any problems getting approved. Further evidence of their “qualifications” – MGM and Golden Nugget are currently operating legal online casino gaming in New Jersey and run physical casinos in many other locations.
So we expect them to be approved. As mentioned earlier, this will result in MGM holding licenses to operate online slots, table games, and online poker while Golden Nugget will be licensed to run online slots and table games only.
So when can we expect MGM and Golden Nugget to open their virtual doors?
No online casino operations expected soon
The earliest MGM and Golden Nugget can present their applications is at the next meeting of the PGCB which isn’t until Feb 6. In addition to that delay, we don’t expect a quick ruling because the PGCB seems to be focusing most of its attention on their newly legalized sportsbooks and Video Gaming Terminals. For the moment, rolling out online casino gaming seems to have been sidelined.
On deck are the ten local casinos who have already been approved for online gaming but have yet to be given final authorization to launch. Most experts think the PGCB isn’t going to pull the lever until Spring.
This gives MGM and Golden Nugget time to catch up to the starting line before the race starts – which is probably exactly what the PGCB is aiming at. It would be arguably unfair to charge all these casino operators the same license fee but then allow some of them to begin operations before others. This would be an extremely important head-start on market share acquisition that would promote hard feelings on the late-comers at the very least.
So in the area of online gaming, it seems the PGCB is aiming for a level playing field, but that isn’t the case for sportsbooks. While in-state sports betting license holders will soon be launching online versions of their sportsbooks, QGEs won’t be able to do the same. Their licenses aren’t any good for taking sports bets. In that important online gaming arena, local operators will maintain a very privileged position.
What should eager PA online gaming enthusiasts do in the meantime?
Those unwilling to wait for these online gambling opportunities to appear should take a look at Pennsylvania’s online lottery.It’s up and running with a wide variety of fun games where you can play and win real money. Even better, new players who sign up to the PA iLottery with bonus code WINNER will receive $5 free to play just for signing up. Also available is a 50% deposit bonus up to $50 for your initial deposit.
It’s not quite online slots, table games or poker, but it is legal online gambling and it’s available right now.