Pennsylvania’s regulators at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) met on Wednesday and approved pending online gaming applications from SugarHouse Casino and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
The two licenses in question are Pennsylvania’s new full online gaming licenses. They cost $10 million and authorize casino operators to offer online slots, online table games, and online poker. If an operator only wanted access to one or two of these gaming verticals, they could buy them piecemeal for $4 million each. Getting the whole bundle yields a $2 million “savings”.
Sugarhouse touts its independence, innovation, and success in NJ
Sugarhouse Casino parent company Rush Street Gaming made a presentation at the meeting that focused on their suitability for operating an online casino in Pennsylvania. They focused on the impressive share of the online gaming market they had acquired in New Jersey – this despite spotting their competitors a three-year head start. They also cited the following positive aspects of their operation:
- The company has a proven familiarity with Pennsylvania gaming operations
- They are private, have a long-term focus in the PA market, and run their operation on “successful gaming principles.”
- They have a “nimble and focused team” with strong backgrounds in online gaming.
- They have only ever operated in expressly legal and regulated markets, including Columbia, where they tested their sportsbook before bringing it to New Jersey.
- They have innovated in the online market by developing their own iGaming platform called Rush Street Interactive.
Penn National partners with IGT
At the meeting, Penn National (operator of Hollywood Casino) surprised some by announcing that they would be partnering with IGT to provide their online casino offerings. It was previously expected that Scientific Games (SG) would play this role, since SG is currently running Hollywood Casino’s social “play money” site.
IGT is a major player in the world-wide gaming market. They are already operating in New Jersey and with this partnership, move into the Pennsylvania market as well. It is a sure bet that they will be capitalizing on the newly altered regulatory landscape in the US and will seek to be heavily involved in this market as it sweeps across the country.
IGT isn’t just an online casino player either. With their recent partnership with FanDuel (a well known Daily Fantasy Sports and sports betting company), IGT will be heavily involved in sports betting in the US now that the US Supreme Court has cleared the way for states to legalize the practice.
Five licenses approved so far…
These two casinos now join the ranks of the “approved” online gaming license applicants. The total list of approved casinos is:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia – approved in mid-August
- Parx Casino – approved in mid-August
- Mount Airy Resort Casino – approved in mid-August
- SugarHouse Casino – approved Sept. 12
- Hollywood Casino – approved Sept. 12
…so the PA online gaming landscape looks like this:
Pennsylvania has thirteen casinos eligible for these new online gaming licenses. The five mentioned above are approved and there are six others with applications that are pending approval. They are:
- Rivers Casino – applied in mid-July
- Sands Bethlehem – applied in mid-July
- Valley Forge Casino – applied in mid-July
- Stadium Casino – applied in mid-July
- Mohegan Sun Pocano – applied in mid-August
- Presque Isle Downs and Casino – applied in mid-August
Each of these eleven casino operators applied for the full $10 million online gaming license with the exception of Presque Isle who opted to skip online poker. They paid the “a la carte” price of $4 million each for online slots and online table games licenses.
39 minus 32 leaves 7
Of the 39 available online gaming licenses in Pennsylvania (13 eligible casinos x 3 types of license), 15 are approved and 17 have been applied for and are pending approval. That leaves seven unaccounted for. Two of these are for online table games. Two are for online slots. Three are for online poker (because Presque Isle left “theirs” on the table).
What will become of these licenses? Will out-of-state casino operators end up holding online gaming licenses in Pennsylvania because they were unwanted by in-state operators? Was the price for these licenses set too high?
When will online gaming in PA go live?
There has been a lot of exciting legal and regulatory activity since Pennsylvania passed their comprehensive gambling legislative overhaul almost a year ago, but some Pennsylvanians just want to know, “When can we start playing?” Although five casinos have been approved, they have yet to be given the final go-ahead from PGCB.
When they will get that nod is unknown. Perhaps the PGCB wants to wait until all 39 licenses are “accounted for”. Perhaps PGCB wants to wait until all submitted applications have been approved or denied (putting all operators on the same footing). We don’t really know when or under what circumstances PGCB will finally throw the switch and allow online gambling to commence.
We can guess though. Pennsylvania regulators have a 90 day period from the time of online casino license application in which to approve or deny. This means we will likely see the remaining applications from July approved in October. Along the same lines, the two applicants from August should be approved in November.
Given these timelines and assuming that operators can sort out the relevant logistical and technological hurdles, we may see legal online gaming in Pennsylvania by the end of 2018.
If you live in Pennsylvania and can’t wait for regulators to allow online gaming from your favorite casino operator, you might take a look at the PA iLottery and give it a whirl. It’s quick, easy, fun, and you can win real money. There are also two very attractive bonuses available right now. New players receive $5 free to play when they sign up. Additionally, players can receive a 50% matching bonus up to $50 when making their initial deposit on the site.