Pennsylvania To Get Online Gambling On July 15, 2019

After a long wait, Pennsylvania’s gamblers finally know when online gambling in the state will be arriving: July 15, 2019!

The news came recently from Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Executive Director Kevin O’Toole. During a PGCB meeting on April 15, O’Toole announced that they needed 90 days to finally get their regulatory ducks in a row and allow PA casino operators to launch online gambling operations.

Assuming no hiccups, in a couple weeks, PA will be the fourth US state with mobile sports betting. Similarly, in three months, Pennsylvania will be the fourth US state with legal online poker.

Hurry up and wait

Eighteen months ago, legislation enabling a massive expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania was signed by Governor Wolf. State legislators guessed (correctly) that the US Supreme Court would strike down a law that had made sports betting illegal throughout most of the country. In addition, recent DOJ opinions regarding the scope of the Wire Act made legal room for states to license and regulate gambling locally without federal prohibitions.

In May of last year, the US Supreme Court followed through as predicted and Pennsylvania was all set to roll out several new expansions of gambling activity in the state. The new additions included a new online lottery, satellite casino expansions, sports betting (including mobile betting), and online casino gaming.

Several PA casinos have jumped on these new opportunities, expanding to satellite locations, adding sportsbooks, and applying for online gaming licenses. Despite many having been approved for these licenses, until now nobody has had any idea when online gaming could actually begin. Now we know: July 15 of this year.

What will the PA online gambling landscape look like?

Pennsylvania has thirteen land-based casinos eligible to apply for online gaming licenses in the state.

Ten of these have applied for and received licenses to offer online table games and online slots. Seven of these are also licensed to offer online peer-to-peer gaming (most notably: online poker). Sports betting is covered by a completely different license. More on the PA sports betting picture here.

Only three PA casinos declined to enter the online gaming space: Lady Luck Nemacolin, Meadows, and Rivers Casino. River’s reluctance to participate is easy to explain. They can simply use the license of their sister casino SugarHouse to operate state-wide. The other two simply must have thought the license fees and state taxes were too onerous a burden.

Since licenses were “created” for all thirteen PA casinos, when some were left on the shelf the PGCB opened the door for outside Qualified Gaming Entities (QGEs) to grab them. Two did. Golden Nugget and MGM will be operating online gaming in Pennsylvania under this special QGE status.

An explosion of online poker

Since the US Government effectively destroyed US online poker in 2011, legal options for US players have been meager. Nevada and New Jersey have intra-state sites and states are beginning to allow the merging of player pools, but still the online poker landscape is a desert compared to the lush landscape that existed prior to “Black Friday”.

Accordingly, the opening of the PA online poker market will be a big deal. Here’s a few of the major landmarks of the coming PA online poker market:

What about the Wire Act?

Gambling, both traditional and online, is poised to sweep across many states in the US. There are some worries that the DOJ under Trump might try to reverse this trend, or at least the online portions of it, but so far states are proceeding with their plans to expand gambling across the country.

The PGCB is clearly intending to move forward despite the DOJ’s new hostile posture. Pennsylvania is involved with a federal court proceeding in New Hampshire that is challenging the new DOJ “interpretation” of the Wire Act. A lot is riding on the outcome.

Even if the DOJ proves extremely hostile to online gambling, state operators may avoid legal trouble if they can successfully confine all online activities (including servers and payment processing) within the borders of their respective states (and of course obeying the laws of their own state).

Most at risk from the DOJ’s new hostile reading of the Wire Act is the prospect of merging player pools in online poker. It really restricts the number and variety of games available to players if they can only play against people residing in the same state.



Here’s Where PA Stands On Sports Betting And Online Gaming As 2018 Ends

As 2018 winds down, lets take a close look at the changes to the casino gaming picture in Pennsylvania. A lot has happened this year and a lot more can be expected in 2019.

First to the post: sportsbooks!

2018 saw big changes in the US legal landscape and thanks to laws presciently passed in 2017, Pennsylvania now had a clear path for sports betting and online casino gaming to get started this year. Much progress was made on both these fronts, but sports betting (the legal and licensed variety) got to market first.

Hollywood Casino reached the grail first, opening Pennsylvania’s first physical sportsbook at Penn National Race Course in mid-November. They had the field to themselves until mid-December when Rivers and SugarHouse opened retail sportsbooks of their own.

Which casinos will follow suit?

Next on deck is probably either Parx or Harrah’s with Valley Forge hot on their heels. The latter is partnering with heavyweight operator FanDuel, which is already tearing up the market in New Jersey. These three have already had their applications approved. Presque Isle has also applied and we expect Mount Airy to soon apply as well. These five sportsbooks should open sometime in Q1 of 2019.

The remaining five of the thirteen eligible land-based PA casinos never even applied for a sports betting license.

Why not everybody?

Why would a casino operator who is eligible for one of PA’s sports betting licenses decide not to pursue the opportunity? A couple obvious and glaring possibilities spring to mind: the fees and taxes. A license to operate a sports book in PA costs $10 million. Perhaps even more unsettling, the tax rate to be applied to sports betting revenues is a jaw-dropping 36%.

That may be prohibitively high. For comparison, the tax rate on sports betting revenues in New Jersey is 8.5%.

Mobile sports betting?

All the casino operators who are entering PA’s new legal sports betting market will eventually be launching mobile (online) versions of their sportsbooks. When that happens depends on when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) gives them the go-ahead to do so. The PGCB is holding back until all operators have proven success and stability running their retail books. Once this has been demonstrated, they will give the green light for online sports betting.

It is currently unknown when this will occur, but when it is announced, we will let you know here.

Online casino gaming is lagging behind.

Just as with the state’s sports betting licenses, Pennsylvania offered online casino licenses initially to their thirteen existing land-based casinos. Each casino could buy the 3-pack of online slots, online table games, or online peer-to-peer (poker) licenses for $10 million or each license could be bought separately for $4 million each.

As of now, ten of the casinos have applied for all (or some) of the new online licenses while three casinos have abstained. The online casino gaming picture looks like this:

Again, why not everybody?

Of the three abstainers, the decision of one makes perfect sense. Rivers Casino and SugarHouse Casino are owned by the same parent company (Rush Street Gaming) and can reach the entire state using just one set of online gaming licenses. It makes little sense to double-pay just to offer the Rivers brand alongside the SugarHouse brand.

Why are the other two sitting out? It could be that they think the hefty license fee is simply too high. Or perhaps (again) taxes might be the problem. Online slot revenue in PA will be taxed at an incredible 54% tax rate. Online table games and online poker revenue will be taxed at 16%.

These rates are extremely high compared to other states (Again, New Jersey’s relevant tax rate is 8.5%). These taxes also seem strangely arbitrary.  What could justify such a big disparity between taxes on slot revenue vs. table game revenue?

For whatever reason, two of PA’s casinos decided to forego this new opportunity.

Other casino operators want in!

After giving local casinos first choice, the PGCB still has ten available online gaming licenses, two each for online slots and table games, and six for online poker.

This has led them to open the door for Qualified Gaming Entities (QGEs) to apply for these licenses. So far two outside entities have stepped forward to take a shot at what others have deemed unprofitable.

The two “outsiders” are MGM and Golden Nugget. Both operators have applied for QGE status and are eager to enter the online gaming market in Pennsylvania. MGM sprung for all three licenses (at the bundled price of $10 million) while Golden Nugget opted to pay $8 million for just online slots and online table games.

At years end, both of their applications are still pending, but given how established these operators are in other US states, they are expected to be approved without any issues.

Hurry up and wait.

Legal sports betting arrived in PA before 2018 came to a close, but online gaming isn’t going to make it in time. Online gaming has taken something of a back seat as most of the PGCB’s attention seems to be on sports betting.

It is also conceivable that the state’s regulators are waiting until all operators have been approved before they give the nod to the entire field. If this is the case, it could serve to circumvent some well-founded potential complaints. After all, nobody wants to lose out on state-wide online market share because a competitor (who paid the same fee as you did) got out of the gate first.

For whatever reason, it’s clear that Pennsylvanians will have to wait at least until the new year for online gaming.

Check back here for all the latest news on this and other Pennsylvania gaming and bonus code issues.

Out-Of-State Casino Operators May Soon Offer Online Gambling In PA

Earlier this week, SugarHouse Casino and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course became the 4th and 5th Pennsylvania casinos to be approved for online gaming in the state. Six other casinos have applied for online gaming licenses and await approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

The two approvals were no particular surprise (none of the local applicants for online gaming licenses are expected to be rejected), but there was another interesting piece of news that came out of the meeting. Very soon, Pennsylvania online gaming licences will be offered up to out-of-state (even potentially out-of-country) “qualified gambling entities” (QGEs).

How did this come to pass?

When gambling was expanded via Pennsylvania’s landmark October 2017 legislation, 39 new online gaming licenses were created. This number was arrived at by multiplying Pennsylvania’s 13 existing casino operators by the three new types of licenses available to each (online slots, online table games, and online poker). PA casino operators could pay $10 million for all three online verticals or $4 million each for one or two of them.

Two casinos (Lady Luck Nemacolin and The Meadows) have elected to turn down the offered licenses altogether. A third, Presque Isle, opted to pay for online slots and online table games piecemeal, leaving “their” allotted online poker license unused. This means that the PGCB still has seven online gaming licenses available: Two for online slots, two for online table games, and three for online poker.

Who will be eligible?

Pennsylvania has so far earned $108 million in fees for the online licenses applied for so far. They are not eager to pass up on the $24 to $28 million still lying on the table with these seven remaining licenses. Therefore, if PA casinos don’t want them, the door will be opened up to outside actors -the aforementioned QGEs.

A QGE is essentially any casino that is currently licensed to offer gambling in any jurisdiction. This means the PGCB will soon be fielding applications from US casinos as well as foreign casinos seeking to hold one or more of these valuable online gaming licenses. For example, this could mean an Atlantic City casino like Borgata or an international online operator like Betfair.

The list of potential eligible operators is long. PGCB requirements for QGEs are steep but operating a casino legally in any jurisdiction involves jumping through a lot of hoops. These hoops won’t be unnaturally restrictive. The PGCB’s Interactive Gaming License Process lists that QGEs must first meet three essential requirements:

  • The QGE must have attributes of a licensed slot machine licensee and hold a license in or outside the United States.
  • The license held by the QGE must also be in good standing and not currently under review.
  • The QGE must demonstrate financial stability and the ability to pay $4 million per online gambling certificate.

What happens next?

Casino operators who want one or more of these licences and who believe they qualify as a QGE will have a narrow window (October 15 through October 31) within which to submit a petition to the PGCB. Board staff will then review these petitions for eliglble entities and post on the PGCB website a list of all petitioners who qualify as a QGE.

The PGCB will then conduct a random drawing of all qualified petitioners. Those operators selected in the drawing will have 60 days to submit an application.

The inclusion of the drawing element suggests that the PGBC expects multiple out-of-state entities to be interested in these licenses. It will be interesting to see which casino operators will be keen to pay the high fees (and even higher taxes) for the privilege of operating online in Pennsylvania.

The waiting game

Of course, while all this goes on, there are six PA casinos still awaiting approval on their license applications and the five casinos already approved await the official go-ahead to begin their own operations.

Pennsylvanians eager to gamble legally online are hoping that the casinos already approved might be able to begin operations by the end of 2018.

Those PA residents who just can’t wait might consider the Pennsylvania Online Lottery. Games there are quick, fun, legal, and real money is up for grabs. Right now there are two excellent bonuses available. New players get $5 free to play when they sign up. Additionally, players can get a 50% deposit bonus up to $50 when they make their initial deposit.






Mount Airy Casino Resort Bringing BetStars and PokerStars to PA residents

It’s been a busy month in a busy year for operators of Mount Airy Casino Resort. Recently, they announced a partnership with the Toronto-based gaming company the Stars Group to bring online gaming to the Pennsylvania market. The Canadian company already has a U.S. online gaming presence in New Jersey and will soon offer Pennsylvanian’s a package of online gaming opportunities including online poker, table games, slots, and sports betting.

The Stars Group is a solid choice. They are an international player in gaming technologies, operating in 19 jurisdictions and owning/licensing/operating a wide range of online gaming brands including PokerStars, BetStars, Full Tilt Poker, Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino, Sky Poker, and many others. Their PA operations will almost certainly be under the BetStars and PokerStars brand, seeing as these are already familiar to American residents. As further evidence, recently the Stars Group extended their partnership with Resorts Casino Hotel in New Jersey to continue operating under the BetStars brand.

Mount Airy and the Stars Group may be ready to go, but one final legal obstacle remains before them. Mount Airy has applied for one of the state’s new online gaming licenses, but the license hasn’t been issued yet. There are no anticipated problems with Mount Airy’s license bid, but it is unknown when any of the nine pending online gaming licenses will be issued by Pennsylvania.

A good deal for all concerned

This announced partnership is a big win for the two gaming operators and also for Pennsylvanians who have been waiting patiently for online gaming to be legally offered in the state.

The Stars Group has been loudly claiming its desire to once again operate legally in the U.S. in general, and Pennsylvania specifically. This move solidifies their presence in the American market, proving their presence in New Jersey was no one-off deal. Clearly, the Stars Group wants to regain the prominent place they had in the States prior to being shut down by the U.S. Justice Department on online poker’s “Black Friday” in 2011.

As Matt Primeaux, SVP of Strategy & Operations, The Stars Group, USA said:

We’re excited to take this next step as The Stars Group looks to broaden its presence in the United States. In partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, we believe we’re well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Commonwealth by bringing our world leading offerings to Pennsylvania players.”

This move is a big win for Mount Airy as well. They are located in the Pocanos as part of a beautiful resort, but compared to other Pennsylvania casinos, they are somewhat small. This early move into online gaming combined with their recently announced mini casino in western Pennsylvania expands their presence significantly and moves Mount Airy up the ranks of the PA casino hierarchy.

Said Vincent Jordan, Mount Airy VP of Marketing & Gaming:

“As one of Pennsylvania’s leaders in entertainment, offering internet sports wagering and gaming and partnering with The Stars Group is the obvious next step for us to continue diversifying our casino offerings. Introducing internet gaming through The Stars Group will provide compelling opportunities for our customers, particularly our younger customers, who are ready to experience the next gaming challenge.”

PokerStars is big – BetStars is bigger

Americans are probably more familiar with the PokerStars brand from their years of activity providing online poker to the U.S. market. Despite this, it’s BetStars that is sure to be the big player in the new PA online gaming market. For example, the press release announcing this partnership focused most of the copy on sports betting. As popular as poker is in America, the potential sports betting market dwarfs it.

Online gaming of all kinds are headed to Pennsylvania. Mount Airy and the Stars Group are positioning themselves to get their share of the pie. More casino operators and their tech partners are sure to follow. Who will be next?




Mount Airy applies for online casino license in PA

7 Facts About The Mount Airy Online Casino In Pennsylvania

In mid-July Mount Airy officially applied for a license to operate real money online gambling in the state of Pennsylvania. The casino now waits for a likely approval sometime over the next few months meaning Pennsylvanians could be playing on the Mount Airy online casino before the end of 2018.

Here are seven facts you need to know about the online casino at Mount Airy.

The Mount Airy online casino license could be live by the end of the year

PA casinos that have not yet applied to offer online gambling are allowed to apply for online gambling licenses for another month. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will make a determination on online casino licenses after 90 days. If Mount Airy is ready to go — which is still a big “if” — we could see an online casino at Mount Airy by the end of 2018.

The online gambling license costs $10 million

Mount Airy applied for a license that costs $10 million and covers major forms of online casinos gambling. Despite the steep price tag, this figure was still a $2 million savings compared to buying three individual licenses for $4 million each.

Online poker, table games and online slots are among games that could be offered

The Mount Airy online gambling license would allow the casino to offer online poker, table games (blackjack, craps, pai gow etc) and a selection of interactive slot games.

Only Pennsylvanians over the age of 21 can play

Online gambling law that passed last October would require Pennsylvanians to be at least 21 years of age to play. In addition, the state of Pennsylvania will also require players to be physically located within the state before they can play. Geo-location and identity verification technology will be used to prevent unauthorized players from playing.

Mount Airy is likely to partner with 888 for casino and poker software

Online gambling software provider 888 partnered with Mount Airy a few years ago in preparation for eventual Pennsylvania online gambling. We fully expect that partnership to continue when online casinos are approved. 888 is a well0known provider and operator of online casinos and poker in Europe as well as in regulated markets in the United States such as Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada.

Eight other Pennsylvania casinos have applied for a license

In addition to Mount Airy, eight other PA casinos have applied for a $10 million license before the deadline. Joining Mount Airy were Parx Casino, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, Hollywood Casino, Volley Forge, Harrah’s Phildelphia, Rivers Casino and SugarHouse.

Online casino licenses should be approved by the end of 2018. While you wait, Pennsylvanians can join the PA iLottery and even receive a free $5 to try them out.

Parx Casino applies for Pennsylvania online gambling license

Parx Casino Will Launch Online Gambling In Pennsylvania

On Friday, Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment — owner of Parx Casino — became the first Pennsylvania casino to apply for an online gambling license. Within hours they were also joined by Mount Airy and Stadium LLC, a casino that has yet to launch in the state but is still eligible to receive. The

Here we take a look at some of the highlights of Parx’s application to offer online gambling and what it means for the casino.

Parx Casino will offer comprehensive gambling product

In applying for a license before a Monday deadline, the Parx Casino has applied to offer a full suite of online gambling products that includes peer to peer games (poker), table games and slots.

They paid a lot for the license

The comprehensive online gambling license that Parx applied for on Friday is not cheap — it will set the casino back $10 million. With that said, the license is a bargain compared to individual licenses for poker, table games and slots which will be $4 million for each. But in addition to the license fee, Parx and other casinos will be required to pay taxes with rates depending on the product. Controversy has been generated for the steep taxes in some areas, especially for online slots.

Parx Casino is huge in Pennsylvania

In terms of slot revenue in Pennsylvania, the Parx Casino reigns supreme as the largest generator of slot revenue in the state. They are also number two in table game revenue, behind only Sands Bethleham.

No official word on merged player pools

Online gambling in the United States made a significant step forward earlier this summer when Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey — the three states to offer regulated online gambling — merged their player pools. Especially important for online poker, merging player pools is seen as a crucial step to spread the growth of online gambling, especially poker. It is expected that Pennsylvania will join the merged player pool sooner rather than later.

Parx will use GAN as their software provider

With the submission of their application on Friday, Parx confirmed that they would be partnering with GAN to provide software for the online gambling platform. The move did not come as a huge surprise as Parx utilizes GAN for their play money casino.

No reason to anticipate a rejection

Although license applications are subject to approval, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the number one casino in Pennsylvania is not approved for the expensive license application.

There is no time table for launch

Although online gambling took a big step on Friday, especially for Parx Casino, there is no precise time table for when Parx Casino will be approved or launch an online casino or poker room. Pennsylvanians eager to engage in online gambling should take a look at the newly launched Pennsylvania iLottery, with over a dozen games available at the time of this writing.