On September 12, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced their decision to award Hollywood Casino and SugarHouse Casino interactive licenses within the state.
Not without conditions to abide by, of course. Either way, both casinos are anticipated to get their online gaming operations in order sooner rather than later.
The PGCB will also allow outside qualified gaming entities to purchase a license or rather to attempt to purchase - depending on whether they get drawn during a random draw on a date the board will determine.
Harrahs Casino, Parx Casino, Mount Airy Casino were the first to be approved in a meeting back in August. They all received the full package of licenses including online slot machines, table games, and online poker.
As we mentioned, SugarHouse and Hollywood have now joined the party with all three, and although SugarHouse hasn’t released their online poker offering yet, the fact they purchased the license shows we can expect that in the future.
This leaves the PGCB with seven available interactive gaming licenses - 3 for online poker, 2 for slots and 2 for table games.
PA online casinos can thank Presque Isle Downs for the extra online poker license since they chose to not apply for one.
For one reason or another, Meadows Racetrack & Casino and Lady Luck Casino were the only two PA casinos that passed up on the online licenses.
The reasoning behind Lady Luck withholding could very well be the fact that Churchill Downs, the owner of Presque Isle Downs, will soon take over as manager in Lady Luck. This means there is no need for it to go online, as Presque Isle already secured itself a license.
Same rules apply for Meadows. Its lease owner is Penn National, a company that already has online gambling licenses in the name of Hollywood Casino. At $4 million a piece, executives are rightfully not in a rush to hoard unnecessary licenses.
The remaining number of free interactive licenses could be of huge interest for non-PA-based casinos who are allowed to get one, as of the latest PGCB meeting. This is exciting news for the market of PA online casinos, which might be seeing some serious diversity in the near future.
The PGCB declared several conditions for qualified gaming entities to abide by.
The QGE needs to be licensed in another gaming jurisdiction. Not just any jurisdiction, however, but one with similar safeguards as those imposed by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth.
The petitioner applying for the license must also possess expertise and experience in operating an interactive gaming system. This means only well-established gaming companies will be eligible for a PA online casino license.
These are the main requirements but not the full scope of the list. While it does enforce some restrictions, there seems to be plenty of room for businesses to fit into the description of a QGE. The PGCB has not disclosed the date for the issue of the available licenses and by now, we are used to them throwing unexpected turns of events our way.
An example of this is the issue of mini-casino licenses, the process for which started all the way back on April 18 at a Cat 4 license auction. Five licenses remained available and since the PGCB received zero bids on them, they have decided to put the issue on hold.
It is noticeable that the PGCB has adopted this procedure for the interactive licenses. Meanwhile, it has left the issue of the remaining mini-casino licenses hanging.
In the meantime, SugarHouse owner Rush Street Gaming has already set in motion their PA online casino launching process. Company president, Richard Schwartz, placed the Rush Street Interactive division to oversee any online gaming and said they were ready to go ahead with the launch.
The SugarHouse platform has already been operating outside of Pennsylvania and it’s gained major popularity in real-money gambling in New Jersey. The PlaySugarhouse brand there is already almost synonymously linked to sports betting, despite only launching its online sportsbook this August 23.
The SugarHouse app gained a head start in New Jersey’s competitive online gambling market for
being the first app to combine both sports betting and casino services, thanks to its cooperation with the Kambi group. Surprisingly enough though, it doesn’t offer online poker yet.
The Hollywood Casino has already made promises to the PGCB to launch online poker and live dealer games in the year to come. This is big news for Penn National, the casino’s owner, who hasn’t included poker in their online products before.
This fall they’ve already set up a separate interactive division to be in charge of all online operations - and it seems, there will be plenty of those as soon as later this year or the first quarter of 2019.
There are logistics to online gaming to be figured out as well. GeoComply and Aristotle will be Penn’s technological partners to help with live confirmation of players’ location, age, and ID verification - as the law requires.
This could very well help IGT on its path to making a bigger name for its brand in the poker world, which seems to be something on their itinerary ever since they launched an online poker platform in 2016.
After the PGCB finally gave a green light to Boyd Gaming in acquiring the Valley Forge Casino, everyone is anticipating the company’s other partners to make an appearance in the state as well. This refers to MGM and GVC, who have both signed a deal with Boyd Gaming.