Finding time to travel to a casino is not always easy. Even in states with a positive attitude about casino gambling, there may not be a casino within a short drive from where you are.
Online casinos can help mitigate that difficulty. Since any mobile device can deliver online casino action, those in regions with legal online casinos can play from the comfort of their homes, cars or wherever.
For several years, Pennsylvania has dealt with a constant barrage of taunting from New Jersey. New Jersey residents have reveled in the fact that they have been able to gamble freely on their mobile devices since 2013.
Well, Pennsylvania is now home to multiple online casinos. Here’s how to get into the action.
Obviously, the first step is to download the software onto your mobile device. The process of downloading an online casino app depends on whether or not you are an Android or an iPhone user.
Android users do not have a quick and easy path to getting gaming apps on their phones. The Google Play Store does not permit gambling apps.
Instead, Android users will need to download an online casino’s app through its website. Players need to go to the site on their device’s browser to download the app directly from there.
Players must proceed to the site, for instance, HollywoodCasino.com, and download the app from there. Users may need to enable downloads from “unknown sources” in their phone’s settings first, though.
Apple threw a curveball to real-money casino operators in the summer of 2019. The company basically declared that gambling apps would need to be built on native iOS, which is the programming platform most Apple apps run on. Most online casinos are coded in HTML5, so getting listed in the App Store will take some time for some casino apps.
One Pennsylvania online casino, Hollywood, does have an iPhone app listed in the App Store for users.
While it does not have an App Store, Apple users can also play at PlaySugarHouse Casino. They only need to download the GeoGuard Location Validator from the Apple App Store.
This app is a product from GeoComply, the same company that helps online casinos ensure that those who sign on are from inside state lines. Essentially, GeoGuard does the same thing.
However, once the app confirms that the Apple user is, in fact, inside Pennsylvania, then the iOS customer can then use the browser version of the software.
Please note that any geolocation software can sometimes result in inaccuracies. All things equal, the sites would rather exclude someone inside state lines than take the chance of allowing someone outside state lines to play.
So, if players are inside Pennsylvania but still find themselves unable to verify their location, they should try enabling location services on their device. If it still doesn’t work, the players should contact customer support for the site in question.
There was a tremendous amount of anticipation about the debut of online casino gambling in PA. Pennsylvania is the most populous state with online casinos, by far, with nearly 4 million more inhabitants than New Jersey.
Those residents can now access one of the following mobile casino apps on their phones:
You may now know the name Unibet yet, but it is a highly trusted brand in Europe. In partnership with Mohegan Sun Pocono, Unibet has launched a new online casino.
The casino has the biggest catalog of games of any PA online casino with slots and table games. It also has plans to expand its library of games aggressively, so if you like variety, Unibet is probably the online casino for you.
While there is an Android app for Unibet online casino in PA, an iOS app is not yet live. You can play on your iPhone or iPad via a mobile browser, however you will need to download a separate geolocation app. Unibet will walk you through that process if you are attempting to bet on an iPhone.
New players get $10 free, and if you deposit, you’ll bet a 100% match up to $500.
PlaySugarHouse online casino became the third web-based casino to debut in Pennsylvania. The site is the online version of the Philadelphia-area casino.
The PlaySugarHouse PA app is a product of technology provider Kambi, which has a long partnership with Rush Street. The app is a virtual clone of the company’s New Jersey site.
The site offers dozens of slot games for PlaySugarHouse customers. There are also a handful of variants of roulette already available on PlaySugarHouse.
For new players, they offer a first deposit bonus of up to $250. The use of promo code 250MATCH will generate a 100% match on any deposits of up to $250.
Hollywood Online Casino was one of the first internet-based casinos to launch in Pennsylvania. The interactive arm of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course opened its virtual doors for business in July 2019.
Even though the site has only been open a short while, there are already numerous slot titles and options available on the mobile casino. Many of these slots are name-brand games, which is the result of a partnership between Hollywood and game publisher NetEnt.
In keeping with that partnership, players at Hollywood’s online casino can also take advantage of several roulette variants. Wheels with single or double zeroes abound and are ready to accept wagers.
For merely signing up, Pennsylvanians will find $25 sitting in their accounts for absolutely free.
The only catch is a 1x playthrough requirement. In other words, players must wager an equivalent of $25 before the money is available for withdrawal. However, players can keep any wins or breakevens.
The first online casino to launch in 2020 was FanDuel Casino via Valley Forge. It’s the first online casino in the US to carry the FanDuel name and marks the sixth online casino site in PA. FanDuel Casino is housed within the ever-popular FanDuel Sportsbook app, available on iOS and Android.
By signing up through the link above, players can get a $500 free bet bonus. They are also offering a first day risk-free $200 promotion where up to $200 of net losses in the first 24 hours are returned as site credit.
FanDuel Casino launched in PA on Jan. 24, 2020 with just five table games and 12 slot titles. In addition to popular slots, players will find multiple variants of blackjack and roulette. More games and titles are sure to be added in the coming months.
On Nov. 4, PokerStars Casino became the first PA online casino to launch since July. The PokerStars Casino is available within the PokerStars client as well as available as an app for download for both iOS and Android.
Parx Casino is the virtual version of the Bensalem casino of the same name. Parx is one of Pennsylvania’s largest casinos. It boasts more than 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games, so its online casino must necessarily be quite expansive.
Though the online gambling app offering is still in the early stages, it is possible to see that Parx has an ambitious plan for its interactive version. Notably, the Parx website mentions that live dealer games are forthcoming on the app.
Technology has come a long way in the last 20 years or so.
Video gaming has moved from a somewhat rudimentary presentation to a near-reproduction of the live experience.
The games have also grown in selection as well as production value. More games are available now than ever, and online casinos are moving closer to the live experience. In some cases, the line between the two is quite blurry.
The most ubiquitous and basic of casino games, the slot machine, is widely available in every format. Even if an online casino doesn’t offer other types of games, it will have slot games.
In fact, many free-to-play apps offer slot play exclusively, even without any tangible rewards available. The experience of winning on a slot machine is enough of a prize to draw attention from various players.
Mobile slot play is mostly indistinguishable from live slot play. The rotation of the reels, the virtual layout of the game’s controls and the bonus features all perfectly mimic the games that one might find in a real casino.
The games might be the same ones that are available in live settings. Since casino slot machines use computer programs to operate, game developers must transition their offerings to the smaller format, rather than creating entirely new games.
The only significant difference is the interface, obviously. Mobile devices and laptops do not have the same “push-button” system that live casino slot machines do.
Instead, for online casino app players, there are virtual representations of buttons for players to push. They can also make use of mobile-specific finger commands, such as swiping one direction or another to change the screen or using pinching motions to zoom in and out.
Mobile slot machines may also have a more interactive component. Some mobile casinos have games that feature a group or community bonus, which joins players on individual machines into a single bonus round.
It is also possible that a mobile slot may operate faster than a live one. The virtual aspect of placing money into a machine can speed things along.
Finally, in terms of graphics, mobile slots may be slightly limited due to the restrictions of the medium itself. Several live slot machines now offer 3D-enhanced visuals, which are a step beyond the capabilities of most phones and computers (and graphics cards).
As is the case with any slot, we advise playing with caution. Casino companies build entire empires out of slot machine revenue, so budget accordingly.
Video poker often sits alongside slot games when casinos roll out. The games provide a change of pace for slot players without getting them too far away from the one-armed bandits.
This relationship holds true in the mobile gaming world, too. Video poker is usually in an online casino’s list of games.
Video poker on mobile casinos is virtually indistinguishable from its real-life counterpart. Since live video poker is a computer display, anyway, the game translates easily to the online space.
However, in all cases, players need to be mindful of the payouts for video poker games.
Ideally, a Jacks or Better video poker game (the most common type) would pay out full houses and flushes at 9x and 6x the buy-in, respectively. These “full pay” machines are far less common these days, but it pays (literally) to shop around a bit.
Table games are a less-common offering at many mobile casinos. Quite simply, table games are more challenging to translate to smaller screens than slot machines.
Of all the table games, real-money blackjack is one of the more common to appear in online casino selections. The game’s inherent simplicity reduces the need for more complex animations and calculations.
So, mobile versions of blackjack are going to be similar to the live experience. The main difference is that players must press buttons to make their choices, rather than using live blackjack’s hand gestures.
Most versions of blackjack do feature animation to simulate the dealing of cards, handling of chips and so forth. However, these are going to be stylized depictions, not simulations.
Roulette has started to appear more frequently in recent years.
For instance, PlaySugarHouse launched multiple versions of the game shortly after the site’s debut.
Most depictions of roulette are going to feature top-down or slightly lower views of the gameboard. Players can use their cursors or touch to select the wagers they’d like to make.
One source of difficulty, however, is making sure that the wagers appear in the correct spots. The placement of the betting token must be quite precise in roulette because each area of the board represents a different wagering option.
Most representations of the wheel itself will also be a top-down perspective. Gameplay moves at a faster rate than live roulette, so players must be quick with their wagering.
Mobile craps is a less-common game to appear on mobile versions.
The sheer complexity of animating both a craps pit — with its many bets — and the rolling of dice constitutes a big ask for many development teams.
Craps is also a more daunting game for many patrons. Although it is a popular table game, there is a learning curve that many mobile players won’t want to overcome.
Furthermore, the online version of craps negates one of the defining features of the live game: the camaraderie. More than any other table game, craps is a social contest, with groups of people betting the same way against the house.
So, while the representations found online may get the function of the game right, they will struggle to capture what makes craps great.
Live dealer games are a far more interactive experience than seems possible on mobile gaming. Players can talk and interact with actual dealers and other online players.
The dealers run the games in real-time from an exclusive studio inside the land-based casino’s facility. So, there’s no real difference between land-based play and online play because the dealers are dealing live games.
Naturally, that means that live dealer games don’t move at the same pace as automated versions. The dealer has to allow players time to make their decisions from around the state.
However, the ability to chat with the dealers and other players mitigates some of the lonely aspects of online gaming. So, the extroverts who want to play on their phones have a natural reason to check out live dealer games once they launch.
The ability to connect and engage in various activities online is one of the major triumphs of our time. Unfortunately, that ability has also opened the possibility of those with ill-intent infecting or stealing privileged information from us.
So, the natural question is whether or not these apps are safe and reliable. The short answer is yes, they are.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) oversees every gaming activity in the state. The PGCB maintains strict controls over both the identities and behaviors of those who offer online gambling in the Keystone State.
Site operators are also multinational companies with multiple properties throughout the US and the world. Much like their land-based counterparts, online casinos have a vested interest in ensuring the safety of their patrons, both in banking and in play.
So, although there are occasional incidents, there is no need to feel unsafe while playing on approved sites in Pennsylvania.