PA Gaming Review: Mini-Casino, VGTs & Party Poker Carry Expansion Momentum

Posted on July 14, 2020 - Last Updated on September 13, 2020

Mini-casino news made a maxi splash last week on two fronts in Pennsylvania. A mini license is unexpectedly up for auction in September, and already there is a self-announced bidder looking to add a third PA property to its portfolio of gaming properties.

The company partypoker is gearing up to join the online PA poker market, ending a de facto monopoly by PokerStars.

And fuel-stop video gaming terminalsVGTs — are back to trucking along the Keystone State’s rural blue highways. But placing VGTs elsewhere is garaged for now.

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Mini-casino license back up for grabs

In a surprise move, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced on July 8 that it planned to auction off a mini-casino license that became available when Mount Airy Casino failed to qualify for licensing late last year.

This past September, there was an auction that attracted no bidders. That was supposed to end bidding for mini licenses forever. But the license denial cracked open the closed door, and the cash-hungry PA Legislature ordered the PGCB to once again try to peddle the license freed up by Mount Airy’s disqualification.

And just five days later, the Cordish Companies, which is developing a mini-casino near Pittsburgh and a full-sized casino in Philly, told PlayPennsylvania exclusively that it will bid for the available license on Sept. 2. The opening bid is $7.5 million.

A new player at the table soon as partypoker looks to join

A new player, partypoker PA, wants to get dealt into the market. Approval could come as soon as August. For now, though, the online poker monopoly remains for PokerStars PA.

Partypoker is a player favorite and the second-biggest online poker operator. The platform is owned by GVC Holdings and already used in New Jersey.

And a third operator, WSOP.com, is waiting in the wings.

Truck stop VGTs are back in business

Following a virus-caused long pause, VGTs are back in business and expanding.

But just this week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) gave a spate of conditional approvals for preliminarily licensing for additional sites, according to a PGCB spokesperson. And four new locations were fully approved the month before.

A PA state senator recently unsuccessfully floated a major expansion during closed-door discussions in the Republican caucus. The proposal was aimed at adding VGT licensing for bars, social clubs, and other locations with liquor licenses. But it got no traction before recess.

Still, the idea could return in November as PA seeks ways to plug budget holes.

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Kevin Shelly Avatar
Written by
Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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