Ducks in a Row: Golden Nugget and BetMGM Ready to Dive into PA Online Casino Market

Posted on July 21, 2020

The ducks are getting lined up for the late entries into the Pennsylvania online casino competition through the last available slots in the hot Keystone State market.

For instance, Golden Nugget, the leading online casino site in neighboring New Jersey, is planning to enter PA and also Michigan. But first, it has some internal business to attend to – namely, a spinoff to be listed on NASDAQ. More on that to come.

Likewise, MGM is tidying up its house before moving to activate its online license, possibly as soon as August 5, the next meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

Golden Nugget and MGM only two approved QGEs in PA

A Qualified Gaming Entity (QGE) is a gaming company holding a license in a state other than PA. Such companies were eligible to apply for remaining online licenses after PA-based entities had the first crack.

The only two QGE applicants in PA, both approved by the PGCB back in January 2019, are MGM and Golden Nugget. They have since stuck in a holding pattern, yet to gain the final approvals to operate.

MGM paid $12 million in Oct. 2019 to be able to offer all three online verticals: table games, slots, and online poker.

Golden Nugget wants just table games and slots in PA. They paid $4 million for each license for a total of $8 million. QGEs cannot enter the PA sports betting market.

BetMGM casino and partypoker PA to operate under ROAR umbrella

MGM recently paid $87,000 in fines and fees to PGCB to correct its wrongful employment of a former state gaming employee. The employee had not sat out the required two years before joining MGM, as state law requires.

The corporate mea culpa by MGM clears the way for their consideration as a QGE.

MGM is BetMGM online and the company operates in partnership with online gambling giant GVC Holdings. Their online gambling collaborations are collectively known as ROAR Digital. ROAR operates partypoker in NJ and will do the same with partypoker PA.

Party Poker, if approved to operate in Pennsylvania at the next PGCB meeting, will become just the second online poker site in the Keystone State. PokerStars PA has enjoyed a monopoly in the fertile Pennsylvania poker market since Nov. 2019, but competition is on the way.

WSOP.com is also expected to launch in PA in the near future, in partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Golden Nugget planning an online stock spinoff

Before PA licensing, Golden Nugget plans to spin off its online gambling arm and list it on the Nasdaq. The estimated valuation is $745 million under the eventual ticker name GNOG.

Billionaire Tilman Fertitta will remain as GNOG’s Chairman and CEO. Thomas Winter, who has overseen Golden Nugget’s online gaming business since launch, will become GNOG’s President. Fertitta will hold a controlling economic interest and a controlling voting interest in the new company.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year, making it the second purely public online casino company in the US after GAN. For now, the Golden Nugget online gaming stock is listed as LCA for Landcadia Holdings II, the special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) acquiring Golden Nugget online casino (similar to how DraftKings went public). LCA is managed by Fertitta, as pointed out by The Motley Fool.

Cordish, Wind Creek also plan for online casinos

The only additional online casino licensees that have yet to launch are the Cordish Companies Live! Casino brand and Wind Creek Casino.

Live! has properties under construction in Philadelphia and a suburb of Pittsburgh. And Cordish recently expressed an interest in bidding on a newly-available mini-casino license up for auction by the PGCB in September. Live! can apply for online sports betting and online casino (slots and table games) when they are ready.

Wind Creek recently received conditional approval to offer sports wagering, both live and online in partnership with Betfred. At the same PGCB meeting, they announced their intentions to also go live with online slots and table games soon. There was no mention of poker though Wind Creek has a preliminary license for online poker as well.

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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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