Make it Nine! Majority Of PA Casinos Apply To Offer Online Gambling

Written By Eric Ramsey on July 17, 2018 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022
Nine parrots on a branch

The list of PA casinos applying for interactive gaming licenses has grown to nine. Three properties applied late last week, and a Monday rush has added six more to the list.

Here’s the group of applicants:

Monday was an important deadline, marking the end of the end of the window to apply for discounted licensure. Each of the nine properties paid $10 million for a combination license including peer-to-peer games, table games, and slot machines.

Future applicants will pay $4 million for each category or $12 million for the full set.

Four properties have yet to apply:

Regulators have 90 days to act on the applications they’ve received.

Well that’s encouraging

At the very least, lawmakers and regulators are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. At most, they might be strutting around their offices with satisfied smirks on their faces.

The structure for PA online gambling is burdensome to operators, imposing that $10 million fee and an astounding 54-percent tax on online slot machine revenue. When those numbers were first announced, there was speculation that some casinos would abandon their online plans entirely.

Operators indeed balked and threatened to abstain. A representative from Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino, called the tax rate “just ridiculous and unprecedented.” Industry analysts expressed concern that regulations could strangle the industry before it ever got started.

Those worries seemed to be playing out at first. The PA Gaming Control Board began fielding applications in April, and July 4th weekend came and went without a single submission.

It was only a matter of time, apparently. The nine applications indicate that the majority of PA casinos still have plans for online gambling in spite of the framework. It also means regulators will collect $90 million from this group up front.

The PGCB is currently accepting applications for PA sports betting at $10 million apiece, too.

Who’s in?

Parx was the first to apply for an interactive license last Thursday, preparing to launch under a software partnership with GAN. It’s not exactly surprising, but it’s worth nothing that Parx initially opposed expansion. As the top-earning casino in the state, it likely would have preferred the status quo.

The new Stadium Casino outside of Philadelphia isn’t even built yet, but it’s already making plans for interactive play. Its petition is a little more complicated than most considering it doesn’t have any employees yet — nor a building for that matter. GAN is the rumored partner there, as well.

Mount Airy will offer online gambling on platforms powered by 888, and PokerStars appears to be a part of its plans, too. Harrah’s Philadelphia is a Caesars property, so it’s fair to presume it will retain 888, its existing partner in other jurisdictions.

Sands Bethlehem is the subject of a $1.3 billion purchase order by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from Alabama. As part of the pending transaction, seller Sheldon Adelson is required to pursue an interactive license in good faith. That’s somewhat amusing considering his disdain for online gambling.

Penn National has a partnership with Scientific Games, the presumed supplier for Mount Airy, across several markets. Rumors indicate Valley Forge is likely to partner with PartyPoker/GVC.

Rush Street Gaming owns both Rivers and SugarHouse. Rush Street operates its own Interactive division, and it’s secured an additional partnership with Kambi.

Who’s out?

That leaves a group of four properties that have yet to submit applications.

Churchill Downs is responsible for two of them. It’s currently working on a deal with Eldorado Resorts under which it will purchase Presque Isle Downs and assume operational control of Lady Luck Nemacolin. Sports betting is likely the focus, but it’d be surprising to see CDI forgo other forms of online gambling. The group has a partnership in place with SBTech.

Meadows is another curious one, considering it’s under Penn National’s umbrella. The group will, presumably, use its established Hollywood brand for online gambling, so perhaps it didn’t see the need to invest another $10 million in a second set of licenses.

Mohegan Sun Pocono is the most surprising omission. In addition to its social casino in Connecticut, the tribal enterprise operates an NJ online casino under the license of Resorts Atlantic City. The relationship appeared poised for reversal to enter the PA market, but that hasn’t materialized so far.

Scientific Games powers the existing online platforms for Mohegan Sun.

Eric Ramsey Avatar
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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a gambling data and policy analyst for Catena Media sites, including PlayPennsylvania. In the lead-up and early years of legal sports betting expansion in the U.S., he was a reporter and writer covering poker, sports betting and DFS. Eric comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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