Hallelujah, the day is finally here where PA online gambling is underway!
A handful of PA sports betting sites and online casino sites are live as of July 15. That list is only going to grow too. By the end of the year, you will have a choice of multiple online casino brands and sportsbooks.
Expect several online sportsbooks to roll out in advance of the start of the NFL season on Sept. 5. We are already up to four bettings apps with more on the way.
The online casino rollout may not be as fast. We know you are all impatiently waiting for the launch of online poker too, so this is your one-stop shop to see what sites are coming up next and when to expect them.
PA online casinos launch dates
Here is the latest info on what online casinos are available and when the next round of online offerings will hit the market:
|Casino||Existing online partners||Launch||Android app?||iOS access?|
|SugarHouse||Rush Street Interactive / Kambi||July 17 2019||Yes||Yes|
|Hollywood (Penn National)||IGT||July 15, 2019||Yes||No|
|Parx||GAN||July 15, 2019||Yes||No|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||Kindred||2019||-||-|
|Valley Forge||IGT / GAN||2019||-||-|
|Presque Isle Downs||Golden Nugget||2019||-||-|
|Mount Airy||888 / PokerStars||2019||-||-|
|Stadium Park Philly Live! Casino||GAN||N/A||-||-|
|Golden Nugget NJ||NYX||N/A||-||-|
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Timeline for online gambling in PA
Take a look at which online casinos and sports betting apps are already up and running in Pennsylvania:
On Tuesday, May 28, PlaySugarHouse Pennsylvania began testing on the first-ever PA online sportsbook. At launch, the site kicked off with several of the same elements present on its New Jersey site, including Jackpot Parlays, in-game betting, cash-out betting, and the same deposit bonus offer. The only thing missing? Access for iPhone users.
SugarHouse had the market to itself for nearly a month, but Parx eventually doubled the number of online sportsbooks on June 24 when it began testing. The final product bore a strong resemblance to the Bet Builder function introduced at retail launch, making for a seamless transition for players going from brick and mortar to online. That is unless they had an iPhone.
Just one day after Parx launched its online sportsbook, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh followed suit with testing on BetRivers. The two ended up receiving final approval at the same time, as BetRivers only needed two days of testing given its sister casino’s successful PlaySugarHouse launch.
After being the first casino to launch a retail sportsbook, Hollywood Casino got to notch a second “first” in its belt. On July 15, the Penn National and IGT product HollywoodCasino.com officially began testing, bringing slots and table games to desktop and Android users.
Just hours after HollywoodCasino.com started taking customers, Parx Online Casino followed suit. The GAN-powered online casino product was the first site and, up to now, the only site with a blackjack game for players. Additionally, the site offered slots, roulette, and video poker.
You would think being third to launch would be a big disadvantage. However, PlaySugarHouse online casino perhaps made the biggest splash of the three casinos because it brought both a new casino site and an answer for iPhone owners. In tandem with GeoComply’s GeoGuard app, SugarHouse offered iPhone users a chance to both bet on sports and play online casino games via their phone’s browser.
The fourth PA online sportsbook totally changed the paradigm for what to expect from a PA betting app. When FanDuel Sportsbook PA launched, it brought with it the first integrated wallet with New Jersey, meaning you could seamlessly travel between the two states with the same app, same account, and same sports betting bankroll. Moreover? They brought with launch the first iPhone app option for PA bettors.
PA online casinos launched July 15
Per the PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB), Pennsylvania online casinos rolled out on July 15.
The remaining interactive licensees are in various states of readiness. Some, like Mount Airy, are rumored to be only a few weeks away for both online casino and online poker. As of now, poker is the last of the interactive gaming expansion elements to launch.
Two properties we know are ways off are Wind Creek and the still-under-construction Stadium Casino project. One only recently transferred its gaming license to new owners, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The other is busy trying to build both a casino and a mini-casino. As such, expect online gambling from these properties later on down the line.
While you can expect online casinos in a massive rollout, you might not get too excited about online poker sites. Surely some, the big names like WSOP.com and PokerStars PA will be up and running in the coming months, others will probably take their time with the more low-margin product.
PA up to four online sportsbook options, all with iPhone option
Pennsylvania sports betting apps are launching on a rolling basis, with several expected to debut in the next two months.
The initial hope was to launch online betting in early May. It appears the issue holding things up was neither the operators nor the regulators. Rather, it is an issue with getting the new sports betting apps approved and in the Apple App store.
Eventually, SugarHouse decided to go forward without an iOS betting app. Instead, the operator offered only an Android app that can be downloaded directly from SugarHouse’s website.
However, as of the July 17 launch of PlaySugarHouse PA online casino, there is now an iOS solution for SugarHouse sports bettors. That solution is called GeoGuard, a geolocation app that allows you to play on BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse websites via your phone’s browser.
The list of options for iPhone users got even longer with the launch of FanDuel Sportsbook on July 22. The sportsbook combined the PA and New Jersey app into a single venture for both Android and iOS, with the site geolocating you to determine what you can bet on.
The big perk of this for users is the shared wallet across states. If you go back and forth between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, no more worrying about whether or not the right account is properly funded.
Now there has been a steady stream of launches throughout the summer. Given how profitable New Jersey online sports betting is, expect a rush of both retail and online sportsbooks trying to get up and running in time for both college football season and the Sept. 5 start of the NFL season.
PA online sportsbooks launch
|Casino||Partner||Online Sportsbook||Retail Sportsbook|
|PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook PA||Kambi||Live as of May 31, 2019||Yes|
|FanDuel Sportsbook PA (Valley Forge)||FanDuel||Live as of July 22, 2019||Yes|
|BetRivers Online Sportsbook||Kambi||Live as of June 27, 2019||Yes|
|Parx Casino Sportsbook||Kambi||Live as of June 27, 2019||Yes|
|Harrah's Philadelphia||Scientific Games||Summer 2019||Yes|
|Hollywood Casino at Penn National||William Hill||Fall 2019||Yes|
|Presque Isle Downs||BetAmerica||Fall 2019||Yes|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||Unibet||2019||No|
|Fox Bet (Mount Airy)||FoxBet||Aug./Sept. 2019||No|
|Live! Hotel & Casino||N/A||2021||No|
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What did the PA gambling expansion bill legalize?
The PA Senate passed a bill to legalize online poker, online casino games, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting on Oct. 26, 2017. Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law just three days later. The bill, H 271, enacts widespread gambling expansion that extends beyond just PA online casinos.
Here is a look at exactly what the bill authorizes and why changes may be on the horizon if the tax rates on some gambling expansion is not adjusted.
After months of back and forth on tax rates, license fees, VGTs, mini-casinos, and other details, the bill the Senate passed permits:
- Online poker
- Online casino games (table games and slots)
- Daily fantasy sports
- Tablet gaming in certain areas at authorized airports
- Video gambling terminals (VGTs) at qualified truck stops
- 10 mini casinos
- Alterations to Category 3 casinos (removes membership fee, permits more slots – requires one-time fee)
- Online lottery sales
- Sports betting now that PASPA was overturned
Additionally, the changes in the laws resulted in SugarHouse Casino dropping its lawsuit blocking the Stadium Casinos LLC group from building its planned casino in Philadelphia’s Stadium Park. With legal issues gone, the group quickly ponied up the money for a Category 2 license and are moving forward with construction.
Tax rates and licensing fees
Tax rates and license fees for online gambling have been major bones of contention for months.
After a 54 percent tax rate on slots was floated earlier this year, more recently the figure settled into a more-reasonable mid-twenties range. By comparison, the effective tax rate in New Jersey on online slots is 17.5 percent.
The amended version of H 271 returns to that steep 54 percent number. PA would tax the products as follows:
- Online table games and poker: 14% + 2% local share = 16%
- Online slots: 52% + 2% local share = 54%
- Sports betting: 34% + 2% local share = 36%
- Daily fantasy sports: 15%
Distinct licenses for each product
H 271 establishes three separate licenses:
- Online slots
- House-banked games
- Online poker and other peer-to-peer online games
Operators were required to purchase a license for each vertical they intended to offer. For $10 million, PA casino operators could purchase all three in a bundle. Eight of the 13 eligible casinos chose to do that:
- Mount Airy
- Sands Bethlehem
- Hollywood Casino
- Valley Forge
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Sugarhouse Casino
Casinos could also buy a la carte licenses for each vertical. Each license carries a $4 million price tag. So far, two casinos opted to do that. Presque Isle applied for table games and slot licenses, as did Mohegan Sun Pocono. Stadium Casino project ended up with a similar result, initially applying for all three licenses in a bundle only to rescind its poker application after the fact.
The remaining 12 interactive licenses became available to interested qualified gaming entities (QGEs) outside of Pennsylvania. MGM Resorts and Golden Nugget submitted applications, which are pending PGCB approval.
Meanwhile, there are licenses and fee structures for the other gambling expansion elements as well. For example, the 10 mini casinos each carried a $7.5 million fee to offer 350-700 slots. Properties could pay an additional $2.5 million for a right to offer up to 30 table games.
However, that number only covers the license. The mini casinos also featured an auction process. The highest bidders among existing Category 1 & 2 casino license holders in the initial auction obtained a license to pick a qualified location for the property.
After four licenses, the bids dried up, so the process opened up to Category 3 properties. At that point, Category 1 and 2 casinos could bid on a second property. That is what Hollywood Casino did, bidding on a second property.
With five licenses remaining from the 10, outside entities can apply to bid, however, the PGCB has not discussed that possibility. It is safe to assume the mini-casino issue is put to bed for now.
VGT licenses and fees
The contested video gambling terminal (VGT) legislation made it into the final bill. These machines are only allowed at truck stops that meet a range of requirements. Each truck stop can only have up to five machines. These are the licensing costs and feeds:
- Manufacturer/Supplier: $10,000
- Terminal Operator: $5,000
- Establishment: $250 per VGT
- Key Employee/Procurement Agent/Principal: $500
- Any other permit: Up to $100
The pitfalls of high taxation
Industry experts, including Moody’s, have decried the lofty 54-percent tax rate on slots, and for good reason. At that rate, operators will have little left over for marketing, customer acquisition, promotions, and other business-building tools. This could hamper the growth of the industry and thus depress the amount of tax revenue the state is able to generate.
PA already taxes its land-based slots more heavily than any other state in the nation, and only recently have PA casinos managed to break a lengthy slide in slots revenue.