These Three Pennsylvania Casinos Could Really Benefit From Legal Online Gambling

Posted on February 24, 2017

[toc]With each passing week, it seems that Pennsylvania is moving closer to passing legislation that would legalize online gambling within state borders.

Based on the performance of online gambling in New Jersey, and its impact on Atlantic City revenue, that should be music to the ears of PA’s land-based casino operators.

It’s especially good news for these three PA casinos, for which online gambling may mean the difference between a prolonged drought and prosperity.

PA casinos that stand to gain the most from online gambling

Brick and mortar casinos in Pennsylvania have hit their first real stumbling block since the industry went live in 2006.

And with the northeastern casino market becoming more saturated by the year, those who don’t innovate risk being left out in the cold.

Of the casinos we’ve surveyed it appears as though Mount Airy, Harrah’s, and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs need online gambling the most desperately.

#1 – Mount Airy Casino Resort

There are numerous PA casinos caught in a worse slump than Mount Airy Casino.

But of the ones that are struggling the most, none are starting from as low a point as the casino neatly tucked away in Mt. Pocono.

In fiscal 2015/16 Mount Airy generated $143.6 million in slot revenue, more than just three other PA land-based properties (two of which are Category III casinos). January slot revenue was down 4.2 percent to $10.64 million, and total gaming win was just $13.94 million — ninth among the state’s 12 casinos.

There’s little sign that the casino can turn the tide without sweeping changes:

  • Mount Airy doesn’t have the advantage of being located near or in a major city, à la Parx Casino and Rivers Casino.
  • Mt. Pocono is more of a seasonal spot, meaning there are plenty of down months (Atlantic City shares this problem).
  • It’s also located within proximity of Sands Bethlehem, which simply has much more by way of table games and amenities.

Presumably the casino realizes this, which is why it’s already pushing awareness of its partnership with 888.

And while 888 has rolled out what is probably the least enticing online casino in New Jersey, it’s still part of a Caesars partnership that generated over $3.3 million last month.

Even half that amount in monthly revenue would increase Mount Airy’s monthly take by upwards of 15 percent — and that’s forgetting the increased foot traffic the land-based casino stands to gain from cross-promotional events.

#2 – Harrah’s Philadelphia

Harrah’s Philadelphia can’t seem to find its footing, especially now that upstart SugarHouse Casino is cannibalizing its traffic.

In January, Harrah’s slot revenue was down 10.8 percent year-over-year, to $15.29 million. Total gaming win was just $20.43 million, down 7.6 percent. That was a steep enough loss to drop the casino into fourth place in Pennsylvania.

And with three casinos bringing in nearly as much revenue last month, the possibility of Harrah’s falling to as low as seventh is real.

In a phrase: Harrah’s is bleeding for a shot in the arm, and that’s exactly what online gambling will provide.

The casino will presumably partner up with 888, as Harrah’s is under the Caesars Entertainment umbrella, and Caesars is in partnership with 888 in New Jersey.

That means it will not only likely gain access to its own branded casino, but the WSOP.com poker room as well.

Here’s where things get interesting: If 888 continues to secure a foothold in every state that legalizes online gambling (it has thus far), then Harrah’s Philadelphia could become part of an industry-leading interstate online poker network. And in the short-term it could forge an intrastate relationship with Mount Airy.

While this alone may not result in huge revenue gains, the awareness it generates for Harrah’s Philadelphia might.

#3 – Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has taken a hit on multiple fronts of late.

First and foremost, its revenue is falling sharply, with slot revenue down -8.8 percent year-over-year in January 2016, and overall win down 5.7 percent.

The casino is currently in danger of losing its once rather comfortable fifth place position. And its remote location diminishes the prospects of a turnaround.

Mohegan is also having its fair share of legal quandaries:

  • There is currently an active investigation into now-former Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority President and CEO Bobby Soper, who did not disclose an equity interest in a marketing firm tied to Mohegan Sun Pocono.
  • There are also allegations of “possible operational control deficiencies” floating around regarding how the casino tracks player kickbacks.

Mohegan Sun will likely be subject to fines, and will undoubtedly see its reputation take a hit. This does not bode well for its margins.

Enter online gambling to bandage the wounds.

As the day-to-day operations manager of Resorts Casino, Mohegan Sun already has a foothold in the Atlantic City market.

It also runs a branded online gambling site in New Jersey, and has strong ties to two of the most reputable and popular industry brands in PokerStars and NYX Gaming.

Should Mohegan launch a self-branded casino and PokerStars-branded online poker room in Pennsylvania, it would undoubtedly be a hit, as Mohegan has the necessary experience, and its brand name is even stronger in PA than NJ.

At least on the online front, we presume that Mohegan Sun has the capability to run stride-for-stride with big guns Parx and Rivers, and possibly even generate enough revenue to do an about-face on its recent downward trajectory.

Image by Jarrett StewartCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Robert DellaFave

In addition to being an ardent poker player, Robert DellaFave works as a contributor to and editor of several online publications dedicated to regulated US online gambling, including the legal PA online casino and poker markets. Based in New Jersey, Robert also works as a game developer.

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