Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Executive Director Kevin O’Toole had some disappointing news for the PA House Appropriations Committee this week.
In the hour-long hearing, O’Toole provided updates on several elements of gambling expansion, including when PA online casinos might launch. The news is not surprising but is nonetheless disheartening.
Thanks to the new Wire Act opinion, operators are revising their plans for PA online gambling. O’Toole said these changes will cause “a modest delay.”
However, when pressed, O’Toole offered a more specific timeline:
“It will be three to four months. If not before the end of this fiscal year, the very beginning of the next fiscal year.”
The fiscal year begins on July 1. This means a summer launch for online slots, table games, and poker.
“It could be as early as June , but in all likelihood, it will be July.”
While O’Toole was asked specifically about online casino, it’s likely this is the same timeline for PA online sports betting, as well.
Why the delays for online gaming launch?
The primary reason the launches are running even further behind schedule is servers. Many casino operators believed they could rely on existing servers in places like New Jersey, where online casino already exists.
The new Wire Act opinion means, for PGCB, that is no longer an option.
“It became quite obvious everything had to be on an intrastate basis,” O’Toole told the committee. As a result, O’Toole said to expect a “modest delay.”
He also gave some insight into where the process is for most people.
“We are getting close,” he said. He went to explain that operators are still waiting for certain equipment to arrive. Then PGCB will need to test, approve, and certify that equipment. Things to consider include geolocation accuracy and age verification.
Payment processors still an unknown entity
One aspect of online gambling expansion the PGCB can’t ascertain is how much the new Wire Act opinion will impact payment processors. PGCB General Counsel R. Douglas Sherman said banks and credit cards became more willing to process online casino transactions after the 2011 DOJ opinion.
However, he said he cannot forecast how much this new opinion will make credit card companies gunshy regarding gambling banking. There is certainly a chance things will get more difficult for people trying to deposit on sites. Even now, a decent percentage of credit cards and banks decline these transactions.
Budget expects $173 million for General Fund
The current budget expects $173 million for the General Fund. This does not include slot machine revenue. It does include table games, which brought in $130 million in tax revenue for the state.
O’Toole added that six of the seven casinos seeking sports betting licenses have already paid the $10 million licensing fee. The seventh payment will arrive before the end of the fiscal year, so meeting that $173 million-mark is already handled.