PGCB’s Doug Harbach Tells Us What Is Next For PA Online Gambling

Posted on August 15, 2019

So much for a summer slowdown. With the launch of Pennsylvania retail and online sportsbooks and the advent of online casinos, it’s been a busy spring and summer in Pennsylvania.

Mobile gaming gives Pennsylvanians a new, convenient way to play their favorite games or bet a game from the palm of their hand. But for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it’s translated into little time to relax. Especially since the 2017 gaming expansion bill spearheaded the single largest gaming expansion in the history of the United States.

It’s a whole new world, both for retail and online gambling, in Pennsylvania.

PGCB Director of Communication Doug Harbach took a few minutes during the recess of the PGCB Aug. 14 meeting to answer a few of PlayPennsylvania’s questions.

Online gaming landscape continues to grow in Pennsylvania

PlayPA: Currently, there are four online sportsbooks and three online casinos in Pennsylvania. What is on the horizon?

Harbach:  “There are a couple more in the pipeline. Things are getting tested and we would expect to see another one or two of them up in a month or so.”

Mount Airy Casino was approved to offer sports betting in June. The brick-and-mortar sportsbook and online betting app will feature the Fox Bet brand. No doubt they are hoping to be operational before the start of the NFL betting season.

“I would expect the Mt. Airy retail and online sportsbook to be one of the next ones up and running,” Harbach said.

To date in PA, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks opened before the online launch of the sportsbooks. However, Harbach says that is not a requirement. It’s just how things have unfolded so far.

Online casinos lack a robust inventory…so far

The initial launch of online casinos has featured a less-than-robust offering of slots and table games. Additionally, there is still no PA online poker. But f0r eager gamers, some titles are better than none. They exhibited patience for years waiting for online casinos. If they have any patience left, they are going to need it as more games become available.

PlayPA: Why do you think the online casinos that have launched have rather limited libraries of games?

Harbach: “They are continually rolling out new games. It’s a start for them. It’s a new market and over the next couple of months you’ll see the assortment of available games become more robust.”

PlayPA: What’s’ the process for getting an online casino game approved?

Harbach: They have to be tested through our lab and approved. It is also something the operators are looking at in regard to what they believe their customer base wants. It’s a matter of getting them submitted to us and being able to go through the testing to allow them to be launched.

On the ground level of gaming expansion history

The PGCB is tasked with, among various other things, “ensuring the integrity of legalized gaming through the strict enforcement of the law and regulations and the licensing of qualified individuals and entities.”

Consider them the referees in the casino gaming world. A period of unprecedented presents challenges and its fair share of excitement.

PlayPA: What has been the most biggest challenges in terms of the rapid expansion of gaming?

Harbach: “There is the challenge in balancing everything between online and a lot of action going on in regards to land-based casinos. Casinos wanting to change their (floor) configuration. The mini-casinos we are moving forward with trying to license. There is also an auction that is going to be held Sept. 4 to see if there’s additional licenses casinos want to obtain for satellites. Then there is the launch of the VGTs which we expect to be launched in the next couple weeks. It’s a myriad of challenges without really increasing our staff.  We use the expertise we have. It’s now paying dividends. We are moving forward with a lot of things.”

PlayPA: On the flip side, what is an exciting part of the expansion?

Harbach: “Candidly, it’s seeing the PGCB staff take on new challenges and meet them. To see us operate and the properties who have taken these licenses work well with us toward a single goal has been a very good partnership.”

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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