The PA Gaming Control Board issued a public statement about the new opinion on the Wire Act earlier this week. It didn’t tip the organization’s hand much though. The statement did reaffirm PGCB’s stance that the gambling expansion act was in line with both the old and new opinions. Everything that passed in 2017 was in line as intrastate gambling.
Nonetheless, a new memo along with the new opinion does have the group working behind the scenes to ensure everything is in order as online gambling nears launch in the state. PlayPennsylvania obtained a copy of communication between PGCB and casinos about the new change in the federal law’s approach to online gambling. Here is a look at the entire letter:PGCB Wire Act letter
PGCB letter asks for each casino’s plans to address the new opinion
The letter, penned by PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole, namely addresses a memo that came in the wake of last week’s new opinion.
The memo’s author is U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In it, Rosenstein notes two important things. First, is that the DOJ does plan to craft prosecutorial guidelines based off of the new memo.
The second is that the DOJ will give existing regulated gambling in the country 90 days to come into compliance with the new opinion.
O’Toole is setting deadlines for casinos as well.
“Thus, with any forms of internet or mobile gambling, it appears that diligence in assuring that the transmission of bets and wagers, payments and credits as a result of bets or wagers, as well as the information assisting in placing those bets and wagers, does not cross state lines is paramount.”
With that in mind, casinos now have 30 days to put together and submit a plan to PGCB explaining each property’s game plan to ensure online casino games and sports betting stays within Pennsylvania.
What will casinos need to look at?
As mentioned in our initial discussion of the new opinion, just because an online casino game is only open to PA players within state lines does not necessarily mean the transaction does not travel out of state.
For example, several PA casinos are also NJ online casino operators. As such, many planned to locate servers for PA gaming in Atlantic City alongside the ones they utilize for New Jersey. That is likely out as an option under this new opinion.
Additionally, online poker compacting is something that will likely go on the backburner until there is more clarity on the new opinion. While Nevada and Delaware currently share players with New Jersey, Pennsylvania does not. There is room in the 2017 gaming expansion law to do so, but that is probably not something that is a priority anymore.
Finally, sites will need to consider how to approach live dealer games. Again, while they already run in New Jersey, it will likely need to be done entirely separately on site in Pennsylvania, not sharing resources with the neighboring states.
How will this affect online casino launch timeline?
O’Toole acknowledged that this likely throws a wrench in existing PA online casino plans:
“While we fully recognize that this change may alter the plans of licensees in implementing expanded gaming offerings, it is a change not of the Board’s making but one commanded by the changing interpretation by federal law enforcement authorities. It is your obligation to comply with the federal law in all respects in establishing your gaming operations which must now be entirely ‘intrastate’.”
This new wrinkle means, bare minimum, things are getting pushed 30 days. Casinos received conditional approval to move forward on interactive gaming last year. Since then, they’ve all worked on getting their ducks in a row to launch. Certainly, several plans are unaffected by the new opinion, but there will be some backtracking.
With that in mind, suddenly it is looking more like the summer than the spring that online casinos launch in Pennsylvania. At least, however, casino launch is still moving forward.
There is one other bright spot. Both DOJ Wire Act opinions believe it applies to sports betting. With that in mind, online sports betting does stand a chance of rolling out on schedule in the early months of 2019.