Rivers Casino Changes Its Mind About Online Casino Plans

Written By Jessica Welman on October 4, 2018
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There are no longer 11 Pennsylvania casinos pursuing online gaming licenses. Thursday the PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced that Rivers Casino is rescinding its interactive gaming application.

The Pittsburgh-area casino is not applying for any of the three online license categories, which are slots, table games, and poker. The licenses set aside for Rivers are now available. That brings the total number of available interactive licenses to 10:

  • Four peer-to-peer gaming licenses
  • Three online slot licenses
  • Three online table game licenses

A spokesperson for Rivers told PlayPennsylvania the casino is not closing the door completely on iGaming:

“Rivers Casino Pittsburgh intends to provide iGaming to Western Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth; however, we’re taking additional time to explore the various options for doing so. Rivers is actively pursuing a sports wagering certificate to offer both land-based and mobile sports betting.”

PGCB developed a system and regulations for qualified gaming entities (QGE) outside of Pennsylvania to apply for the remaining licenses. According to the PGCB:

“Qualified Gaming Entities seeking these available certificates can file a petition with the Board beginning October 15, 2018 and ending October 31, 2018.”

Rivers could still support an online casino

Yes, Rivers backed out of its online casino plans. However, its sister property, SugarHouse Casino, is already approved to move online. Rush Street Entertainment owns both properties. With PlaySugarHouse greenlit for PA, perhaps PlayRivers was redundant. It certainly saves the company $10 million in additional licensing fees.

The upside of SugarHouse extends beyond the Commonwealth too. The brand launched as a real-money online casino in New Jersey in 2016. Additionally, PlaySugarHouse added a sportsbook to its NJ offering just a few weeks ago.

Rather than launch two separate online casino entities, Rush Street can focus on one. Not just any one either. One that already has an established brand presence in the area. In the meantime, Rivers Casino can advertise SugarHouse on property.

Another possibility is that Rivers functions as a separate skin of PlaySugarHouse. While Rivers has effectively forfeited its chances to operate its own site, hopping on SugarHouse’s license is still an option.

What does this mean for Rivers sports betting?

Both Rivers and SugarHouse have pending applications for PA sports betting. Will Rivers change its mind on this front too?

Not likely. Rivers and SugarHouse may consolidate their efforts to a single online sportsbook. However, if Rivers wants to take any bets at its casino, it needs its own separate $10 million license.

Given that Rivers is the only casino in Pittsburgh, that would not make much business sense. Especially when you consider that Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is just a short walk away.

It is also worth noting that a lack of online gambling license does not prevent a PA casino from offering online sports betting. The sports betting license includes a single mobile betting skin in the $10 million fee. So, while they may just stick with SugarHouse for reasons listed above, Rivers has the option to have its own app if it wants.

PGCB should hear at least one if not both of the Rush Street sports betting applications at its next meeting on Oct. 31.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has been a key voice in the legal betting industry since the repeal of PASPA in 2018. She contributed to and formerly managed several Catena Play-branded sites including PlayPennsylvania, PlayTenn and PlayIndiana. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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