At Wednesday’s meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), two more plans for the implementation of online gaming were heard and two more approvals were issued. The two lucky PA casinos were Valley Forge and Sands Bethlehem.
Seven approved so far.
With these two approvals, there are now seven Pennsylvania casinos that are approved to offer online gaming in the state. They are:
- Parx Casino
- Mount Airy Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- SugarHouse Casino
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National
- Sands Bethlehem
- Valley Forge
Each of these operators have paid $10 million for the right to offer three different online verticals – online poker, online slots, and online table games. Each of these licenses are also available separately for $4 million. Buying the licenses as a bundle is an option available for a relatively short period of time and saves $2 million. Most casino operators who are going to try their hand online are opting to go all the way.
The only exception to that rule (so far) has been Presque Isle Downs, who opted to pay $8 million for the online slots and online table games licenses, thumbing their nose at the online poker opportunity.
Sands is applying for… someone else?
During their presentation, Sands reps explained that they are applying and purchasing the online license(s) for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians who are currently in the process of buying the casino. Their operating company, Wind Creek Hospitality, is paying $1.3 billion for the PA property but the sale isn’t yet finalized.
Sands has agreed as a condition of the sale to purchase the online gaming license during the early period in which the $2 million “savings” are available by getting all three types of online license at once. By the time the sale is complete, that window may well have shut, denying Wind Creek a crucial opportunity to save money (assuming they want to pursue online gaming).
Nobody had any answers.
Sands reps couldn’t say what would become of the license (as they were selling it with the property). The Wind Creek rep at the meeting didn’t have any answers either, explaining that they were focusing on aspects of the acquisition and didn’t know themselves what they planned to do, exactly.
Sands is a loud and vociferous antagonist of online gambling
This meeting must have been somewhat embarrassing for the Sands representatives. Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation has spearheaded loud and powerful political actions attempting to make (or keep) online gambling illegal in the United States.
This puts Sands in the awkward position of applying (and paying for) an online gaming license they are ideologically opposed to holding. They must do this because it’s an important condition of the sale to Wind Creek.
Naturally, the PGCB wanted some answers on the matter. Amazingly, Sands asserted that should the sale fall through, Sands would not use their online license. They said in such a case they would pay $10 million for the license and just let it sit unused.
Despite all this uncertainty, the PGCB voted unanimously to approve the issue of Sands’ online gaming license.
Valley Forge’s application was much more straightforward
When it was their turn, Valley Forge presented a detailed plan to pursue online gaming. They outlined all the technology partners they would be using to assist them in this endeavor. Their online partners will be:
- IGT – Responsible for the iGaming platform
- GAN – Responsible for all player account functions
- Aristotle – Responsible for player age and identity verification
- GeoComply – Responsible for player geolocation verification
Valley Forge also revealed to PGCB that they will partner with FanDuel to offer sports betting in both retail and online formats. Operating a sportsbook is not the same license allowing online poker, slots, and table games. It is separate and costs $10 million all on its own.
Countdown to online gaming launch
Clearly, Pennsylvania is very close to the launch of its online casino gaming operations. With seven of a possible thirteen PA casinos approved for online gambling, it is just a matter of the PGCB giving the final go-ahead and whether or not each individual casino will be ready to go live when the word is given.
Many have surmised that the end of 2018 will see online gaming happening in Pennsylvania. It’s going to be close, but 2018 gaming is certainly a possibility – early 2019 at the very latest.
Until then, there is an online gaming product that is up and running right now. It’s the Pennsylvania online lottery.
Games there are fun, legal, quick, and you can bet and win real money. There are some very attractive bonuses available right now too. First time players can get $5 free to play just for using bonus code “WINNER” when signing up. Also, players can receive a 50% matching deposit bonus up to $50 on their initial deposit.