Legal online gambling is coming to PA in 2018! Online poker, casino games, lotteries, daily fantasy sports and sports betting are all part of the bill that passed the Senate on October 25th and the House the following morning. Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill on the 30th, making Pennsylvania the 4th US state to legalize online gambling!
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The latest on Pennsylvania online gambling
Pennsylvania has (finally) taken a critical step toward getting its online gambling sites up and running. In a recent press release it was announced that beginning April 2, the PA Gaming Control Board will start accepting license applications from Interactive gaming manufacturers and suppliers. These technology providers can start filling out their applications immediately.
Also of note, numerous Pennsylvania properties are in the process of changing hands:
- Valley Forge was sold in Boyd Gaming Corp. in December 2017, for $280.5.
- Penn National Gaming bought Pinnacle Entertainment (owner of the Meadows Casino and Racetrack) for $2.8 billion, also in December 2017.
- In February, Churchill Downs entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Presque Isle Downs & Casino for $229.5 million.
- Sands Bethlehem will be acquired by Wind Creek Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, for $1.3 billion. The deal was announced in March 2018.
All four of these acquisitions have major implications for online gambling in Pennsylvania. Boyd, Penn National, and Churchill Downs have all exhibited a strong appetite for iGaming, and should aggressively pursue market share.
But the biggest victory for online gambling proponents is the sale of Sands Bethlehem, which is currently owned by Las Vegas Sands Corporation, headed by staunch anti-online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson. The ousting of Adelson from the state lessens the threat that the casino mogul will lobby against oppressive iGaming regulations in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, it opens the door wide open for the soon-to-be former Sands to become a player in the online gambling marketplace.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has no prior experience running an iGaming operation, so its participation is certainly not a definite. But it’s difficult to envision any new PA casino owner not being tempted by all the new expanded gambling verticals springing up.
While we still don’t have a firm date on when the first wave of regulated PA online gambling sites will launch, we know now that regulators are actively working toward getting the industry up and running. That’s reassuring, especially considering the dearth of news related to iGaming over the past few months.
Now that the licensing process has begun, expect updates to come more frequently, and for the first technology providers to be approved sometime this spring.
News Updates View all Tracking PA iGaming Progress
PA Table Game Revenue Back on the Rise in February, While Parx’s New Poker Room Nibbles at the Competition
Revenue at Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos snapped back last month from a disappointing January, growing by 1.64% compared with the same time period last year.→
PA Regulators Will Soon Begin Accepting iGaming License Applications, Offering Hint of When the Industry Will Go Live
Starting on April 16, the state’s land-based casino permit holders will have the opportunity to solicit one of 13 available Internet Gaming Certificates.→
Some top-flight operators could be shut out from the Pennsylvania online gambling market, should regulators decide to limit operators to one self-branded skin.→
Wind Creek Hospitality will certainly have its hands full when it takes over Sands Bethlehem, but the Alabama-based tribe appears up to the challenge.→
Pennsylvania online gambling player FAQ Common questions and concerns
What forms of online gambling will be legal in PA?
The law legalizing iGaming in PA authorizes Internet slots and table games, such as blackjack and roulette, along with daily fantasy sports. Online poker will also be permitted, allowing brands like PokerStars and Party Poker to apply for licenses to open up shop in the state.
There is a high likelihood that PA poker sites will pool players with online cardrooms in other US states which have legalized iGaming to create bigger tournament prize pools and give patrons more options in terms of game selection. Already, New Jersey is poised to merge it’s player pools with Nevada and Delaware. The addition of PA would be a natural extension of that compact.
In addition, there is a framework in place which could allow for online sports betting, if the Supreme Court rules to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That decision is expected to be made in the first half of 2018.
Who can receive a license to operate an online gambling site in PA?
There are 12 online gaming licenses up for grabs, one for each of the state’s regulated land-based casinos. During the first 90 days of the licensing period, eligible properties can purchase a license which collectively covers online poker, slots and table games for a total of $10 million. After 90 days, they may purchase a license for any one of those three verticals separately at a cost of $4 million each. After 120 days, qualified entities that are not PA brick-and-mortar casinos may apply to snap up any remaining licenses.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the agency which has overseen PA casinos since 2004, will be in charge of regulating the online gambling industry.
When will the first PA online casinos and poker sites go live?
At this early stage, we can’t be sure exactly when online casino and poker sites will launch, as final regulations and details have not been set by the PGCB. However, looking back at the history of iGaming in New Jersey, we predict that PA online casinos could be open for business by the summer of 2018.
NJ’s online gambling bill was passed in February 2013, with over a dozen sites going live in November of that year. We expect the timetable in PA to accelerated, however, as operators have learned from the mistakes and successes of NJ’s online gambling implementation. Read more on the advantages PA will enjoy for its iGaming launch.
Who will be eligible to play on a PA gambling site?
To play for real money, PA gamblers must be 21+ years old and must be physically inside the borders of the state during their online gaming session. There is one caveat to this rule, which is players are prohibited from wagering real-money on an online site from within any of the state’s 12 land-based casinos.
Patrons do not need to be residents of Pennsylvania in order to play, and will be able to do so even if they are just passing through the state for a short period of time.
When signing up, patrons will need to provide their personal information, which will be submitted for a “Know Your Customer” check. This process will verify a player’s ID and age, while checking their credit history through credit bureau databases.
It is possible that people with certain criminal convictions may be barred from gambling online in PA, as is the case in New Jersey.
How will websites know that I’m actually inside PA at the time of play?
Online casinos will use third-party geolocation software companies to verify that their real money patrons are indeed within the borders of the state. When playing from a desktop computer, gamblers will be prompted to install a small web browser extension which verifies and sends back notification to the casino that the player is physically inside PA. A similar check will be made on mobile gamers with features built into iOS and Android casino apps.
Can I sign up for multiple PA online casino/poker sites?
You can sign up for as many regulated online casino and poker sites as you please, as long as you only create one account per site. Playing on multiple sites can be advantageous, considering that each will likely offer attractive free money sign up and first time deposit bonuses to new players.
Will I be able to play on PA gambling sites for free?
Yes, players will be able to play for free on PA gambling sites in a few different ways. First, it’s common for casino sites to offer demo/play money versions of their games to give patrons a chance to play for fun without risking real money.
Another way to play for free will be to take advantage of the free money sign up bonuses which PA iGaming sites will almost certainly offer. These types of bonuses usually range from $10-$30 and are awarded to players for simply create an account at a gambling site. The deal is meant to entice potential customers to check out the casino site without having to make a deposit, while giving them the chance to win real money in the process.
What kind of bonuses should first-time depositing players expect?
In addition to free money sign up offers, PA casino sites will undoubtedly offer match bonuses for first time depositors.
While we can’t be sure what the exact deposit bonus offers in PA will be, existing NJ casino sites can help us make predictions. All sites there offer some type of deposit bonus incentive, which range from $100 all the way up to $1,500 in bonus cash. Virgin/Tropicana Casino offer a different type of bonus which pays up to 100% cashback on losses. Expect to see similar types of offers cropping up in Pennsylvania when the industry goes live.
These types of bonus offers aren’t without a catch, however, in that players must wager a certain amount before getting full access to the cash. For example, a site could offer a 100% match bonus up to $500 with a 20X play through requirement. Therefore, if you deposited $300, you would receive $300 in bonus money, but would be required to wager $6,000 in total to unlock the full bonus amount.
And sometimes, different games contribute at different rates. Online slots almost always contribute at 100%, but play at table games and video poker may contribute less toward the wagering requirement.
What deposit/withdrawal methods will be available? What will be the minimums and maximums?
We can expect a wide array of banking methods to be available at PA online casinos, making it easy for nearly anyone to make a deposit or withdrawal. In New Jersey, for example, players can make deposits in the following ways, many of which will likely be made available in PA as well:
- Instant eCheck (ACH)
- Cash at the cage in the casino
- Online banking transfer
- Prepaid cards
- Visa/MasterCard credit cards
- Cash at 7-Eleven
- Bank wire transfers
- Paper checks
Withdrawals can be made using many of the same methods mentioned above.
Minimum deposit amounts are almost universally set to $10 in the Garden State, whereas the maximums vary depending on a variety of factors. These include the deposit method used, reputation with the bank, and VIP status, amongst other things. Certain methods can allow for deposits of up to $10,000 per day, while average maximums for methods like ACH and prepaid cards range from $500-$2,000.
What responsible gambling options will PA casino sites provide?
Just like at PA brick-and-mortar casinos, players will have the option of banning themselves from online gambling entirely for a period of one year, five years or for life. Visit the PGCB’s website for more info on the self-exclusion process.
Other responsible gaming measures will be built into PA online casinos as well. Those may include options to limit losses to a certain amount, limit gameplay to a certain period of time or activate a “cool off” period, which will prohibit play for a specified period of time.
What operating systems will be supported by PA online casino/poker sites?
You can expect online casino and poker sites to be available for play directly from popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari, on both Windows and Mac operating systems, with no download required. Some casinos might also provide the additional option of a standalone software client.
Gamblers will also be able to play on mobile through free, dedicated apps for iOS and Android devices. Some sites may offer the option to play directly from mobile web browsers as well, without the need to download any apps at all.
Where else in the US is it legal to gamble online?
In 2011, the Department of Justice issued an opinion allowing for individual US states to legalize online gambling. So far, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have done so, with many other states exploring the possibility. Prime candidates for 2018 appear to include Illinois, and New York.
Find Out When PA Online Gambling Goes Live!
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