(Editor’s note: This story has been updated. The original version contained an error concerning FanDuel’s online partner in Pennsylvania.)
It’s uncommon for a gaming company to launch an online casino before it has a physical gambling hall to visit, but Cordish Gaming Group sees that reversal of order as a positive.
The newest firm entering Pennsylvania’s casino market believes its new PlayLive! online product will attract thousands of customers and provide a head start for two casinos opening on opposite sides of the state in the months ahead.
“As we open those, we will have a much larger database [of consumers] and an easier way of selling them on visiting the casinos,” Cordish Gaming Group President Rob Norton told Penn Bets. “We’re using this to build the brick-and-mortar.”
PlayLive! is first of several Pa ventures for Cordish
Cordish, while years behind other national gaming firms in getting started in Pennsylvania, is about to become a big player in multiple ways.
Its PlayLive! online/mobile site launched Aug. 11 as the 12th iCasino in Pennsylvania, with 98 slots options plus table games and an enticing welcome offer dangling up to $750 in deposit bonuses.
Its mini-casino in a former department store at Westmoreland Mall, a suburban location about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, is expected late this year to be the first of that type of smaller Category 4 casino to open.
And Cordish’s $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, with a prime location in the city’s stadium district, is planned for an early 2021 completion that could shake up the already-competitive southeastern Pennsylvania casino market.
On top of that, the company has acknowledged potential interest in bidding for another mini-casino at a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board auction to be held next Wednesday.
“We’re a company looking for smart opportunities for growth, and any time that’s available we will evaluate those options,” Norton said, before adding of a bid possibility, “We’re holding our cards a little close to the vest right now.”
Maryland online site provided a model
Norton said the online launch using a GAN platform follows a successful use of that strategy — even with just a social iCasino instead of real-cash site — when Cordish’s flagship Live! Casino & Hotel at Arundel Mills opened in Maryland in 2012.
He said “tens of thousands of people” tapped into the social casino before the physical property was open.
“Those that signed up tended to come to the physical casino at a much higher rate, with a much higher level of activity of play,” Norton said, hoping for the same synergy in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s iCasinos saw a huge surge of activity in the spring, as COVID-19 shutdowns kept many people at home and denied gamblers the chance to visit their regular casinos. The level of play has plateaued in recent months, leveling off at a little more than $50 million in monthly revenue statewide, but Norton said the COVID experience prompted Cordish to accelerate its plans to launch PlayLive!
“We’re optimistic about the online space in Pennsylvania,” he said, even though for now the company has limited means of attracting attention to the site without any properties open.
Despite that limitation, Norton said he believes the company’s Live! brand has a good amount of recognition in the state already from publicity surrounding its projects, particularly in the Philadelphia area. Cordish is counting on people finding appeal in the site’s benefits such as player points that can be used for future hotel and restaurant visits. The company also plans to begin doing paid advertising about the online site next month.
Live! sports betting won’t be as impactful
Most other online casino sites in Pennsylvania provide access to their sportsbooks on the same platform, but Norton said that won’t be the case for PlayLive!
Cordish signed an agreement with FanDuel to operate the retail sportsbooks in its two casinos and to use Cordish’s online sports betting skin, but FanDuel already has a digital site in the state through partnership with Valley Forge Casino Resort.
So rather than there being a second FanDuel app in connection with Live!, Norton said Cordish has an arrangement to direct its patrons to FanDuel’s existing online site under a system to be set up later this year. The Live! customers will be able to receive the casino’s loyalty credits when using the FanDuel site, Norton said.
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