In A First, The Live! Brand Launches Online Casino Before Its Real Properties Open

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Months before anyone will visit one of two new Live! casinos in Pennsylvania, slots and table game players can begin gambling using the company’s online casino.

Cordish Gaming Group, the Maryland-based firm behind the Live! brand, began a three-day test of its Play Live! casino on Tuesday afternoon under Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board monitoring.

The public can log onto playlive.com, create an account, deposit funds, and play games like normal during the three days of tests with restricted hours: 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday; 2 p.m. to midnight Wednesday; and noon to midnight Thursday.

Assuming all goes as planned, which has been the case with the 11 prior iCasinos to launch in Pennsylvania, Play Live! could be approved for permanent 24/7 operation Friday.

Cordish gets going with GAN

Cordish Gaming announced an agreement in May with GAN to supply the software platform for its online site, similar to business-to-business partnerships GAN entered into previously with some other Pennsylvania operators.

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Cordish indicated at that time that it intended to launch the site by fall, but company Executive Vice President Joe Bilhimer then said in an interview last month that the company was targeting an August debut. Company officials declined to offer comment Tuesday about this week’s launch.

The site arrived featuring 98 slots games, most of them already familiar to users of Pennsylvania iCasinos, with titles such as Divine Fortune, DaVinci Diamonds, Gonzo’s Quest, Wolf Run, and multiple Wheel of Fortune options. It also offers four versions of roulette plus Blackjack Classic, baccarat, and three video poker choices.

The welcome offer appears generous, dangling up to $750 in deposit bonuses with a 20x play-through requirement. Customers receive a 100% match, up to $500, on their first deposit of $30 or more. After a second deposit of $30 or more, they get 100 free spins. For a third deposit of at least $30, they receive a 50% match up to $250.

The order of arrival differs from the norm

It is a first in the U.S. industry for an operator without a brick-and-mortar location or yet open to begin signing up and servicing gamblers interested in playing casino games digitally.

Cordish, which has a Maryland Live! casino and operates in Pennsylvania as Stadium Casino LLC, plans to open its $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia in the city’s stadium district early next year. Its $150 million mini-casino project, at Westmoreland Mall 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, is to be completed before the end of 2020.

While launching online without an existing base of casino customers makes it harder for Play Live! to quickly grow revenue, it also enables the company to take advantage of the increased interest in online gaming since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June, the 10 existing iCasinos in Pennsylvania combined for $50.1 million in revenue. That number represented a small drop from a record month in May, and revenue for July is to be reported next week.

In a reversal from the normal course of business, Cordish is planning to use Play Live! to begin signing up customers in its player loyalty program before they even have the club cards they will swipe in the brick-and-mortar properties once they open.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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