When Pennsylvania lawmakers voted to legalize online gambling way back in November 2017, they included the option for the state’s land-based casinos to partner with third-party iGaming software providers for help in building and operating their own branded gambling sites. This allows PA brick-and-mortar casinos, many of which don’t have much experience in the online realm, to launch full-featured gaming sites quickly and efficiently, leveraging tried-and-tested software created by established and reputable companies.
Some of the state’s casinos got ahead of the game, striking partnerships with software makers even before online gambling legislation was passed. In July 2018, it was announced that nearly all of the state’s casinos had applied for licenses to offer slots, table games and online poker at a cost of $10 million each. Sports betting license applications followed in subsequent months. To date, only a few eligible casinos have opted out of online opportunities.
Quick look at PA iGaming Partnerships
|Online Casino Status||ONLINE|
|Online Sports Betting||Retail Sports Betting|
|Mount Airy||FOX Bet||Launched Sept 2019||Launched Sept. 2019 (PokerStars)||Launched Sept 2019||Opened Sept. 2019|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||Unibet||Launched Nov. 2019||No||Live||Opened Oct. 2019|
|Valley Forge||FanDuel||Launched Jan. 2020||Coming Soon||Launched July 2019||Opened March 2019|
|Penn National||IGT||Launched June 2019||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Opened Nov. 2018|
|Rivers Philadelphia||Rush Street Interactive||Launched June 2019||Coming Soon||Launched June 2019 (Play SugarHouse)||Opened Dec. 2018|
|Rivers Casino||Opted out||Opted out||No||Launched June 2019||Opened Dec. 2018|
|The Meadows||DraftKings||Opted out||No||Launched Nov. 2019||Opened Oct. 2019|
|Presque Isle Downs||BetAmerica/SBTech||Coming Soon||No||Launched Dec. 2019||Opened July 2019|
|Live! Hotel & Casino||FanDuel||Expected 2021||No||Expected 2021||Expected 2021|
|Wind Creek Casino||BetFred||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Coming Soon|
|Parx Casino||GAN||Launched June 2019||Coming Soon||Launched June 2019||Opened Jan 2019|
|Harrah’s Philadelphia||SG Digital (Probable)||Coming Soon||Yes (WSOP.com)||Coming Soon||Opened Jan. 2019|
|Golden Nugget||NYX||Coming Soon||No||Coming Soon||N/A|
|BetMGM||GVC||Coming Soon||Yes (Likely GVC)||Coming Soon||N/A|
|Lady Luck Nemacolin||Opted out||Opted out||No||-|
One of the biggest questions, when it was announced that online sports betting was coming to PA, was how DraftKings was going to be able to enter the market. Initially, it was rumored that they were going to partner with Harrahs, but those rumors were quickly squashed. It was later announced that DraftKings had entered into a partnership with Meadows Casino, a small casino outside of Pittsburgh that was purchased by Hollywood Casino last year, who has proven to be a huge believer in sports betting.
The retail sportsbook at Meadows opened their doors in October 2019 and features 15 UHD Tvs, 18 self betting kiosks, 6 betting windows, and a 26 seat bar with a full dining menu. DraftKings online sportsbook launched shortly after in November 2019 and has not opened their online casino to PA residents yet, but if NJ is any indication, we should see that feature launch in the near future.
Mohegan Sun Pocono
The Mohegan Sun Pocono was purchased by the Mohegan Indian tribe in 2005, and was the first slots casino to operate in the state.
Mohegan Sun has partnered with Unibet to run there online casino and sports betting. Unibet may not be a household name here in Pennsylvania, but is one of the largest online gaming companies in the world with over 11 million customers in over 100 countries.
Mohegan Sun opened their 1100 square foot Unibet retail sportsbook in October 2019 that features 3 betting windows, 6 sports betting terminals, and 28 foot wide video screen and 20 recliner style seats to relax while you are watching the game.
Mount Airy Casino Resort
Located in Mount Pocono, Mount Airy Casino Resort boasts 70 table games and over 1,800 slots. In 2015, 888 announced that it would provide the software platform for the property’s online casino efforts if iGaming were to become legal.
This all changed when Mount Airy recently scored a major partnership with online poker giant PokerStars, which will offer a full suite of online casino and peer-to-peer poker games through the licensee. It also revealed it would spread a sports betting product under the FOX Bet brand in a PGCB licensing filing. That doesn’t rule out 888 from opening up its own virtual card room through the property though.
Mount Airy quietly opened their retail sportsbook in September 2019 in the former home of Gypsies lounge. This 7000 square foot sportsbook includes four self service kiosks, betting windows and plenty of TVs to watch the action. The retail sportsbook shares the space with a 12 table PokerStars branded poker room.
Parx Casino is a state-of-the-art gambling facility featuring over 3,500 slots, 130 table games and 80 poker tables. The casino confirmed partnered with GameAccount Network (GAN) to provide the online casino, poker and sport betting software and data.
Although hesitent at first to even offer online gaming, Parx was one of the first to go live for both online casino and sports betting in June 2019. Parx also owns a license to offer online poker in PA but has not given any indication of when and if they would launch their online poker room.
Parx Casino spared no expense on their $10 million retail sportsbook. The 7500 square foot sportsbook features a 156 HD video wall, VIP seating, six betting tellers, 18 kiosks, 200 recliners, a full bar and seating for 422 people.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia (Formerly SugarHouse)
Rivers Philadelphia, owned by HSP Gaming and managed by Rush Street Gaming, is Philadelphia’s only casino (for now). In New Jersey, the property is partnered with Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget, and operates its own branded online gambling site using a platform developed by its internal iGaming wing, Rush Street Interactive.
Although the casino underwent a name change in late 2019 from SugarHouse to Rivers Philadelphia, the online casino and sportsbook still carries the Play SugarHouse title. Play SugarHouse was one of the first to launch their online casino and sportsbook and famously offers a $250 deposit match and were the first to offer the absurdly low 1x wagering requirements.
Rivers Philadelphia began taking bets in a temporary sportsbook in December 2018. The $5 million permanent, 5700 square foot sportsbook opened in October 2019, and features 22 self betting kiosks, six betting windows, text to order food and drinks, and enough seating for 115 guests.
Located in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino is also owned by Rush Street Gaming, and is consistently among the top earning casinos in the state and has a virtual monopoly in Western Pennsylvania.
We had initially thought that Rivers Casino getting into online gambling was a slamdunk, but that turned out not to be the case. The property was indeed part of the initial wave of casinos to buy a package of online gambling licenses, but eventually had a change of heart and relinquished them back into the pool.
Instead of spending the $10 million required, Rivers will likely simply advertise the online casino of its sister venue, SugarHouse, instead. There are rumors of eventually merging Play SugarHouse and BetRivers into one site that would offer online casino, poker and sports betting.
Rivers Casino began taking sports bets in a temporary facility in December 2018. Their permanent $5 million, 5500 square foot sportsbook opened in October 2019 and features seating for 195 guests, 2 state of the art 50 foot LED monitors, 24 86″ HD monitors, a full bar, 33 self betting kiosks and 6 betting windows.
Wind Creek Casino (Formerly Sands Bethlehem)
Some thought that hell would freeze over before Sands Bethlehem applied for an online gaming license, but circumstances have now changed. In March 2018, the state’s second biggest revenue generator entered into a definitive purchasing agreement with Wind Creek Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Poarch Creek will purchase the property for the staggering sum of $1.3 billion.
After the dust settled on the sale of the property, Wind Creek Casino is now the proud owner of one of the top casinos in Pennsylvania and also hold both sports betting and internet gaming licenses. Wind Creek Casino has partnered with European gaming provider BetFred for both their online and retail sports betting. There has not been any announcements about launch dates at the time of this writing.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National
The gambling package which legalized online casinos in Pennsylvania has had enormous consequences for Penn National’s Granville property, in more ways than one. iGaming aside, the law also allows for the construction of 10 satellite casinos spread throughout the state, a serious threat for Hollywood, whose location puts it at unique risk of having its profits cannibalized by encroaching competitors.
In reaction, Penn National made a defensive blocking bet, snapping up the first mini casino license for the eye-watering price of $50.1 million, more than 7x the minimum bid.
Penn National’s licensing splurge continued into virtual gambling. It bought licenses for all three online gambling verticals, and revealed that it would partner with IGT to power those services.
The casino was also the first to break the silence in terms of sports betting, grabbing the first $10 million permit in August. The property turned to British bookmaker William Hill to turn its sports betting visions into reality and invested $10 million+ in its live sportsbook.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National officially became the first Pennsylvania casino to accept a sports bet in September 2018. They were also one of the first online casinos to launch. Despite this, we have still not seen any indication of when online poker or online sports betting will begin.
Valley Forge Casino Resort
Valley Forge Casino Resort has the most to celebrate after the gaming expansion package was passed back in 2017. The biggest news coming from the passing of the gaming expansion package was adding internet casinos and sports betting, but it also changed the rules for Category 3 casinos in the state. The days of being restricted by requiring memberships are over and they were also able to add 600 more slots and more table games to their live gaming options.
Valley Forge Casino Resort hit the jackpot when they partnered with the biggest names in online sports betting and casino in the US market. FanDuel and Valley Forge have a gaming partnership that will benefit both sides. FanDuel gets access to a huge market, and Valley Forge immediately rose to the top of the online sports betting market in PA.
The FanDuel retail sportsbook at Valley Forge is located right bear the entrance to the gaming floor is small… really small. Despite its size, the 1800 square foot sportsbook flows right out into the casino where there are plenty of bars and casino offerings to watch the game. There are seven teller windows, six self serve kiosks, seating for 30 and 29 video displays. Valley Forge did a great job with the limited space that they had, and is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the Philly Suburbs.
Presque Isle Downs
Before its announced acquisition by horseracing and gaming giant Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) in March, it was anyone’s guess whether Presque Isle would move forward with its own online gambling site. Now we have confirmation that it will, although in a limited capacity.
Presque Isle purchased licenses to offer virtual slots and table games for $4 million apiece, but opted out of online poker. They later ended up purchasing sports betting as well.
The Erie based casino opened their retail sportsbook on July 26th 2019 and it features 25 BetAmerica self betting kiosks in the sportsbook and 25 located throughout the rest of the casino. BetAmerica online sports betting launched in December 2019 and just a little over a month later launched their online casino.
Harrah’s Philadelphia is owned by Chester Downs & Marina, a subsidiary of casino behemoth Caesars Entertainment Corp.
In New Jersey and Nevada, multiple Caesars properties are already partnered with 888, which provides online casino games, as well as peer-to-peer online poker at WSOP.com. 888 also has branded sites of its own, including its own virtual card room.
888’s software platform, at least on the casino side, has been lackluster and somewhat disappointing in the US. Although the company has recently implemented improvements, 888-powered casinos in NJ (888 and Harrah’s) offer far fewer games than their competitors.
Launching with a substandard product in PA could be fatal due to the crushing tax rates and fees levied by the state. That leads us to believe that Harrah’s PA might opt to partner with a more formidable provider like SG Digital (formerly NYX Gaming and SG Interactive), at least for its online casino op. The company’s OGS platform already powers Caesars’ gaming site in NJ, along with Golden Nugget Casino, one of the state’s top earning operators.
As far as online poker, Harrah’s has confirmed that it will launch a WSOP.com-branded poker site. WSOP/888 is experiencing a resurgence in New Jersey due a compact to share player pools with Nevada and Delaware which went live earlier this year. If PA opts to join in, Harrah’s could be a major player in online poker.
Harrah’s has also dipped its toe into sports betting waters in PA, with the help of the Scientific Games at its brick-and-mortar sportsbook. SG may also help build a Caesars or Harrah’s branded online sports app.
Live! Hotel & Casino
Live! is a planned casino complex slated to be built in Philadelphia, near state’s sports epicenter. The developer was quick to purchase licenses to offer all three varieties of gambling games in PA, but later decided to give up the ipoker license.
After years of back and forth, sports fans can now see the developers hard at work at the former location of the Holiday Inn across from Citizens Bank Park and an estimated grand opening date sometime near summer 2021.
Live! Casino has partnered with FanDuel for both their online and retail sportsbetting, which may also indicate that BetFair will be their online casino provider.
Golden Nugget is a physical casino located in Atlantic City that does not have a land-based presence in PA. However, after the exclusivity window for Commonwealth casinos to purchase iGaming licenses expired, the leftover permits were offered up to qualified outside entities (like Golden Nugget).
Golden Nugget, which is the top online gambling licensee in the Garden State by a mile, was one of two outsiders to spring for PA online casino licenses (slots and table games only).
We are under the assumption that GN will continue its relationship with NYX, with which it has had much success in neighboring New Jersey.
The massive casino conglomerate MGM Resorts was the second qualified gaming entity to apply for a license in PA, requesting all three gaming types. The company operates over a dozen casinos in Las Vegas, along with many others scattered across the US.
It comes as no surprise that MGM would want to expand into PA; the company is heavily involved in iGaming in New Jersey, where it operates online casinos and poker sites through Borgata.
MGM is also making major moves in the world of sports betting, recently striking partnerships with both the NBA and NHL. It’s important to note that its online casino certificate will not give it carte blanche to become a top-level sportsbook licensee, that opportunity is reserved for state slot license holders. It could, however, be added as an online skin of one of the state’s 13 casinos.
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