Pennsylvania’s top casino in terms of market share, Parx Casino, had a hearing Thursday in front of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regarding its request for a five-year renewal of its casino license. It was a normal regulatory matter, but it featured a discussion about an atypical regulatory issue facing the state: the implementation of its 2017 online gambling law.
Though Pennsylvania has already launched its online lottery gambling offerings, the state’s 12 casinos have yet to kick off either online sports betting or online casino gambling. Those offerings could come as late as June, Parx told the state regulatory body, which will ultimately give the casino the final green light.
Anthony Ricci, CEO of the casino’s parent company, Greenwood Racing Inc., told regulators that Parx is eyeing an online gambling launch “sometime” in the second quarter, which likely pushes the games back until early summer (June). Before a recent legal opinion from the federal government that pertains to interstate online gambling, the Pennsylvania casino industry was prepping for a spring launch.
PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole is even less optimistic, recently telling the PA House Appropriations Committee that online casinos could launch “as early as June, but in all likelihood, it will be July.”
Parx kicked off retail sports wagering in January.
A change of plans
Regulators told licensees in January that they should reinspect their respective online gambling plans in order to minimize the risk of being in violation of the new legal opinion.
Other than delaying launch, the Trump Administration’s bizzare anti-states’ rights stance is not throwing too big of a wrench into the casino’s plans.
“I don’t think it necessarily affects what we are going to do,” Ricci said. “We had contemplated putting servers in NJ, but that’s not an option now. We haven’t located our servers anywhere [yet].”
Ricci added that “the big question is with respect to payment processing.”
“We don’t see any reason why we can’t proceed [with online gambling],” said Ricci, “especially with sports betting.” He stated that at minimum customers could deposit cash into their online gambling accounts while physically at the casino. That’s assuming a worst-case scenario with payments.
PGCB on the road today in Bucks County for Parx Casino lisence renewal hearing. pic.twitter.com/beIwM6o7F0
— PGCB (@PAGamingControl) February 28, 2019
Parx has some concerns about competition
In comments to regulators, Ricci said Parx has some concerns about Pennsylvania allowing casino developers without a brick-and-mortar casino in the state to offer online gambling that’s not tethered to a facility. “All they have is a server, and they could spend more on marketing,” Ricci said.
MGM and Golden Nugget, two Atlantic City casino operators with internet betting businesses, are looking to launch games in Pennsylvania.
Parx reiterated that it was relatively lukewarm to the online gambling bill that passed in 2017. However, the casino is the industry leader in the state, and it is confident in its business in the face of increased competition.
Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania is eyeing a coordinated roll-out of online gambling, which wouldn’t give any operator a leg up.
Hearing goes well for Parx
In its request for its license renewal, Parx detailed the economic benefits it has created for the local community and the state.
Regulators were required to hold the hearing in Bensalem, where Parx is located. The roughly two-hour long hearing featured some comments from the community.
All in all, everything went smoothly for the casino. A vote wasn’t had on its license, but that will come in the following weeks when regulators meet again in Harrisburg.
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