More than 620 days after Pennsylvania legalized online casino gaming, the state’s first platforms appear ready to launch and take bets from customers.
On Monday, commercial online casino gambling from Parx and Penn National (owner of the Hollywood Casino) are expected to go live for testing, in what is called a “soft” launch phase, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board told Penn Bets Wednesday after its regularly scheduled hearing in Harrisburg.
There could be a third online casino platform to launch Monday, but the PGCB said that is still up in the air. The testing phase will have limited hours for the online casinos. In a matter of days after the soft launch, they will be 24/7 operations, like their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Parx, Penn National, and one more?
“We are working with several operators who could be ready for testing next week,” PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach said. “Parx has announced their intentions, of course. Penn National is another that is working toward being ready. There is the possibility that a third could be ready, but that decision would occur just before the 15th, if at all. Otherwise, additional test periods for operators who are ready will occur in the coming weeks.”
While it’s not clear who the third operator is, signs do point to Rush Street Gaming, owner of the Rivers and SugarHouse casinos. Rush Street is already live with online/mobile sports betting under both the SugarHouse and Rivers brands.
Altogether, 12 operators have filed to offer real-money online casino gambling in the state.
Both Parx and Penn National applied to offer online slots, table games, and poker. It’s rumored that online poker may not be ready on Monday. Parx partnered with GAN, while PN aligned with IGT.
While some casinos prepare to launch online gaming on Monday, they are also awaiting a judge’s decision on the Pennsylvania Lottery’s games that a coalition of the casinos say are in violation of the law. The casinos think the iLottery games are encroaching on their turf.
The PGCB hearing Wednesday didn’t include any discussion of Monday’s online casino launch, but there were several noteworthy regulatory matters before the board.
Stadium’s sportsbook plans for Philly
Stadium Casino, LLC, which comes from the Cordish Cos. of Maryland, told the PGCB that its upcoming casino, expected to open in December 2020, will in fact have a sportsbook. Previously, the Pennsylvania casino gaming licensee wasn’t prepared to announce its official plans for sports wagering.
Stadium’s Live! Casino-Hotel Philadelphia, which is branded the same as the Maryland Live! Casino-Hotel, will try to capitalize on its proximity to the city’s sports venues. Stadium said it will apply for the $10 mm sports wagering certificate later this month. Stadium previously applied for approval to conduct real-money online casino gambling. Stadium told regulators Wednesday that it’s still in the process of finding potential partners for interactive wagering.
Live! Philadelphia, which comes with an investment of more than $700 mm, has long been mothballed. The casino received a license back in November 2014 but ended up facing setbacks. The regulatory matter before the PGCB this week wasn’t pertaining to sports betting or online gambling, but rather Stadium’s petition to receive a license renewal for the casino project.
Regulators decided to delay a decision on the renewal petition until some lingering issues about traffic to the area — specifically with regard to a freeway ramp — are sorted out. Most of Stadium’s time in front of the board on Wednesday was a discussion about the ramp. Though the issue wasn’t resolved, it doesn’t appear likely that it will delay the project.
Unibet approved for sports betting, casino
Unibet Interactive, Inc., an offshoot of the Malta-based Kindred Group, received conditional approval from the PGCB for sports betting and online casino gambling. The online gaming platform provider partnered with the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino, located in Wilkes-Barre.
MSP, which applied for its sports betting certificate in March and was approved in May, plans to utilize the Unibet brand for its sports betting products. The partnership was announced in January.
The casino is planning to open its retail sportsbook in the fall, with an online/mobile book launching in the following months. The Keystone State currently has just three online/mobile sportsbooks.
Satellite casino auctions reopening
Another component of the 2017 gambling expansion law that legalized sports betting and online casino gambling pertains to satellite, or Category 4, casinos. The PGCB will reopen the auction process on those Cat 4 facilities in September, with a minimum bid of $7.5 mm.
Regulators said Wednesday that five additional Cat 4 casinos are up for grabs. The auctions are for the right to apply for one of those facilities, so a winning bid doesn’t guarantee licensure. The so-called mini-casinos, which can’t have as many slots or table games as a full-fledged Pennsylvania casino, are allowed to have sports betting.
The previous auction phase for the satellite casinos was completed in April 2018.
About $127 mm worth of bids were had over the course of five previous auctions for the facilities. State law allows up to 10 satellite casinos. Penn National, Parx, Mount Airy, and Stadium were the winners of the previous bids. Penn National sought two satellite casinos.
None of the satellite casinos have opened yet.
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