Presque Isle Downs & Casino is going all-in on casino games, just not poker. Mohegan Sun Pocono has eyes on both.
At today’s PA Gaming Control Board hearing, it was revealed that both properties have applied for multiple online gambling licenses. Presque Isle forked over $8 million for licenses covering virtual table games and slots, while Mohegan Sun paid $12 million for licenses spanning casino games and online poker.
The duo join nine other PA land-based casinos, all of whom applied for an all-inclusive license ahead of a deadline that gave casinos until mid-July to apply for table game, slot, and poker licenses for the discounted price of $10 million. Having missed the deadline, Presque Isle and Mohegan Sun were required to pay $4 million per license.
With their entry, the only brick-and-mortar casinos in Pennsylvania not to apply for an online gambling license of some sort are Lady Luck Nemacolin and The Meadows. Pennsylvania has already locked up $110 million from online gambling, which was legalized last October, all before the first card is dealt.
Presque Isle all-in on casino, and nothing else, yet
Given who its new owner is, it comes as little surprise that Presque Isle would throw its hat into the iGaming arena, at least in some capacity. Churchill Downs, which has been aggressively bullish on online gambling and sports betting, entered into a purchasing agreement to acquire the property in February.
Fast-forward a few months, and Churchill announced a partnership with Golden Nugget Casino in New Jersey as a gateway into the state’s real-money online gambling and sports betting markets. Golden Nugget officially went live with its land-based sportsbook on Wednesday, but Churchill Downs will likely not offer its online products until early next year.
On the same day that it announced its partnership with Golden Nugget, Churchill also made public a long-term agreement with sports betting and iGaming platform provider SBTech. However, at present, Churchill and Presque Downs are non-committal as to whether they will enter the PA sports betting industry, only citing interest at the Board hearing.
Wednesday’s hearing also covered temporary regulations for sports betting. Already, we know that sports betting operators will have to fork over $10 million for a license, and pay an oppressive 36% tax on gross sports revenue. There was some early speculation that PA would only allow on-premise mobile betting, but that already appears to have been squashed.
Somewhat surprising, although not completely unexpected, is that Presque Isle chose to not apply for an online poker license. Although Churchill Downs was once very enthusiastic about online poker, going so far to acquire BLUFF Media in early 2012, that enthusiasm has cooled. Churchill Downs shut down Bluff Magazine in 2015. Not to mention, with nine other potential online poker operators in the state, including behemoths PokerStars (which is linked up with Mt. Airy Casino) and 888, there may not be much room for a relative newcomer to the space to carve out significant market share.
Mohegan Sun pays extra
Mohegan Sun Pocono was a prime contender to apply for online gambling licenses in Pennsylvania, making it more a question not of if, but when, it would submit its paperwork.
Mohegan Sun has already been a mainstay of the NJ online gambling industry for several years, having launched a self-branded online casino site in July 2015. The site is licensed under Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, which Mohegan Sun has operated since 2012.
Mohegan Sun Pocono has yet to announce partnerships for online gambling, although a safe bet would be for it to extend its existing relationship with SG Digital into the Keystone State for online casino. As for online poker, Resorts/Mohegan is partnered with PokerStars in New Jersey, yet an extension of that relationship appears unlikely, as PokerStars will offer its product through Mt. Airy Casino.
It’s somewhat baffling that Mohegan paid $2 million more than it had to for its three online gambling licenses in Pennsylvania. The reasons why it delayed submitting its application until after the “discount” period concluded in mid-July is unknown.
Mohegan Sun Pocono has yet to make any sports betting plans clear.
So what now?
From the start of the licensing period in mid-April, casinos had 90 days to apply for a collective license spanning table games, slots, and poker, and then 30 days after that to apply for individual licenses. After this 120-day exclusive window, any unclaimed licenses would be open to qualified entities that aren’t PA land-based casinos.
By our calendar, the exclusive period has now ended, and pending we don’t hear any other eleventh hour announcements from Lady Luck Nemacolin or The Meadows, there will be two table games licenses, two slots licenses, and three online poker licenses up for grabs. It will be interesting to see if some of the big players in New Jersey, like Betfair or Golden Nugget, come in to grab one of the leftover licenses.
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