Golden Nugget PA Online Casino Preview

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The undisputed leader of the NJ online casino market is taking its business next door to Pennsylvania.

Golden Nugget was able to slip into the Pennsylvania market via a caveat that allowed out-of-state gaming entities a crack at any online gambling licenses that weren’t first scooped up by Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos. When it became apparent that there would be a few leftover licenses, Golden Nugget quickly threw its hat into the ring, forking over $8 million for the right to offer online slots and table games. The PGCB recognized Golden Nugget as a qualified gaming entity in January 2019, moving it closer to receiving a full license.

What this means for Pennsylvania gamblers, is that they’ll have access to an online casino site that checks off just about all the boxes. From its mammoth year-long promotions, industry leading selection of games, array of fast and reliable payment methods, and Live Dealer offering, Golden Nugget has proven to be very much in touch with its player base. In addition, we’re talking about an operator that has over half-a-decade of experience in the legal U.S. iGaming sphere, meaning its PA operation shouldn’t fall victim to the early growing pains that other sites may experience.

In New Jersey, Golden Nugget online casino was able to overcome  its small brand status to become market share leader. Should it offer the same pioneering iGaming experience in Pennsylvania — and that’s a big if, considering that Pennsylvania is a more hostile regulatory environment for operators — it may just do the same in the Keystone State.

What bonuses will Golden Nugget offer to new players?

Given the sheer amount of competition it will face in Pennsylvania, we expect Golden Nugget to come out swinging with a rather aggressive welcome package for new players. In New Jersey, the best the site has offered is a $20 no-deposit bonus and a 100% match up to $1,000 on first deposits. Bonuses are subject to a 20x wagering requirement on most slots, and 100x on other games.

It wouldn’t completely surprise if Golden Nugget online does even better in Pennsylvania. That might mean a $2,000 bonus, or it could be that Golden Nugget offers the same $1,000 bonus as it does in New Jersey, but with a lower wagering requirement of 10x or less. Then again, in New Jersey, Golden Nugget was known for its patience, purposely waiting for other operators to “burn themselves out” before ramping up its marketing spend. So it’s plausible that Golden Nugget’s best welcome bonus won’t emerge until a few months after launch.

Looming over all of this is the oppressive 54% tax rate Pennsylvania levies on online slot revenue (the tax rate in NJ is 17.5%), which will force operators to keep close tabs on their promotional and marketing spend.

What advantages will Golden Nugget have over the competition?

  • Experience: From humble origins, Golden Nugget online casino gradually grew into the most popular online gambling site in New Jersey, and there it remains today. We expect Golden Nugget to leverage its experience in New Jersey, offering a product in Pennsylvania that will be highly attractive to those seeking gambling thrills.
  • Game selection: In terms of sheer counts, Golden Nugget’s game selection will be second to none, offering what we suspect will be well over 500 titles at maturity. And the offering will be eclectic too, spanning slots, myriad table games, video poker, Live Dealer, and more.
  • Product: Golden Nugget in New Jersey is partnered with SG Digital in New Jersey, which acquired online gaming platform provider NYX Gaming in 2016. Platforms powered by NYX Gaming account for a massive chunk of iGaming revenue in the Garden State, and for good reason: not only is it a world-class provider, but it easily allows for tons of gaming content to be seamlessly integrated onto its partners’ sites and mobile applications. Look for Golden Nugget to continue its partnerships with SG Digital in PA.
  • Promotions: Golden Nugget offers an array of promotions. Several of these are targeted toward casual players; the rest at big players willing to throw money around for a shot at massive prizes, topping out at $30,000+. In NJ the site gives away millions annually. Look for a similar “go big, or go home” effort in Pennsylvania.

The major hurdle Golden Nugget will face in Pennsylvania is that it’s not a well-known brand, with no attachments to a land-based casino within the Keystone State. That said, it isn’t exactly the first gaming brand that comes to mind among New Jersey gamblers either, yet its online casino has flourished.

Golden Nugget Online: Available platforms

Stability, ease-of-use, and account management tools: These are some of the most important features that players look for in their online casino sites, and they’re all dependent on the quality of the gaming platform. Golden Nugget is no stranger to knowing what players want in a platform and will serve up an offering that dishes out the goods in spades.

Desktop client

For players looking for a fully comprehensive experience, they’ll needn’t look further than the Golden Nugget PA desktop client. Based on what we’ve observed in New Jersey, Golden Nugget should offer a browser-based client, compatible with most modern browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla FireFox, Microsoft Edge, and Safari for Mac.

Not only will the desktop platform, powered by NYX Games (a subdivision of SG Digital), offer hundreds of searchable games, but it will be ripe with functionality that will allow players to easily access the cashier, check out their playing history, access their bonuses and promotions, and contact Golden Nugget’s multi-channel support team.

All the while, expect the software to hum along without any real hangups or server lag. In terms of stability, the Golden Nugget product in New Jersey is about as good as it gets, and we expect this level of quality to translate to the Pennsylvania iGaming market.

Mobile platform

With more and more gamblers playing on the go, it would be downright foolish for an operator not to offer a mobile product right out of the gate.

We expect the launch of Golden Nugget’s online casino to coincide directly with a mobile counterpart, downloadable for both semi-modern to modern iOS (from the App Store) and Android (directly from the Golden Nugget online casino home webpage) powered devices.

In many ways the app should mimic the desktop client, only instead of clicking with a mouse, players will tap and swipe with their finger. The only real drawback to playing on mobile is that they’ll be fewer games, but we’re likely talking the difference between 400 and 500, with most slots and Live Dealer accounted for. Table games players that enjoy virtual games other than blackjack or roulette may be out of luck on mobile.

Game selection at Golden Nugget online casino

The best online casinos in Pennsylvania will offer far more than just a smattering of old-fashioned slots. We’re talking more formats than you can shake a stick at, including progressive slots, video poker, blackjack, other table games, and Live Dealer. Expect Golden Nugget to welcome all of these formats to its online casino, among others.

Slots

Golden Nugget Casino in New Jersey has aggressively expanded its slot selection, now offering over 550 of the one-armed bandits. Expect history to repeat itself in Pennsylvania, with regular, Big Bet, and progressive slots in abundance. But just because Golden Nugget PA will have a massive slot selection doesn’t mean that they won’t be particular about what lands on the site. No, instead, expect only the very best slots from top providers such as NetEnt, IGT, Konami, NextGen, Barcrest, and much more.

Here is a sprinkling of the games we expect to see at or near launch:

  • Divine Fortune
  • Crazy Money II
  • 88 Fortunes
  • Raging Rhino
  • Deal or No Deal Slingo
  • Fu Dao Le
  • Merlin’s Millions

We should note that those expecting an online slot playing environment as favorable as the one in New Jersey might be disappointed, as Pennsylvania levies a massive 54% tax rate on the activity, more than three times the New Jersey rate. This could result in operators agreeing to lower returns-to-player (where applicable), offer fewer slot-focused promotions, and operators being much more selective in which slots they choose to offer. Still, slots stand to be the bread and butter of the Pennsylvania market, with returns that outpace the average returns (90%) found at land-based casinos in the state.

Live Dealer

Live Dealer, which juxtaposes the best elements of live and online play, has proven a boon for Golden Nugget in New Jersey. The online casino was the first in the state to go live with the format in August 2016, and has since seen it grow by leaps and bounds. So why not replicate that effort in Pennsylvania as soon as possible?

Well, there are a few hurdles. Primarily, due to a recent reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice, Pennsylvania online casinos must now house their operations from completely within the state. What this means is that Golden Nugget will not have the option to stream Live Dealer games to Pennsylvania players from its Atlantic City-based studio.

And without a brick & mortar presence in the state, it seems very likely that Golden Nugget will have to partner with a PA casino that streams the games on-site. To date, no casino has announced plans to build a studio, so it’s seeming less and less likely that Live Dealer will be part of Golden Nugget PA’s launch product.

Still, down the road we do expect Live Dealer games to flourish, especially at Golden Nugget, which will already have had years of experience with the format in conjunction with provider Ezugi. Expect the following Live Dealer games to appear on the site, once the format goes live:

  • Blackjack (including the Bet Behind feature and Unlimited variations)
  • Roulette (American, Multiview, Slingshot)
  • Baccarat (Dragon Bonus)

Blackjack at Golden Nugget Casino

One thing land-based Pennsylvania casinos are known for is their stellar blackjack rules. 3:2 on naturals, double after split, double any two, stand on soft 17, surrender, even resplit aces —  all these player-friendly rules can be found at live tables in Pennsylvania if one looks hard enough.

Considering the lowish tax rate on online table games, we expect virtual blackjack playing conditions on Pennsylvania online casino sites to be nearly as favorable to the player. Just learn the basic strategy — easily found online — and you’ll cut the house edge to 0.5% or less. What’s more, online blackjack games at Golden Nugget PA will likely be available at the micro stakes, with $1 per hand minimums or less. So no more having to gamble upwards of $25 a pop on a hand, like you might have to do at Sands or Parx Casino on the weekends.

Some blackjack variations we expect to see:

  • Multihand Blackjack
  • BlackJack by IGT
  • BlackJack by NetEnt
  • Atlantic City Blackjack (various stakes)

Golden Nugget in New Jersey has yet to offer single- or double-deck games, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the table in Pennsylvania, so to speak.

Roulette

Pennsylvania players will be pleased to know that both American (double zero) and European (single zero) Roulette games should be available at Golden Nugget PA. Also, expect the site to support a few niche variants like 3-Wheel Roulette and Double Bonus Spin Roulette that simply cannot be found at land-based casinos, in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the U.S.

If players are really lucky, Golden Nugget PA will also support a French Roulette game, much as it does in New Jersey. This single zero game returns half a player’s even money wager if the ball lands on the dreaded 0, making it the lowest house-edge variant of roulette around.

Other tables games

Traditionally, U.S. online casino sites do not offer as many niche table games as brick & mortar casinos, and truthfully, we don’t expect Golden Nugget PA to break that mold. There will be some options, however, including:

  • Baccarat
  • Let it Ride
  • Three Card Poker

Other games that don’t fall neatly into one category should also be present on the site, like Slingo, Bingo, Steppers, and Virtual Sports, where players bet on simulated and digitally rendered racing and sporting contests.

As the market matures, it’s plausible even more game types will become available, particularly those popular internationally.

Video Poker

Proponents of skill-based games won’t have to look much further than Golden Nugget PA’s video poker selection, which should be at least above average.

In New Jersey, Golden Nugget Casino offers a variety of single- and multi-line games, including:

  • Jacks or Better
  • Bonus Poker
  • Double Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus Poker

The aforementioned feature full or near full-pay tables for their single line variants, all returning 99% (with perfect play) or higher. Other games, like Deuces Wild and Joker Poker support decent, but not exceptional returns.

Golden Nugget also supports Destiny Poker, a clever video poker variant where players who miss those pesky flush draws are given a second (and third) chance to win some coins.

We expect Golden Nugget Casino in Pennsylvania to offer a similar library of video poker games as its companion site in New Jersey.

How will Golden Nugget’s player loyalty program work?

Golden Nugget is no stranger to loyalty programs, having rolled out a successful one in the New Jersey market. Except similar in PA.

Here’s how it works:

  • All players that sign up for the site are immediately and automatically registered for the program, entitled Golden Rewards Club.
  • Players earn Golden Points (we’re sensing a theme here) by playing any real-money game on the site, at a rate of 5 points per $100 wagered on slots, and 1 point per $100 wagered on other games.
  • They’ll also earn points for making deposits (max once per day)
  • Golden Points can be redeemed at a rate of 100 per $1, payable as cash (no turnover required).

Although there’s no reason not to take advantage of the program, we should note that the cashback rates are very low, almost negligible really. In order to earn $1 cashback, players will have to wager $2,000 on slots, which works out to 0.05% cashback. Table game players receive just 0.01%. These figures can be boosted by making regular deposits, but only marginally.

On a brighter note, anyone who earns 5,000 Golden Points lifetime will be entered into site’s VIP program. There, members will see a portion of their net deposits for the prior week refunded as bonus cash (pending certain conditions), and will also receive access to exclusive VIP promotions and enhanced customer service. Best part of the VIP program is that it’s good for life — no maintenance required.

Depositing and withdrawing at Golden Nugget PA

Players from PA should have little issue transferring money on and off Golden Nugget Casino. That’s not to say that there won’t be any difficulties at launch, but once the site ages a bit, we expect it to offer a robust offering of depositing and withdrawal methods, most of which will feature exceptional success rates.

Based on what Golden Nugget NJ currently offers, we expect the following:

  • VIP Preferred: Link a bank account to your Golden Nugget account and deposit via eCheck (ACH)
  • Play+ Prepaid Card: This prepaid card option allows players to load funds via a debit card or checking account. This option is probably the most player-friendly of the bunch, as it features very high success rates and $1 cashback on loads of $100+.
  • PayPal: Hard to say if this option will be supported for deposits and withdrawals at launch, but probably eventually. PayPal is a popular eWallet, and boasts very high acceptance rates.
  • Visa/MasterCard debit/credit cards: A convenient option, but one that is prone to high decline rates. Try it, but have a backup plan ready. Credit card deposits may be subject to cash advance fees from the issuing bank. Deposits only.
  • PayNearMe: Good for those who prefer cash in hand transactions. Simply begin the transaction online and complete at any eligible CVS Pharmacy, 7-Eleven, or Family Dollar store.
  • Neteller: Decent third-party processing option. Fees may apply.
  • Online banking transfer: Features instant processing and an extra layer of security, as all transactions are conducted through your bank’s secure portal. However, your bank must support online bill pay in order to use this option. Deposits only.

Typically, online casinos also offer a cash at the casino cage option for deposits and withdrawals, but because Golden Nugget doesn’t have a brick & mortar presence in Pennsylvania, this option is likely off the table.

Golden Nugget Online support

Golden Nugget PA will likely offer three channels of support, including:

  • Live chat
  • Email support
  • Phone

All three options should be available 24/7, and we do expect Golden Nugget Casino to be in the industry’s upper echelon with regard to customer support.

More about Golden Nugget Casino

Golden Nugget holds a prestigious rank as the online market leader in neighboring New Jersey. In addition to the highest revenues, the site boasts the largest game library of any online casino in the U.S. The operator runs a modestly successful brick-and-mortar casino in Atlantic City, where it happens to host Live Dealer games in a studio on the casino floor with partner Ezugi (providing gameplay for multiple competitors, but still offering the largest selection solely on its own site).

Most recently the NJ site has also expanded into online sports betting, an option it won’t currently be able to offer in PA unless it can arrange a completely separate license to do so. However, at this time the PGCB has not indicated that it will allow such licenses for outside operators in the same way as casino gaming (if any should even still be available in the future).

Conclusion

The biggest hurdle Golden Nugget online casino will face in the Pennsylvania market is its lack of a brick & mortar companion. It’s not a major deterrent, as Golden Nugget’s online and retail customers generally come from two different stocks, but it will prevent the operator from hosting its own Live Dealer studio, like it does in New Jersey. It’ll also hinder the operator’s ability to cross-promote. Not to mention, PA residents may initially take to their local brands, not some outsider.

Golden Nugget PA will be subject to much higher tax rates compared to New Jersey, and will have to adjust accordingly. All that said, Golden Nugget is the market leader in NJ for a reason, and it has little to do with brand recognition. Instead, it provides a vastly above par product, complemented by strong promotions and a solid marketing initiative. If it stays true to the core principles that led to its success in New Jersey, we envision the operator replicating its success in Pennsylvania.

In short, Golden Nugget Casino PA will definitely be a site players will want to add to their checklist when browsing their online casino options.

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Robert is a veteran writer and analyst for the gambling industry, with a particular focus on the emergent US online gambling market. An avid poker and gambling enthusiast, Robert offers unique perspectives from both the vantage point of the player and industry professional, and is fit to cover a broad spectrum of topics.

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