Meadows Online Casino Preview

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The Meadows Racetrack and Casino opened its doors over half a century ago, making its mark as the first pari-mutuel horse racing track to debut in the state. Today, the venue offers much more than just racing, it now boasts a casino stocked with a huge variety of slot machines and table games, a poker room with a one-of-a-kind view, a bowling center, and a live entertainment venue.

With the passage of Pennsylvania’s iGaming law last year, the casino might soon take the plunge into the online realm as well. Throughout its long life, Meadows has proven itself adept at keeping pace with the times, and has never been afraid to experiment with new technology.

In the early 80s, it made two technological advances which proved a big hit and major success for the company. The first was the Call-A-Bet system, which allowed gamblers to phone-in wagers for races from the comfort of their own homes. The second was the introduction of a live telecast, which broadcast races on local cable TV channels.

Unlike some of its competitors, Meadows has not yet signaled whether it intends to participate in the state’s online gambling industry. However, there are clues that it might. The casino is operated by Pinnacle Entertainment, which recently agreed to merge with Penn National, a company with its own iGaming division.

For that reason, and others detailed below, we believe there is a high likelihood Meadows will offer PA gamblers its own branded online casino when the industry gets the green light to launch later this year.

What type of welcome bonuses will Meadows online casino offer?

While it’s difficult to predict every aspect of a land-based casino’s potential online counterpart, it’s safe to say that Meadows would offer its players two types of welcome bonuses.

The first will be a free-money sign up bonus, awarded to those who simply create a player account. These types of bonuses do not require any deposit whatsoever, and usually come in the $10-$30 range. With this, gamblers can take the site for a test drive without having to risk losing any of their hard-earned cash in the process.

The second type would be a first-time deposit match bonus, which are generally much more substantial. In neighboring New Jersey, online gambling sites offer deposit bonuses from $100 at the low end, all the way up to $2,500. Players choose the amount they’d like to deposit, up to the specified maximum, and receive a percentage of that amount as their bonus reward.

There is a catch to fully unlocking these funds, however, as no casino in its right mind would simply hand out free money without asking anything in return. To release the cash, players must complete a play-through requirement by wagering their bonus amount by a certain multiple, usually 5x – 20x. Some sites set these even lower, like SugarHouse, which offers a smaller maximum, but only requires a 1X play-through.

Of course Meadows could opt for a different type of bonus structure entirely, like Tropicana and Virgin Casino in NJ. At those sites, players who make a deposit of $10 or more receive up to $100 cashback on their losses – a simple and easy to understand incentive.

What advantages will an online casino by Meadows have?

  • Tried and tested casino software: While it’s possible that Meadows could build its own proprietary iGaming platform, it’s more likely that it would turn to a major industry player such as SG Digital (formerly NYX and Scientific Games). SG software powers the Play 4 Fun Network at Hollywood Casino, whose parent company has an interest also in Meadows. Instead of enduring the grueling process of creating software from scratch, the SG Digital platform would allow Meadows to get a robust and secure online casino up and running in a relatively short period of time.
  • Multi-property promotional tie-ins: Meadows recently introduced a new rewards program which allows players to use points at any one of Pinnacle Entertainment’s casino property. Meadows’ iGaming customers could earn loyalty points online, which they could exchange for incentives at not just its flagship B&M casino, but at any venue under the Pinnacle umbrella.
  • Access to the most popular games: Teaming up with SG Digital, a premier slot game developer, would give Meadows early access to some of the most popular titles created under both NYX and Scientific Games. 88 Fortunes is one such example; the slot features four large static jackpots and is a player favorite in New Jersey and throughout the globe.

Which platforms will Meadows online be available for?

It is now considered industry standard practice for online casinos to offer their games for both Mac and PC desktop/laptop computers, as well as via mobile apps. Meadows casino will certainly follow suit, or watch its players flock to competitors who do.

Desktop client

Years ago, online gamblers were forced to download dedicated software clients in order to access a casino’s game library. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Web browsers have become much more advanced over the past decade and can now easily run casino games directly through the frontend of a website.

Simply fire up any of the popular web browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari or Microsoft Edge – and choose your favorite game to start your session.

Mobile apps

Game creators have become extremely adept at adapting and developing slots and table games for cell phone and tablet screens, making it possible for gamblers to load and play their favorite games from nearly anywhere.

Meadows online casino would not overlook this aspect of the business and would almost definitely launch its own iOS and Android apps. How can we be so sure? In New Jersey, every single one of the state’s regulated gaming sites offers its own mobile apps, even the lowest earning operators of the bunch.

Online game selection at Meadows casino

The suite of games offered at Meadows online should in some ways mimic that of its brick-and-mortar casino property, while also adding some nuance. Traditional favorites like slots, table games and video poker will be found in abundance, with bingo and even online poker a possibility as well.

Modern formats like Virtual Sports and Live Dealer, both currently making a splash in New Jersey, could eventually be added at Meadows online casino as well.

Slots at Meadows online

We believe that PA lawmakers made a major miscalculation when they set the tax rate for online slots at a crushing 54%, the same rate levied on their land-based counterparts. Unlike brick-and-mortar properties, which can make additional revenue by offering entertainment and dining options to patrons, online gambling sites have few such opportunities.

Instead, it’s very likely that iGaming operators will choose slot titles that offer return to player percentages that are less than favorable to customers.

But even so, slots are such a popular component of online casinos that Meadows will certainly launch with several hundred games, and continue adding titles as they forge partnerships with new providers.

Here are a few of the slots you might expect to see there:

  • Lock It Link Nightlife
  • Monopoly: Bring the House Down
  • Golden Chief
  • Jekyll Goes Wild
  • Spartacus Call to Arms

Blackjack

Any online casino worth its salt will offer an abundance of blackjack options to its patrons. Expect to see half a dozen or more blackjack games at Meadows online casino, each providing some of the following variations:

  • Micro-limit stakes
  • Single or multi-hand games
  • Sidebets
  • Traditional Atlantic City or Vegas rules

Blackjack rules at PA land-based casinos are generally favorable to the customer. 3:2 payouts for naturals are the norm and doubling down is allowed after any two cards or after splits. We expect these rules to translate to Meadows’ online casino as well.

Roulette

Online gaming has opened up a whole new world for the game of roulette, providing options that players just won’t find in B&M casinos. At a land-based property, you might see a single roulette table offering the American version of the game, which, by the way, provides significantly worse odds than the European version.

At Meadows online, you’ll find both variations, along with some unique versions only offered in the virtual realm, like 3 Wheel Roulette and Double Spin Roulette.

Other table games

If you’re in the mood to branch out a bit from the most popular titles, you’ll likely have several games to choose from. If New Jersey casinos are any indicator, some of the following games will be available:

  • Let it Ride
  • Three Card Poker
  • No Commission Baccarat
  • Slingo

Virtual Sports

When PA legalized iGaming last year, they also set up the framework to allow sports betting in the state. That all hinges on whether the Supreme Court rules the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional, however. That decision is expected shortly.

If that happens, as many think it might, we could certainly see Meadows online casino offering customers the ability to wager on their favorite teams online.

In the meantime, Virtual Sports could help fill the gap.

Virtual sporting events are computer-generated simulations, and do not represent real-world games. However, many enjoy placing bets on these virtual contests to pass the time between live horseraces and games.

Bets can be placed on the following types of events:

  • Car racing
  • Dog racing
  • Horseracing
  • Motorcycle racing
  • Soccer

Live Dealer at Meadows casino

The Live Dealer format has become such a success in the Garden State that casinos like Golden Nugget and Betfair have increased their hours of operation while continually adding more games. It’s possible that we could eventually see Live Dealer at  Meadows casino, but it’s more likely that larger casinos like Parx and Rivers would have it up and running first.

Will Meadows’ online gambling site have a loyalty program?

If you don’t take advantage of your preferred casino’s loyalty program, you are leaving money on the table. Online casinos, like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, know that to keep players happy and excited to return, they need to offer a consistent stream of rewarding bonuses and incentives.

While it’s unclear exactly how Meadows online casino would go about creating its loyalty program, it’s a certainty that they will offer one. The brand could take one of two routes. The first would be to extend their current, recently revamped land-based program, MYCHOICE. The second would be to create an entirely new system exclusively for their online customers.

We can be reasonably certain that Meadows will try and entice its online players into checking out its land-based casino through promotional tie-ins. Online players might earn some of the following rewards, redeemable at multiple Pinnacle Entertainment properties:

  • Free slots play
  • Discounts on food and beverages
  • Hotel discounts
  • Entertainment and shopping incentives
  • Coupons and special offers

Banking options at Meadows online casino

When legal online gambling sites launch in Pennsylvania, unregulated offshore operators will suffer a big blow.

Blacklisted by American banks, offshore sites often choose illegal methods to accept deposits from American gamblers, who might not understand that they are playing on an unregulated site.

Fortunately, making deposits and withdrawals at PA gaming sites will be seamless, and carry none of the risks associated with illegal operators. We expect Meadows to launch with enough banking options to allow nearly any type of qualified player to deposit funds quickly and easily.

Here are a few of them:

  • PayPal
  • E-wallets like Neteller or Skrill
  • Instant eCheck (ACH)
  • Online banking transfer
  • Cashier’s cage at Meadows
  • Visa/MasterCard credit or debit cards
  • Meadows Play+ prepaid card option
  • PayNearMe (cash at 7-Eleven)
  • Bank wire transfers

Customer support at Meadows’ gambling site

Legal online gambling has never been offered in Pennsylvania, so it will be essential for Meadows to have a competent support staff on hand to answer any and all questions.

That said, it is common practice in New Jersey for casinos to provide a dedicated help center on their website, along with support through at least three different channels. We expect Meadows to do the same, offering the following:

  • Email
  • 24/7 phone
  • Live chat

More about the Meadows Racetrack and Casino

Pennsylvania’s gambling industry dates back to 1959, when the lawmakers legalized horseracing through the passage of the Race Horse Industry Reform Act.

Meadows was the first property to take advantage of the new opportunity, breaking ground for its pari-mutuel track in 1962 and opening its doors the following year. The track was initially operated by the Washington Trotting Association, but was later sold to a group consisting of renowned trainer Delvin Miller. Miller’s legacy is cemented through the track’s premier race, the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchards.

Meadows may be the oldest track in the state, but it has always been at the forefront of modern betting technology. In 1983 it introduced the popular Call-A-Bet system, which allowed gamblers to place bets right over the phone, cutting out the need to drive out to the track at all. This feature was complemented by Meadows Racing Network, a telecast which broadcast the days’ races live on select local TV channels.

In 2004, PA passed legislation legalizing slot gambling at 14 locations throughout the state. Meadows quickly applied for a Category 1 gaming license, which it was granted in 2006. Three years later, the property opened its permanent casino, which now includes over 3,000 slot machines, 65 table games, a 14-table poker room, along with a premier steakhouse, a bowling center and a live music venue.

In 2006, Meadows was sold by gambling behemoth Ladbrokes to Cannery Casino Resorts (CCR). Cannery in turn sold the property to Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc., its current owner, for $440 million.

Conclusion

While Meadows hasn’t publicly shown his hand as to whether it will create its own online gambling site, we believe there is a strong possibility that it will.

The property has shown a proclivity for embracing new technology throughout its history, so offering virtual gambling would be a logical continuation of that trend.

What’s more, Meadows is operated by Pinnacle Entertainment, which was acquired by Penn National. This is important because Penn National also owns and operates Hollywood Casino, and has been very enthusiastic about online gambling in recent years. In 2015 the company created its own iGaming division and already hosts a social casino on the Hollywood website.

Both casinos might very well decide to take a shot at opening their own real-money online casinos. The next step would be deciding whether to create their own gambling software or go with an established provider like SG Digital. We believe that the latter is the most likely scenario.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.