Nestled away in the small touristy town of Mt. Pocono lies Mount Airy Casino, a modest property with ambitious plans for the future — plans that include online gambling.
Mount Airy’s online gambling roots stem all the way back to early 2015, some two-and-a-half years before iGaming was legalized in Pennsylvania. It was then that the casino forged a partnership with iGaming powerhouse 888 Holdings to provide software for its online games. Since this time is has also become widely believed that an arrangement is in place for industry giant PokerStars to power their online poker and sports betting operations.
Either way, Mount Airy has cemented its interest in online poker – whomever the partner may be – when it became one of the first Pennsylvania casinos to complete its full application to the state Gaming Control Board for a three-prong license to offer online slots, table games, and a poker room. The casino was one of the first to receive board approval, on August 15. Making these alliances with top-tier partners is thus likely to pay off soon, now that the first wave of regulated iGaming sites are preparing to go live.
Little Mt. Airy, which is currently only the state’s ninth biggest casino earner (out of 12), is also spreading its reach in other ways. Recently, it won the Keystone State’s third satellite casino auction, forking over $21 million for the right to construct a boutique casino in Western PA. Not only that, but just last year it launched a social casino using the Greentube Pro platform.
Suffice it to say, Mt. Airy is a casino on the move, and while we’re still somewhat unclear what its exact iGaming plans are, we can say with clarity that it will be a first mover in the industry.
Mount Airy online casino welcome bonus
Mount Airy online could support a welcome bonus package that’s similar to the one currently circulating on 888-branded sites in New Jersey. In NJ, players receive $20 free upon signing up, split up as follows:
- $10 casino free play, subject to a 30x wagering requirement
- $4 bonus that can be used at 888 Poker or 888 Casino.
- Six poker tournament tickets with a value of $1 each
Of course the poker benefits may not apply if 888 is not involved in that aspect of Mount Airy’s site. Also of note, players can currently sign up for 888 Casino NJ at Mt. Airy’s brick and mortar casino, and by doing so they’ll receive an enhanced no-deposit bonus of $25 free.
In NJ, new depositors are entitled to a 50% match up to $500 on their first deposit, and 50% up to $1,000 on their second. Players must wager their bonus 30x on any game to convert the funds to cash.
This bonus has both its strong and weak points. The monetary cap of $1,500 is solid, but the fact that it’s not a 100% match and spread out over two deposits is a bit of a downer. Secondly, while the 30x wagering requirement is a solid deal for players that fancy low house edge games like blackjack and European Roulette, it’s pretty terrible for slot players.
Again, there’s no guarantee Mount Airy online casino will copy this bonus structure. It could just as easily offer a 100% match with a lower wagering requirement. Or it might go a different route entirely and offer a full refund on a player’s initial deposit, up to $100 – $500. That said, we’re pretty confident the no-deposit portion of the bonus will be a small amount of free money in the $10 – $30 range.
Advantages of a Mt. Airy online casino
- Exclusive slot titles: 888 powered sites in New Jersey offer myriad exclusive titles, more than any other casino site. We suspect the same will apply to the operator’s Pennsylvania sites, including Mount Airy online casino.
- Cashiering: Both 888’s and PokerStars’ platforms are known for accepting plenty of ways for players to get money on and off the site, in rapid fashion. Expect to be able to deposit with PayPal, ACH, online banking transfers, and other speedy and reliable methods. Players who live close the land-based casino will also be to request payouts at the cashier’s cage.
- Cross-vertical tie-ins: Since Mount Airy is planning to also offer online poker, and has also moved to include sports betting now that that is available, there’s plenty of opportunities for it to tie its promotions across gaming verticals. That could mean sports betting rewards for playing casino and poker games, or other cross-vertical rewards.
What platform will Mount Airy Casino be available for?
These days, it’s pretty common for operators to offer their casino games via browser-based software and various mobile platforms. There’s no real reason for Mount Airy Online to alter that proven formula.
888-powered sites allow players to fire up their favorite games directly from their PC or Mac browser. Regardless of whether players fancy Chrome, FireFox, Internet Explorer or Safari, they’ll should have little trouble accessing the Mount Airy Casino online client.
In the unexpected instance that Mt. Airy goes with another platform provider for their casino, we suspect that the aforementioned should still hold true. The poker room, on the other hand, will likely need a dedicated client no matter who provides the software.
Do expect Mt. Airy Online to be available for both semi-modern Android and iOS powered devices, and also expect its apps to be available right at launch.
Today’s mobile casino apps no longer feel like cheap knockoffs of the main site. Instead, they boast mobile specific features (like touch betting), mobile optimized layouts, and all the account management features players have come to love and expect.
The one area where mobile is lagging slightly is in game selection. Generally speaking, all table games outside of blackjack and roulette do not make the transition to mobile. Also, players will find that some slots aren’t available from their smartphone or tablet device — although in recent years, more and more games have been making the port.
Mt. Airy online casino game selection
In terms of sheer numbers, game selection hasn’t been a strength of 888 powered sites in the US. We’re hoping that changes as the market grows, but don’t keep your fingers crossed.
That being said, 888 does differentiate itself from the pack in other, more subtle ways.
Playing slots at Mt. Airy Online
When it comes to slots, 888 powered sites bring a few pluses to the table. Namely, they boast more exclusive and jackpot slots relative to their competitors. So, for players looking to mix things up or shoot for the life-changing payouts, Mt. Airy Online will probably be a solid bet.
Here’s a look at a few of the games we suspect will make their way to the lobby:
- Casino Reels
- Ultimate Universe
- The Royals Go Camping
- Gorilla Go Wild
- Spin Sorceress
- Raging Rhino
- 88 Fortunes
We also have some deep concerns about Mt Airy’s online casino slot library, particularly the amount of games that will be available. 888 powered sites in other markets, particularly New Jersey, feature far fewer slots than their rivals. And while the gap is beginning to close, this trend will likely continue in PA. Players who like lots of variety may seek greener pastures.
Also, the 54% tax rate on slots in the Pennsylvania market will discourage operators from focusing as much attention on them, potentially leading to even smaller slot libraries, worst returns, and less promotional focus.
Mount Airy Casino blackjack
Expect Mount Airy online casino to support one or two blackjack games, and for the rulesets to be pretty player-friendly. Players may not be able to surrender or split Aces like they can at some PA land-based casinos, but they will receive 3:2 payouts on naturals, and will be able to split, double after split, and double any two cards.
The price of admission will be significantly lower at Mt. Airy Online compared to the brick & mortar casino sharing the same name, with minimum wagers starting at $1 or less online, compared to $10 – $15 (more on weekends) live.
Mt. Airy Casino roulette
The land-based Mount Airy only features double zero (American) roulette. Its online site should do one (or two) better by offering both European Roulette (single zero), and possibly even French Roulette.
French Roulette is statistically the best roulette game available. It is a player-friendly single zero variant gives gamblers receive a 50% refund on their even money bets if “0” hits, and 888 is the only operator in the legal US online gambling space that offers it.
The house edge on French Roulette outside bets is a miniscule 1.35%. However, 888 only offers this game at higher stakes.
Mount Airy online casino video poker
Sadly, video poker is really lacking on 888 sites. Until recently the only game seen was Jacks or Higher – a pretty cheap knockoff of the more standard option – but thankfully recently 888’s New Jersey casino began to offer a few classic Game King video poker games, including Jacks or Better and Double Double Bonus.
Hopefully 888 will further expand its VP library by the time Mt. Airy is ready to launch its online casino software, as five or six Game King options and a couple exclusives is pretty typical for most successful sites.
Mount Airy’s partnership with PokerStars took some time to become official, but at the same time 888 was expected to be working with its New Jersey partner on the WSOP-branded poker room for Caesars Entertainment property Harrah’s.
PokerStars is the world leader in online poker, but only second place in the US market behind the WSOP/888 network. This is because WSOP shares liquidity between its sites in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. PokerStars is still not able to operate in Nevada due to past legal history, thus it really needed a strong Pennsylvania site to reclaim the top spot in the market – the population of the Keystone State is nearly equal to that of the other three combined.
In any case, since Mt. Airy applied for a full license to offer an online poker room (even though this required millions of dollars more in licensing fees than an online casino alone) we knew the operator was planning something, and after a great length finally also applied for a sports wagering license with a confirmed relationship with BetStars cementing things.
Live dealer and other games
888 supports a Live Casino on its international site, but not in the New Jersey market. So, it’s anyone’s guess on whether we’ll see Live Casino (otherwise known as Live Dealer) on a Mount Airy branded site.
In the event that Live Dealer does launch, it’ll likely feature some, if not most, of the following games:
- Caribbean Stud
- Three Card Poker
- Casino Hold’em
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Dream Catcher (the Big Wheel)
That’s quite a selection, so here’s hoping.
As far as other games, there’s a good chance we’ll see digital baccarat and perhaps even virtual sports on Mount Airy online casino. Games like Let it Ride and Pai Gow Poker are also possibilities, although more remote.
Will Mt. Airy Casino PA have a loyalty program?
Pretty much every online casino has some sort of loyalty program, so the real question becomes “What will Mount Airy’s loyalty program look like?”
The way we see it, the rewards scheme could take one of two different forms.
- Mount Airy online casino will incorporate its brick & mortar rewards program, Instant Rewards, into its online site.
- Players will earn points in separate programs for the casino and poker room (at least if they are run by different operators) that will be similar to what the operators offer in other markets.
We’re hoping a Mount Airy proprietary option, as 888’s loyalty program is pretty ho-hum. In New Jersey the program has but one fringe benefit: Players that earn SPs in the casino will also have them applied to their 888Poker status (meaningful because higher status poker players earn better rakeback).
PokerStars’ loyalty program is considered pretty good in that market, but the most ideal option for gamblers that like both casino games and online poker would still be a tie-in with Mount Airy’s Instant Rewards. The newly-minted program at the land-based casino sees players navigate through five distinct tiers, unlocking more lucrative rewards along the way, which include:
- Discounts on buffets, golf, spa treatments, and hotel stays, with higher level players enjoying these luxuries for free.
- Prime seating at restaurants
- Free valet parking and express line access
- Guaranteed dining and room reservations
What would be very nice is if online players are given the option to apply earned loyalty points toward their Instant Rewards status, similar to how some Atlantic City casinos (e.g. Caesars and Tropicana) have tied their brick & mortar and online loyalty brand.
This system works out well for both operator and player. Operators win because players are incentivized to frequent their associated land-based brand. More important, players win because when they visit the brick & mortar casino they’ll have access to more amenities than they would have otherwise.
Cashiering options at Mount Airy Casino
One strength of 888 powered platforms is their cashier, and we expect Mount Airy online casino to follow the model set forth in other markets. This means a bevy of reliable and speedy ways to deposit and withdraw funds, including:
- ACH (eChecks)
- Online banking transfers
- Mount Airy online casino prepaid card
- 7-Eleven PayWithCash
- Cash at the Mount Airy casino cage
It’s also plausible that Mt. Airy will offer higher depositing limits and expedited withdrawals to frequent players.
Will Mt. Airy Online have customer support?
Most certainly. Representatives will likely be on call 24/7 to answer player inquiries. In addition, Mt. Airy online casino will provide an extensive FAQ where players can find the answers to most common questions.
Beyond the FAQ, online casino customer service comes in three forms:
- Live chat
- Phone support
More about the land-based Mount Airy Resort Casino
There’s a reason why the name Mount Airy resonates with both residents of and tourists to the Poconos. That’s because its roots stem all the way back to 1898, when the original Mount Airy lodge was constructed. Back then it was just an eight-room inn, but demand quickly swelled, and by the 1950s it expanded into the Poconos’ premier tourist destination.
Time took its toll on the resort, and by the 1980s tourists were seeking out newer hotels for their getaways, such as those in nearby Atlantic City. Ultimately this led to Mount Airy Lodge’s foreclosure in 1999.
Thanks to legislation passed in 2004, that allowed for two standalone PA casinos to be built outside of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, Mount Airy would find new life, this time as a slot parlor. Mount Airy wasted no time getting its operation up and running, opening its doors in 2007 and adding table games in 2010.
Today Mount Airy Casino is one of two AAA 4 Diamond casino resorts in the state, the other being the much larger Sands Bethlehem. The smallish casino features nearly 2,000 slot machines, approximately 80 table games, and nine dining facilities including the upscale and award winning Bistecca. A spa, salon, and fitness center are also on site.
The casino is also known for its signature Wet Pool Bar, the only nightclub of its kind in the Pennsylvania market.
Although Mount Airy is well-prepared for the imminent launch of online gambling in Pennsylvania, we’re on the fence about how it will make out.
Fact is, it’s going up against some major brands, all of which can pour barrels of money into marketing and promotions.
And while Mt. Airy isn’t exactly a pushover — it generated nearly $200 mm in gross gaming revenue in 2017 — our concerns are compounded by its choice of a partner. 888 is a strong brand, and does support a decent online casino, but they’re just not quite as impressive as the ones offered by the industry’s top-tier suppliers.
We have to hope that 888 parallels its efforts in international markets, rather than its lackluster showing in US markets such as New Jersey. Otherwise, it could have a tough time carving out a sizable niche in what stands to be a very competitive PA iGaming industry.
Also, while 888 offers a moderate casino experience, PokerStars offers an even better poker one. So the poker room should be strong, though at the end of the day casino will definitely be a more important vertical than poker. Still, the partnership PokerStars means also a BetStars sports book operation that may also tip the scale as online sports wagering launched.
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