MGM Resorts International owns dozens of gambling properties throughout the U.S. and internationally, but none inside the Keystone State. Even so, the casino conglomerate has found its way into the PA online gambling market as a qualified gambling entity (QGE), scooping up a trio of iGaming licenses that went unclaimed by the state’s land-based casinos.
MGM is no newcomer to U.S. online gambling, already supporting two iGaming sites through its Atlantic City property, Borgata. We expect MGM to bring its online gambling brand (playMGM) to Pennsylvania, where it will launch online slots, table games and a virtual poker room.
As we’ve seen in the New Jersey market, strong branding is just one element of a successful operation. Fact is, playMGM NJ is pretty underwhelming compared to more modern and better run sites from smaller brands, and its pedestrian performance reflects. Will it double down on its efforts in the larger Pennsylvania market, or will players from the Keystone State also find playMGM merely average?
Read on to find out our predictions for MGM in Pennsylvania, including what types of bonuses and games players can expect, along with a loyalty program preview and much more.
Welcome bonus offers at playMGM Casino PA
We can make a strong educated guess as to which types of bonuses the operator will offer in PA simply by looking at how it is doing business in neighboring New Jersey.
In the Garden State, playMGM patrons can beef up their bankroll with a substantial welcome bonus package, which is comprised of two parts.
The first offer requires no deposit at all, and is available exclusively to new sign-ups. Once patrons create a valid playMGM account, they’ll receive $25 in real bonus cash, which can be used to play any game in the site’s library.
Basically, the site is giving out free money to new users. Of course, you can’t simply cash out the funds immediately; you’ll need to complete a wagering requirement before the money is fully unlocked. Unfortunately, playMGM NJ opts for a mammoth wagering requirement on its no-deposit bonus of 30x on slots and significantly more on other games.
The second part of the welcome package comes in the form of a hefty deposit match bonus. playMGM NJ offers up a 100% match up to a maximum of $1,000, which makes it one of the highest in the state. Again, there are strings attached. To fully unlock the funds, players need to complete a strenuous betting requirement of 30x on regular slots, 60x on progressives, 120x on video poker, and 150x on table games.
That said, when the site first rolled out in New Jersey, the wagering requirement was only 20x for all games, presenting an awesome value opportunity. We could see the same strategy in Pennsylvania, so be sure to check in right when the site first launches.
What advantages will MGM have over competitors in Pennsylvania?
- Experience: MGM will be one of the few PA iGaming license holders to have actually operated an online casino. While other operators, like Parx and Sands Bethlehem, may be brick-and-mortar market leaders, they have still not proven themselves in the virtual realm. MGM, on the other hand, already operates an online casino, sportsbook, and poker site in New Jersey, along with an online sportsbook in Nevada. The playMGM platform is provided by premium online gaming company GVC in New Jersey, and we expect that relationship to carry over to other markets.
- Deep pockets: MGM owns more than 100 gambling properties across the globe, and was rumored to be interested in purchasing both Sands and the Live! casino project. The company has plenty of money to invest in building a top-flight online casino, and has the cash to market it through eye-catching welcome packages and promos.
- Poker integration: Eight PA casinos have invested in an online poker license, but playMGM will hold one big advantage. As playMGM is already connected to an online poker network in New Jersey, its PA and NJ sites can potentially link player pools, creating bigger tournament fields and more cash game options for patrons. A recent Department of Justice change of opinion may hamper that effort, though. MGM currently has no path to offer online sports betting in Pennsylvania.
Which software platforms will playMGM PA be available for?
If its New Jersey product is any indicator, we can expect playMGM to offer up its suite of games for both desktop computers and iOS/Android devices.
playMGM New Jersey gives patrons two ways to play on a desktop computer. The first is to simply open your favorite web browser (e.g. Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Edge), click on your favorite game and start playing directly through the browser window. This is the fastest way to get started, and doesn’t require that you download any software client.
That said, playMGM does offer a downloadable version of its poker site and casino software in a single package.
This is because online poker software can be quite complex, so providing a dedicated client is preferred.
Included in playMGM’s poker software, though, is a button to play a selection of the site’s table games and slots. This gives poker players easy access to the casino, and allows the company to take advantage of crossover traffic.
iOS and Android rule the mobile software market, and therefore can’t be ignored by online casino operators.
playMGM will offer a selection of its casino games on both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, giving players the freedom to bet from virtually anywhere inside the state. It’s important to note, though, that not all casino games have been optimized for mobile devices. This means that game selection is more limited on mobile than the library found on the main desktop website.
Luckily, since a large percentage of play now comes directly from mobile devices, most casino game manufacturers have made their titles mobile-ready.
At the time of this writing on playMGM’s iOS offering, you can choose from 323 slots, as well as a selection of Virtual Sports, blackjack, Slingo, and even Live Dealer games.
MGM Casino PA online game selection
It’s safe to say that the games we see at playMGM’s NJ site will at some point be ported over to its PA product. But building up to the number of titles available in the Garden State may take some time, as each game must be tested by regulatory officials in PA before getting the go-ahead for launch.
Here are the types of games we can expect MGM to eventually offer in the Commonwealth:
Slots seem tailor-made for desktop computers, so it’s no surprise that they tend to be the most popular games at online casinos. Unfortunately for operators though, PA will tax slots at a punishing 54% rate, deeply cutting into profits, and potentially leading casinos to lean on games with unfavorable player odds.
Hopefully, operators won’t completely banish games with high return to player percentages, like some titles from NetEnt, which boast up to a 98% return.
playMGM NJ boasts a collection of nearly 400 slots, produced by a diverse array of software developers. Some of the titles you’ll likely see in PA include:
- Cash Spin
- Dancing Drums
- 88 Fortunes
- Da Vinci Diamonds
And let’s not forget about progressives, also known as jackpot slots, which take a small fraction of each bet and add it to a central jackpot. These jackpots can grow immensely large, and the winners who hit them can take home six-figure and sometimes even seven-figure paydays.
Here are a few of the jackpot slots offered at playMGM NJ:
- Going Nuts
- Divine Fortune
- Monopoly 250K
- Money Boat
- Luck O’ The Jackpot
Blackjack at MGM online Pennsylvania
playMGM New Jersey offers just five variations of blackjack, but due to PA’s light 16% tax rate on table games, we might see even more of such options going live in the state.
Currently, NJ patrons can enjoy several different types of the popular casino game, a few providing some minor twists:
- Multi-Hand Blackjack
- Vegas Downtown Blackjack Multiplayer
- Blackjack Xchange
The rule sets on these games are generally decent, offering 3:2 payouts on naturals, and doubles on any two cards. Just don’t expect the rules to be quite as player-friendly as they are in the Pennsylvania land-based casino market, which is a blackjack player’s dream.
Instead of battling other players at a live card table, video poker players simply try and put together the strongest hand possible using the cards they are dealt. You can often find video poker machines sitting on bar tops, beckoning patrons who have stopped in for a drink.
Video poker fits perfectly onto desktop screens and on smart phones rotated in landscape mode. While playMGM’s NJ site only offers a smattering of mobile video poker, it does offer up 12 video poker titles on its browser-based site.
Video poker aficionados will find many of their favorite classics here, including:
- Bonus Poker
- Double Bonus Poker
- Double Double Bonus Poker
- Jacks or Better
- Deuces Wild
- Five Play Draw Poker
- Triple Play Draw Poker
Other PA online MGM games
Judging by playMGM NJ’s selection of table games, you’ll also have the option of playing both American and European roulette, along with craps and Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus poker.
Craps is something of a rarity at online casinos, partially due to the fact that the game’s crowded visual design does not translate well to smaller screens. However, when taking into account the low tax rate on table games, it’s fair to assume that PA online casinos will stock their sites with as many varieties of table games as possible, including craps.
Also popular are Virtual Sports games, which simulate real-life sporting events, but whose outcome is determined in advance. At present, NJ patrons can wager on simulated car racing, greyhounds, horse racing, motorcycle racing and soccer games.
Slingo is another relatively new option to have appeared at playMGM. True to its name, the game is a mix between slots and bingo, which tasks players with matching a series of numbers in a row. Several variations of Slingo have already hit the market, and playMGM New Jersey offers up nearly a dozen of them.
Live Dealer at playMGM casino PA
Golden Nugget kicked off the Live Dealer craze in the U.S., first offering the games at its New Jersey online casino in 2016. playMGM, along with Borgata Casino and Party Casino, added the format as well in 2018. MGM leases space from a shared Live Dealer studio located inside the Golden Nugget, which is powered by the Ezugi software platform.
Unfortunately, due to the DoJ ruling mentioned above, playMGM PA might not be able to re-use this already built studio. Instead, it will either need to build its own inside of Pennsylvania, or partner with another PA studio (more likely), to ensure that gambling data doesn’t cross state lines. This could delay the implementation of the format at MGM online.
Eventually are very likely to see the following games in Live Dealer form:
- Unlimited Blackjack
- Casino Hold‘em
Unlimited Blackjack solves the problem of limited seating space at Live Dealer casinos by allowing an unlimited number of players to bet on the same hand while making their own wagering decisions.
What loyalty program will playMGM PA have?
PlayMGM will almost certainly adopt the same rewards program it offers at its NJ online casino. Dubbed iRewards, the scheme hooks in with the company’s brick-and-mortar M life Rewards program, and gives players the choice of three types of rewards:
- Express Comps, which can be used at MGM resort destinations nationwide to book rooms, dine in restaurants or enjoy entertainment venues
- Bonus dollars which can be used to play blackjack or online poker tournaments
- Points which can be traded in for accessories, electronics or other items in an online store
To unlock the rewards, players earn Tier Credits by playing real money online games. After a certain threshold is reached, they move up in the iRewards Tier hierarchy, which tops out at platinum for regular customers, or NOIR for high rollers (available by invite only).
The same set of tiers is used by the M life program offered to patrons at MGM’s land-based properties.
You’ll notice that all games are not treated equally in terms of point accumulation. Games that have a higher house edge release points more easily than games more favorable to the player. Here you can see the breakdown:
- Slots: $5 in bets earns 1 iRP
- Jackpot slots: $10 in bets earns 1 iRP
- Video poker: $20 in bets earns 1 iRP
- Most table games: $25 in bets earns 1 iRP
The fact that patrons can earn points not only online but at physical properties, and exchange them for a number of different goodies, makes the M life program an attractive one for loyal gamblers. We just wish the point conversion rates were stronger … much stronger.
What kind of banking options will be available at MGM PA?
With online casino gambling now legal in PA, making deposits and withdrawals on casino sites should be a snap. But while there is now a wide variety of legal iGaming banking options available, playMGM in NJ hasn’t yet taken advantage of as many as some of its competitors – specifically, it still does not allow deposits by PayPal or bank wire. What’s more, it won’t be able to accept cash at a casino cage, as it does not have a physical presence in the state (although Valley Forge might be an option due to its partnership with Boyd Gaming).
Here are the minimum number of options we expect to see at playMGM PA:
- VIP Preferred eChecks
- Online banking transfer
- PlayMGM Prepaid Card
The live chat options on playMGM NJ are pretty standard for legal U.S. online casinos, including a Live Chat option for quick questions, an email form, and phone support. All options appear to be available 24/7, and for answers to common questions, there is a dedicated FAQ and online help section.
Unfortunately, our experiences with reps hasn’t always been the greatest, and we commonly knew more about their own site than they did. We do hope this is remedied by the time playMGM hits the Pennsylvania market.
More on MGM in Pennsylvania
MGM has been involved in U.S. online casinos since 2013, when its Atlantic City property, Borgata, took its online gambling site live. In fact, the top-grossing NJ property was the first among its competitors to become approved for an iGaming license in the state.
Later, Borgata would partner with Party Poker, Pala Casino and Scores, which launched their own offerings under the company’s core license.
In 2016, MGM bought out its partner in the property, Boyd Gaming, leaving it with full control of the casino. One year later it decided to capitalize on its strong brand name, launching playMGM alongside Borgata’s other online sites.
Once Pennsylvania legalized the industry, MGM set its sights on capturing some of that potentially large market. However, as it does not own a property inside the state, it did not initially get the opportunity to bid on one of the licenses up for grabs.
There were rumors that the conglomerate was considering purchasing Sands Bethlehem, and even the yet-to-be-built Live! Casino project, but the sales never panned out.
Instead, it found its way in after several licenses went unclaimed by the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos. Qualified gambling entities like MGM were given the option of bidding on those permits, and the company took advantage by buying rights to offer online slots and table games and a virtual poker site at a cost of $10 million.
While MGM has a strong brand nationwide, especially in Las Vegas, its name might not ring out quite as loud as well-known local brands like Parx, Sands and SugarHouse. In the face of that competition, it might need to put in extra effort to funnel players away from those sites and into its own.
That said, unlike local casinos, MGM has more than five years of experience running both online casinos and poker sites, giving it a leg up on most state properties.
More troubling, though, is the fact that after it launched its branded New Jersey site, playMGM failed to significantly increase overall revenue for Borgata, its umbrella licensee. That might be chalked up to the fact that Borgata had already captured many of the players on MGM’s mailing lists. But it could also mean that players were not overly impressed with the site, which is a virtual clone of Borgata’s already underwhelming effort.
With that in mind, it’s clear that even though the company may be a worldwide gambling behemoth, success is not guaranteed.
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