Rivers Online Casino Preview

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Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is an award-winning gaming resort and entertainment destination featuring 2,900 slot machines, more than 100 table games and a 30-table poker room. The brand has also positioned itself to become a dominant player in the PA online gambling market when the industry goes live later this year.

Rivers is one of four casinos owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, whose portfolio also includes the trendy SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia.

Rush Street has shown a keen interest in online gaming for many years, developing play money casino sites for each of its brick-and-mortar properties. In 2016, it dipped its toes into real-money gaming with the launch of PlaySugarHouse, a New Jersey online casino licensed through Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget.

The company has already proved itself an adept operator there, carving out a niche for itself in the highly-competitive market, even as a late entry.

Much of the site’s success can be attributed to its unique and innovative online casino platform, designed in-house by its online gaming arm, Rush Street Interactive. PlaySugarHouse has also been praised for its stellar loyalty program, iRUSH Rewards, which offers players a whole host of perks and benefits rather than relatively bland cashback incentives.

That said, we fully expect Rivers to go all-in with online gambling in PA. On July 16 Rivers submitted an application with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a full online gaming license, which will allow it to operate virtual slots, table games, and possibly even an online poker room.

Rush Street is now in position to make full use of its experience in the Garden State to become a top three operator on its home turf.

What kind of welcome bonuses will Rivers Casino offer?

Most legal online gambling sites in New Jersey offer new players two types of bonuses, a small free-money gift for signing up an account and a deposit match bonus. SugarHouse NJ does something similar, but keeping with its innovative style takes a more playful approach the process, something which Rivers would likely mimic.

Instead of handing out a set dollar amount for new sign-ups, new SugarHouse players spin a bonus wheel which awards $10, $15 or $20 in free money. With this, gamblers can get a feel for the site before going through the process of loading real-money into their account.

Players earn even more bonus cash when they make their first deposit, which SugarHouse matches by 100% up to $100.

At first glance, this amount might seem rather small, especially considering that many of its NJ competitors offer bonuses in the $500-$2,500 range. Once you delve into the fine print, however, it becomes clear why the $100 offer is so attractive – its shockingly low 1x wager requirement.

See, while other casinos may offer more bonus money up front, they won’t release the full bonus amount until it has been gambled many times over, usually between 10x-20x. But with a 1x requirement, it’s virtually impossible not to be ahead upon fulfillment.

Assuming Rivers follows the same strategy, a player depositing $50 would earn $50 in bonus, and would have the option to cash it out after betting just $50 on slots and video poker games.

What advantages will Rivers Casino have over the competition?

  • Innovative and community-focused platform: Rivers online casino will use the Rush Street Interactive platform, software developed in-house by its parent company. Rush Street has differentiated itself from the competition through the addition of unique features like robust game filters, and by fostering a community aspect with dynamic, real-time feeds showcasing recent winners and peer-to-peer chat.
  • Speedy game launches: Rivers’ total control over its platform will allow its developers to add new titles to the site faster than many of its competitors, which will be forced to move at the pace of third-party providers. This could prove a big advantage in a market where all operators will be largely offering the same games.
  • Real-world experience: While many of its PA competitors are still working out the kinks in their operations, Rivers will draw on its experience running a successful online casino in NJ to get up and running quickly and smoothly. Expect players to experience much less friction at Rivers online casino than at competitor sites still trying to find their footing.

Which platforms will Rivers online casino be available for?

When Rivers online makes its debut, it will likely be playable not just on Macs and PCs, but on mobile phones and tablets as well. What’s more, most games offered on Rivers Casino will come with a demo setting, giving patrons the chance to practice their skills, test out new games or simply have fun without putting their hard-earned cash at risk.

Desktop client

Gone are the days when players were required to download bulky software clients in order to gamble online. At Rivers online casino, gamblers will simply open up the Rivers website, select a game from its large catalog, and play directly through the browser. All popular browsers will be supported, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer.

Mobile app

Rivers will likely launch with full-featured mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, freeing players to gamble on-the-go no matter where they may be inside the state. The apps will look nearly identical to the ones already offered at PlaySugarHouse in NJ, which boast nearly 300 games from across the gambling spectrum, including new favorites like Virtual Sports and Slingo.

Patrons will be able to manage their accounts right through the app, just as they do on the desktop site.

Rivers online game selection

To get an idea of what types of games will soon be available for real money play at Rivers online, we need look no further than Rivers’ social casino site. While there are roughly 70 play-money games on offer at present, expect many more titles to be available for real-money play once PA online gambling goes live.

Slots at Rivers Casino

Slots are an integral part of any online casino and will be one of the main attractions at Rivers Online. Unfortunately, state lawmakers saw fit to tax online slots revenue at a crippling 54%, the same rate applied to brick-and-mortar machines. This could drive Rivers to focus on table games like blackjack, while either reducing the payback percentage for some slots or choosing titles with lower payout potential.

Here’s a sampling of slots that we might see there:

  • Jungle Wild
  • Kronos
  • Brazilian Beauty
  • Forbidden Dragons
  • Invaders from the Planet Moolah
  • Cash Wizard

Blackjack games at Rivers online

Expect several variations of blackjack to be available once Rivers online casino makes its debut. At PlaySugarHouse in NJ, gamblers can choose from six options, including two exclusive games, all of which are likely to be offered at Rivers online as well.

While Rivers’ land-based casino offers relatively low $5 blackjack minimums, online patrons will have the option to wager even less if they choose to do so. Microstakes tables will be plentiful and give customers the chance to experience real-money blackjack for as little as $0.10 a hand.

With PA online casinos likely to focus on table games, blackjack progressives could be introduced as well. Rivers currently offers Triple 7s Blazing Blackjack at its land-based location, a progressive fed by sidebets which pays out depending on the number of 7s players are dealt.

Rivers Casino roulette

At Rivers online, players will have the option to play both European Roulette and American Roulette. The European version features one zero slot, and offers somewhat better odds than the American variation, which includes two zero slots.

While it’s hard to beat the thrill of hitting your number at a live roulette table, playing online has its advantages. Game designers have spiced up the traditional version of the game with unique creations like 3 Wheel Roulette and Double Bonus Spin Roulette, which exist only in the virtual realm. What’s more, betting minimums are tiny, and can go as low as $0.01.

Rivers video poker

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh features 200 video poker machines loaded with a huge array of games. There will be plenty of video poker action for online players as well, although titles might be limited to the traditional classics. At the very least, expect to see the following games, with the possibility of others being added in the future:

  • Jacks or Better
  • Bonus Poker
  • Double Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus Poker
  • Deuces Wild
  • Multi-Hand video poker

Just beware of poor paytables. We suspect this won’t be too much of an issue for the single-line games, but could rear its ugly head in the three- and five-play formats.

Virtual Sports and other table games

SugarHouse online casino was one of the first to offer Virtual Sports in New Jersey, making it extremely likely Rivers Casino will do the same in PA. In these contests players do not bet on live sporting events, but instead wager on 3D representations of games played out via digital stream.

Unlike real-world sports, Virtual Sports run 24/7, offering the fun of betting on a game or race whenever the mood strikes. Here are some of the sports you’ll likely see at Rivers online:

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

Putting aside the more traditionally popular table games mentioned above, players can expect Rivers online to offer even more options:

  • Slingo
  • Let it Ride
  • Three Card Poker
  • Video bingo
  • Keno

Live Dealer at Rivers online casino

Live Dealer is a format that has become hugely popular in New Jersey. While SugarHouse does not currently offer the option, Rush Street Interactive President Richard Schwartz mentioned in a recent interview that the company would “absolutely” do so in the future. That said, it’s highly likely that we will see Live Dealer games offered at Rivers online at some point.

Will a Rivers-branded online casino have a rewards program?

Absolutely. We have every reason to believe that not only will Rivers offer a rewards program to loyal patrons, but that it will be one of the best in its class.

Again, Rivers will take a cue from PlaySugarHouse in New Jersey, which has done a wonderful job in developing its own robust and easy-to-understand rewards program.

Like other NJ casino loyalty programs, SugarHouse patrons earn points by making real-money wagers on qualified games, namely slots and video poker machines. These points are used to climb up a number of tiers which offer increasingly attractive rewards.

But unlike other sites, which essentially give cashback for accrued points, SugarHouse rewards players with a whole host of exciting incentives. Tier 1 players get a spin of the Bonus Wheel and receive a variable bonus cash award which comes a minimal 1x wager requirement. Tier 2 players also get a spin of the wheel, but receive Scratch Cards and free Bonus Bingo invitations as well.

The rewards keep piling up from there and can include some of the following:

  • Special casino offers
  • Bingo prize multipliers
  • Birthday and luxury VIP gifts
  • Luxury accommodations in Philadelphia
  • Apple or Android gaming devices

By rethinking the system, and not simply emulating its competitors, Rivers’ parent company has created a rewards program that keeps players loyal and excited to return.

What kind of banking options will be available?

While iGaming is now legal in PA and a handful of other states, some unregulated offshore casinos have managed to maintain a foothold in the country. To stay in business, these sites circumvent US banking restrictions by processing deposits and withdrawals using nebulous and often illegal methods.

Licensed PA casinos will not have the same issues and can freely and legally do business with trusted and established payment processors.

In New Jersey, some banks did not initially understand that the industry had been legalized, which at first caused issues with rejected deposits. With payment processors now better informed, those issues have largely been resolved, and we can expect things to go much more smoothly in PA.

Here’s a list of banking options Rivers might make available:

  • ACH (e-Check)
  • PayPal
  • Online banking transfers
  • Prepaid Rivers-branded cards
  • Skrill
  • Neteller
  • 7-Eleven PayWithCash
  • Wire transfer
  • Cash at the Rivers Casino cage

It’s worth noting that while PayPal isn’t currently accepted at SugarHouse, there’s no reason to believe that the option won’t be added soon. We would therefore expect it to be available at Rivers online casino as well.

Customer service at Rivers online

The Rivers website will likely feature a comprehensive Help Center which should answer most common questions without the need for contacting support. However, the site will also have staff on-hand ready to answer any particularly difficult queries. We expect to see email, Live Chat and phone support available around the clock.

More about the brick-and-mortar Rivers Casino

In 2005, one year after legislation was passed allowing for land-based gambling in the state, four organizations pitched proposals to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in the hopes of winning a coveted license to build a casino in the Pittsburgh area.

Developer Don Barden emerged victorious in the process, breaking ground on what was originally dubbed as the Majestic Star Casino in 2007. The following year, Barden ran into financial trouble and was forced to sell 75% of his stake to Holdings Acquisition Co, a joint venture of Walton Street Capital and High Pitt Gaming, led by Rush Street Gaming Chairman Neil Bluhm.

The new owners decided to nix the Majestic Star name in favor of The Rivers Casino, a reflection of its location where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River.

The casino opened to the public in August 2009 and now boasts roughly 3,000 slots and table games, four restaurants and four bars. The property also features a 30-table poker room, which is by far the most attractive option for card players in western PA and neighboring Ohio.

The Rivers took in $335 million in revenue  in 2017 making it the third-highest-grossing casino in the state, behind Sands and market-leader Parx.

Rush Street later decided to expand the Rivers brand, opening a Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 2011, and another in Schenectady, New York, in 2017.

Conclusion

When PA lawmakers passed legislation legalizing iGaming last year, few of the state’s casino operators were as excited as Rivers. The property’s parent company has been preparing for the prospect of Internet gambling for years, first with its foray into play-money online casinos, and later in developing its own real-money online gambling platform.

That software now powers the successful PlaySugarHouse Casino in New Jersey, which has proven that the company has what it takes to compete with established industry players like 888 and GameAccount Network.

We expect Rush Street to enhance its product even further in the coming months and create a variation of it which reflects the Rivers brand. While casinos inexperienced with online gaming might struggle to get up and running once the state gives the green light to launch, it’s a sure bet that Rivers online will offer a stellar experience right from the get go.

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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.