SugarHouse Online Casino Preview

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To say that SugarHouse will have a leg up on the competition when it launches its online casino site in Pennsylvania would be a gross understatement.

Of the Keystone State’s 12 land-based casinos, SugarHouse is the only one with an existing site in the legal US landscape, having set up shop in New Jersey in 2016.

From humble origins, operator Rush Street Interactive quickly transformed Play SugarHouse NJ into arguably the most innovative online casino in the industry. It accomplished this by taking a very social and interactive approach to its product, incorporating dynamic (and frequent) bonuses and playfully competitive promotions, as well as peer-to-peer chat functionality and other player-friendly nuances.

PlaySugarHouse.com also hasn’t been a slouch when it comes to selection — currently offering more formats and games than just about any NJ housed online casino.

So it goes without saying that SugarHouse will put forth, at the very least, a parallel effort in its home state of Pennsylvania, where it has supported Philadelphia’s only brick & mortar casino since 2010.

Factor in Rush Street’s staunch support and commitment to online gambling, and we could see Pennsylvania’s number one site for real-money gaming baring a sugary-sweet name.

Welcome bonus offers at SugarHouse online casino

It wouldn’t surprise if SugarHouse PA rolled out a welcome package that was equivalent to its NJ offer. In NJ, all new players receive a free spin upon successful registration, where they can win $10, $15 or $20 in bonus cash. The bonus is subject to an easy to understand and generous 1x wagering requirement on slots and video poker games.

In addition, first time depositing players receive a 100% match up to $100 on initial deposits of $10 or more. This bonus also has a bottom-barrel 1x wagering requirement, unprecedented in an industry where 10 – 20x is the norm.

Of course this is just informed speculation, as SugarHouse could experiment with a different bonus package. Given the tax rate on online slots in Pennsylvania (54%) vs. New Jersey (17.5%) a less lucrative offer wouldn’t totally surprise. But here’s hoping SugarHouse offers new players good value in PA — given how competitive the market will be, it had better.

What advantages will SugarHouse Casino have over its competitors?

  • Strong platform: The SugarHouse online platform in New Jersey is more innovative and interactive than anything we’ve witnessed in that market. Developed in-house by Rush Street Interactive, there is a modernness to the platform that makes it feel like more like a social casino than one that accepts real-money wagers. This doesn’t surprise, as prior to going live in NJ, Rush Street operated two social casino sites, one for each of its two land-based Pennsylvania properties. We expect the same level of quality, if not better, for its PA online casinos.
  • Know-how: Rush Street will come into the PA market with approximately two years experience operating a legal US online casino site. This should prove invaluable, especially given that PlaySugarHouse.com is notorious for listening to and delivering upon the requests of its patrons. SugarHouse Casino PA will treat players the way they want to be treated.
  • Promotional excellence: Lately, it seems that not a month goes by when PlaySugarHouse.com doesn’t launch a promotional event that is both appealing and lucrative. Factor in daily bingo games, a bevy of VIP exclusive promos, and spot bonuses and you have a promotional schedule that should keep players coming back.

Which platforms will SugarHouse PA be available for?

If it’s anything like its NJ rollout, the SugarHouse platform will be available for PCs, Mac, and Android/iOS powered mobile devices.

Desktop client

Play SugarHouse in New Jersey is available as a browser-based client exclusively. This is the preferred delivery option of most online casino operators, as it doesn’t burden players with having to download software — all that’s needed is a stable internet connection and some means of verifying their location (typically a WiFi connection or adapter).

The client is compatible with all modern PC and Mac browsers including Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. We have noticed that the NJ client runs slower on laptops than on PC, and will occasionally lock up completely. This is often the case with newly developed software, and hopefully any technical kinks will be worked out by the time the Pennsylvania version of the client goes live.

Mobile app

Expect SugarHouse online casino to be available for iOS and Android tablets and smartphone right out of the gate. Perhaps more importantly, expect the mobile product to be a near perfect compliment to desktop. Sure, a few games like Three Card Poker and some slots will be missing, but all the account and quality of life features, as well as the bingo games should be present.

And just because the mobile app won’t have all the games, doesn’t mean it won’t have enough to satiate gamblers. For perspective, at the time of this writing, PlaySugarHouse.com in NJ supports nearly 270 games spread across slots, video poker, table games, and virtual sports.

Not to mention, we were pleasantly surprised with the performance and stability of the NJ mobile app, across all tested devices. The only drawback is that it’s fairly hefty in size and will require players to have a somewhat modern mobile OS.

SugarHouse online game selection

Game selection is bound to be one of the strengths of SugarHouse online casino in Pennsylvania, as the operator has already spent years forging partnerships with top online game providers.

Slots at SugarHouse Casino

Online slots in Pennsylvania will be taxed at a fairy oppressive tax rate of 54%, compared to just 16% for other games. This means that PA operators might not put quite as much emphasis on the virtual reels compared to other markets.

But that hardly means slots will be an afterthought, and the popular format will still very likely dominate online casino lobbies. In Pennsylvania, we expect SugarHouse to support hundreds of penny slots, by top studios such as Konami, NetEnt, and IGT. Possible titles include:

  • 88 Fortunes
  • Divine Fortune (progressive)
  • Dead or Alive
  • China Shores
  • Raging Rhino
  • Legend of the Pharaohs 
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Quick Hit Platinum 

Blackjack games to be featured at SugarHouse online casino

Single deck, multi-hand, microstakes: SugarHouse online casino is bound to have a variety of blackjack games. And given just how favorable the blackjack rulesets are at PA’s land-based casinos, we expect their online counterparts to offer favorable rules such as:

  • 3:2 payouts on blackjacks
  • Double any two
  • Surrender
  • Resplits
  • Double after split

Rush’s own brand of proprietary games should also find a home on SugarHouse Casino PA. It’s NJ site features two exclusive blackjack games. One is a single deck game (with the dreaded 6:5 payout on naturals) and the other is a multi-deck game where 25% of the shoe is dealt before shuffling. This game also features excellent rules and three optional sidebets: Lucky Ladies, Lucky Lucky, and 21+3.

SugarHouse Casino roulette

Expect various versions of American (good) and European (better) roulette at SugarHouse Casino. There will probably be a few alternative games like 3 Wheel Roulette and Double Bonus Spin Roulette, both of which players won’t find at land-based casinos in PA.

SugarHouse video poker

SugarHouse stands to be no slouch when it comes to video poker, offering top games by Game King and other providers. So if you’re in the mood to chase that Royal Flush, you’ll probably be able to do so on the following games:

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

We’re hoping that these games offer favorable payout tables (return of 99%+) like they do in NJ. But with the tax rate on terminal gaming so high, it’s plausible that the games will be slightly less generous.

Virtual sports and other games

Play SugarHouse in New Jersey was one of the first to forge a partnership with Inspired Gaming to offer virtual sports, and we suspect SugarHouse Casino in PA will have them on day one.

Offering players a round-the-clock sports betting experience with betting structures akin to those found for real games, virtual sports is the perfect way for gamblers to fill the gaps between their favorite live sporting contests (that is pending sports betting is even legal in PA by the time online gambling goes live).

Outcomes are determined by a sophisticated RNG and players are able to watch the digitized game play out via stream. Contests run every couple of minutes and minimum wagers may start at as low as $2.

At minimum, the following contests should be available for wagering:

  • Horse racing
  • Motorcycle racing
  • Dog racing
  • Car racing
  • Soccer

In addition, other games not previously mentioned that might make their presence known on SugarHouse online casino include:

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

There’s even the possibly that Live Dealer games may find a way onto the site, although probably not at launch.

Will a SugarHouse-branded iCasino have a loyalty program?

Undoubtedly, and it’s likely to either parallel or resemble the one found on PlaySugarHouse.com. That’s good news for players, as that program offers players a deeply rich and rewarding experience, chock full of regular casino bonuses and other frills.

As is the case with most online casino loyalty programs, iRush Rewards Points (we’re speculating that that’s what they’ll be called) will be earned simply by playing real-money games, with higher earn rates for games with lower returns.

But that’s about where the similarities should end.

See, instead of accruing cashback, players that reach the next loyalty tier will get the chance to spin SugarHouse’s prize wheel. There, they’ll win a guaranteed bonus amount with a chance for much more. The baseline amount will increase per tier, and all bonuses will be subject to the same 1x wagering requirement as the welcome bonus.

In addition, there will be myriad benefits of grinding out the higher tiers, including:

  • King Cash bonus back scratch cards
  • Free bingo invitations, as well as bingo prize multipliers and access to high stakes bingo events
  • Special offers at the land-based SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia
  • VIP birthday gifts, Thank You dinners, and invites to exclusive promotional events
  • Accomodations at Philadelphia based hotels
  • Spot bonuses

Of course this is all speculation, but these are the kinds of amenities SugarHouse’s NJ site offers. And seeing how it’s worked so well, we expect the PA site to adhere to the adage that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On top of everything we’re fairly convinced that SugarHouse online casino players that are new to Rush Rewards (SugarHouse’s brick and mortar loyalty program) will receive added bonus play opportunities upon signing up.

What kind of banking options will be available?

Credit card companies and other payment processors have relaxed their position on legal US online gambling in the past few years, paving the way for sites to offer a bevy of convenient cashiering methods with high acceptance rates.

On SugarHouse Casino they may include:

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

Of these methods only PayPal and Skrill are not featured on SugarHouse’s NJ site. But PayPal is widely gaining the support of the industry, so it wouldn’t shock if all PA online casinos eventually incorporate the popular ewallet.

Customer service at SugarHouse Online

They’re will likely be three ways to get in touch with a SugarHouse Casino representative:

  • Email – 24/7
  • Live chat – likely 24/7
  • Phone – likely 24/7

Of these, live chat will provide the quickest turnaround times, followed by phone. However, email will still prove useful for more complicated queries.

More about the brick and mortar SugarHouse Casino

SugarHouse Casino is the only Category 1 or 2 casino located in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood. The property first opened its doors on September 23, 2010, nearly four years after it was awarded a gaming license by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

SugarHouse derived its name from the building it replaced, the Jack Frost Sugar Refinery, and from the start its performance was sweet. So much so, that in 2014 it broke ground on an expansive $164 million expansion project that added a parking garage, several new restaurants, and 150k sq. ft of gaming space to the already 1.3 million sq. ft complex. The project was completed in May 2016.

Also added was the renowned Poker Night in America poker room, which has since gone on host a variety of poker TV events, branded under the same name.

Today, SugarHouse features over 1,800 slot machines, a whopping 140 table games, eight restaurants in which to wine and dine (including the famous iconic Geno’s Steaks) and premier entertainment acts.

In 2017, SugarHouse PA generated nearly $300 million in gross gaming revenue, good for fourth place among the state’s 12 land-based casinos. However, it will soon face steep competition from a new player: Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia is slated to open its doors in 2020. The casino would have opened sooner, however, SugarHouse had filed a lawsuit that held up the construction process. That suit was dropped shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a gambling expansion bill; the same bill that made online gambling legal.

Conclusion

Representatives of Rush Street have been among the most vocal proponents of online gambling, so we all but know that there will be a SugarHouse online casino, and that it’ll probably launch alongside the first wave of regulated sites.

SugarHouse online casino will also have a leg up on the competition, as it has a proven, and based on anecdotal evidence from players, beloved, operation in the legal New Jersey online gambling market.

Whether that will equate to top-dog status in what stands to be a competitive landscape is difficult to say. But if the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City could find a way to propel its online arm above more recognizable brands, there’s no reason why SugarHouse can’t do the same.

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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.