SugarHouse Success Gives PA Lawmakers Window on iGaming Possibilities

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While Pennsylvania lawmakers continue to debate online casino legislation inside the state, one local casino operator has already gone online outside of it, and is enjoying great success.

Two bills seeking to legalize and regulate iGaming in Pennsylvania have been on the floor of the State House and Senate since earlier this year. SB 477 and HB 392 are identical.

Earlier this month, a third piece of iGaming legislation was introduced to the State Senate. SB 524 is similar to the previous bills, except it calls for larger tax rates and licensing fees for iGaming operators.

As the debate continues over iGaming legislation at the state legislature, one Pennsylvania casino operator just celebrated it’s six month anniversary online in neighboring New Jersey, posting online gaming revenue records.

Rush Street Gaming developed and operates both the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, PA. Six months ago, through an agreement with Golden Nugget Atlantic City, SugarHouse became an Internet casino licensee in the state of New Jersey, launching the PlaySugarHouse online casino.

The SugarHouse online casino operates under the Golden Nugget’s iGaming license, offering more than 300 online slots from industry leaders including IGT, Aristocrat, Konami, WMS Gaming, Bally, NYX Gaming Group, Spin Games, High 5 Games, and NetEnt.

There are also a variety of online table games on the site, including blackjack and roulette. Plus, PlaySugarHouse offers mobile gaming on its iOS and Android apps.

In accordance with state laws, the SugarHouse online casino is only available to players inside New Jersey, and there are clear indications people in New Jersey are playing there.

In fact, February 2017 turned out to be a record breaking month for the online casino market in New Jersey as the three licensees operating under the Golden Nugget iGaming license, including PlaySugarHouse, Betfair and the Golden Nugget itself, generated more than $5 million in online gross gaming revenue. It marked the first time an online operator has ever generated that much revenue in the state.

“PlaySugarHouse has steadily increased its market share month over month in the New Jersey iGaming industry since we went live last September,” Rush Street Interactive President Richard Schwartz said in a release.

“In this most recent month, we’ve experienced revenue growth of over 33 percent compared to January. At PlaySugarHouse we have created a first class, state-of-art gaming experience, and New Jersey players clearly love it.”

The question is whether SugarHouse’s positive experience in the New Jersey online casino market is enough to convince Pennsylvania lawmakers it should be allowed to go online at home as well.

In other words, will Pennsylvania players ever get the chance to love it too? SugarHouse certainly hopes so.

In fact, in September 2016 when PlaySugarHouse launched, Rush Street Gaming chief executive Greg Carlin told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper he was cautiously optimistic online gaming legislation would soon pass in Pennsylvania.

“We think it makes sense from a revenue standpoint and growing your customer base,” Carlin said. “It’s hard to predict the legislature and what the legislature is going to do.”

Opponents of iGaming legislation in the state have claimed online casinos would cannibalize the existing brick and mortar casino industry.

However, Carlin and Rush Street say the New Jersey experience proves the opposite is true.

“[In New Jersey] online has actually complemented their bricks-and-mortar business and helped them grow that business, not detract from it, because a lot of the players online are players that don’t currently go to those casinos,” he said.

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