The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved a set of temporary regulations for online gambling operators last week, which cover everything from equipment security and game fairness, to advertising, tournaments and Live Dealer games.
The information, laid out in a pair of documents viewable here, delves into the nitty-gritty of operating an online gambling site, while the same time showing just how tightly regulated and controlled the industry will be.
It also displays how PA is benefiting from New Jersey’s experience in legal iGaming, as several sections of the text are lifted word for word from regulations already on the books in the Garden State.
Breaking it all down
The majority of the recently filed regulations deal with rather mundane aspects of running an Internet casino, like standards for housing servers and norms for displaying game rules. But they also touch on things like requirements for promotions, and lay out the standards for running an online poker tournament.
Game fairness, RNG and progressive jackpots
PA online casino games will be subject to rigorous testing before they are allowed to go live on a gaming site. They must conform to the following:
- Game rules and paytables must be conspicuously displayed so as not to mislead players on their chances of winning
- Random number generators (RNG) must be tested individually and be submitted for approval. The PGCB will use a variety of tests to ensure that the RNG is cryptographically strong
- Any changes or modifications to games must be submitted to the PGCB for approval
- Games cannot be designed to give a player the perception that they can use skill to control the outcome
- Players who get disconnected or cannot finish a game must have the option to reconnect and complete it
- Progressive Jackpots must clearly state how they are funded and how the jackpot can be hit. If a minimum bet is required to hit the jackpot, the return to player percentage must meet the minimum return.
Promotions and advertising
Running a promo or an ad for a PA online casino won’t be as simple as it would be in any other industry. Sites will need to go through a careful process before proceeding with any such efforts, and comply with several restrictions.
- Advertisements cannot include “indecent or offensive” material, contain information that contradicts game rules, or target players who have been excluded from play
- Terms and conditions for promos must be submitted to the PGCB at least five days prior to implementation for approval. Operators cannot cap or limit any winnings earned once a player has met the terms of the promo.
- License holders may hire celebrity endorsers or professional players to participate in marketing materials
Through the PGCB docs, we’ve learned a little bit about the future of online poker in Pennsylvania as well – on the regulatory side at least. The text mostly centers on poker tournaments, and doesn’t make mention of any interstate poker compacts with other US states offering legal iGaming. Here are the important points:
- License holders must file the terms and conditions of any tournament with regulators in advance. They must also submit a notice of intent to conduct a tournament with at least five days anticipation.
- The terms of any tournament must be posted prominently on the operator’s website and be available for review until the event is complete
- Sites can be forced to discontinue a tournament if regulators perceive that it could adversely affect the public or the integrity of the industry ‘s as a whole.
Live Dealer games are wildly popular in New Jersey, where they are offered by Golden Nugget and Betfair casinos. We expect several PA casinos to launch Live Dealer operations as well, with the most likely first-movers being Parx and Rivers. The regulations touched on the vertical:
- Operators must obtain board approval to “simulcast” authorized table games
- The entity which produces or hosts the games must also be licensed by the PGCB it’s
Hardware, software and geolocation
According to regulations, all gaming equipment, such as servers, must be located in a secure area on the premises of a licensed facility. Interestingly, though, they also seem to state that they can be located anywhere within the US, in certain circumstances.
“The equipment may be located… in an interactive gaming restricted area within the geographical limits of the county in this Commonwealth where the licensed facility is situated, or any other area located within the United States.”
This might allow New Jersey casinos like Golden Nugget to snap up a license, and use their current location as the epicenter for their PA operation.
Also included in the regs:
- Geolocation technology must be used to block players logging in from outside the state
- Players cannot login from inside a facility licensed to offer online gaming
- Computer equipment must be housed in an area protected from physical damage
- Logs of player activity, transactions and security incidents must be maintained
- Gaming systems must be made available for independent testing by the PGCB without limitation
What comes next?
While the process has been occasionally hampered by snowy weather, PA is well on its way to launching its online gaming industry. There are several major events coming up on the calendar which will move the state even closer to making online gambling reality. Here’s what’s coming up next:
- April 2: Gaming suppliers and manufacturers may apply for approval
- April 4: More temporary regulations will be revealed, including much-anticipated info on “skins”
- April 16: Land-based casinos may apply for an Internet Gaming Certificate
- July 16: Operators who wish to buy iGaming licenses piecemeal ($4 million each) can do so
- November 16: Our best guess as to when online casinos will launch