Pennsylvania Wraps Up Historic Gaming Year By Approving Valley Forge Casino For Sports Betting

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held its final public hearing of what was a very busy 2018. The meeting saw several key approvals.
Cannons at Valley Forge

An historic year for Pennsylvania gaming regulation has come to a close.

The nascent Pennsylvania sports betting market will get a little more crowded with the upcoming sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino. On Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania gaming regulators gave the casino approval for the operation. There’s no timetable on the opening.

Also on the agenda were an online gaming license for Rush Street Interactive and a sports betting license for the online gambling company The Stars Group (TSG).

The public meeting wraps up the regulatory affairs of the PGCB for the year, which was a busy one for the Keystone State after lawmakers passed a sweeping gambling reform package in late 2017. In addition to online casino, peer-to-peer online poker, sports betting (retail and internet-based), the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has worked through the regulatory process for satellite brick-and-mortar properties. Regulators have also seen a rush of gaming partnerships form over the course of 2018.

Valley Forge Sportsbook

The King of Prussia casino, located outside Philadelphia, is seeking to kick off sports wagering through a partnership with FanDuel. FanDuel, which is a major player in New Jersey’s exploding sports betting market, gave regulators at glimpse at some renderings and a floor plan.

The Boyd Gaming casino applied for its sports betting permit, which cost it $10 million, in mid-November. It was the sixth casino in the state to apply for sports wagering.

Valley Forge, home to 600 slot machines and 50 tables, is looking to bolster its offerings in an increasingly crowded gaming market. SugarHouse became the first casino in Philadelphia with sports betting when it launched last week. Valley Forge previously secured approval to offer online gaming, to be offered in partnership with GAN and IGT, as well as GVC.

Valley Forge’s approval means that all four of the casinos in the Philadelphia area have been green lit for sports wagering. The casinos have to work with the PGCB for the final word to open, as the regulations require testing the sportsbook technology. FanDuel has yet to receive approval by the PGCB.

Parx Casino is expected to launch sports betting in January, likely to be followed in the coming weeks by Harrah’s Philadelphia. Parx originally hoped to open this month.

Rush Street

Rush Street Interactive (RSI), which is the digital services branch of SugarHouse Casino and Rivers Casino owner Rush Street Gaming, received approval of a conditional interactive gaming operator license.

Notably, Rivers Casino has rescinded its online gambling application, so it’s presumed that the RSI product will run through SugarHouse. RSI has an existing presence in New Jersey, where it provides the platform and operates Play SugarHouse, an online casino and sports betting site that resides under the Golden Nugget (casino) and Monmouth Park (sports) licenses.

Beyond Rivers, two other state casinos have not indicated an interest in online casino: Lady Luck Nemacolin and The Meadows.

Under the law, outside firms can seek entry into the Pennsylvania online casino market if some licenses are unclaimed. So far, licenses for table games and slots have been claimed by Golden Nugget and MGM, with MGM also opting it for online poker. With these claims, there is just one pair of online casinos licenses left, and several more for the less desirable online poker vertical.

The Stars Group

The online gaming company’s conditional sports wagering operator license was approved without hiccup from the PGCB. TSG, owner of the BetStars brand, partnered with Mount Airy Casino Resort for Pennsylvania sports wagering. The company also plans to offer online casino and online poker through its Mount Airy partnership.

It’s worth noting that Mount Airy hasn’t yet sought a sports betting license, so a TSG online/mobile sports wagering product (none are live yet in Pennsylvania) is probably a ways off.

TSG operates both online casino, online poker, and sports wagering in neighboring New Jersey through partnerships with Resorts in Atlantic City.

Harrah’s Philadelphia reveals new floor plan

The Caesars casino wasn’t up for approval of a sports wagering license (already received); it was there to ask regulators for permission to reduce is number of slot machines. A reduction in slots is a serious matter for the PGCB, as the state gets more than 50% of slot machine revenue. Regulators peppered the casino with questions about the move before signing off.

In the process, the casino’s representatives gave the PGCB a look at the new layout of the area around its sportsbook. The casino will move its 28-table poker room to a space adjacent to the sportsbook. It’s a good sign for the property’s poker room, which should benefit from the buzz around sports betting.

Pennsylvania’s live poker market is struggling, but perhaps poker can ride the coattails of the sports betting buzz at some of the casinos. An online poker launch would also help.


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