Update: As of May 28, PlaySugarHouse is now live for mobile casino and sports betting. The Kambi powered app is the first online sportsbook to launch in Pennsylvania. Parx and Rivers are expected to be next. The holdup on other operators appears to be the rigor of the PGCB testing and approval process for online apps.
Apps are now expected from:
- BetRivers Sportsbook
- Valley Forge using FanDuel
- Hollywood Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Presque Isle Downs
- Mount Airy–not yet approved by the PGCB, but will launch with BetStars part of The Stars Group that has just partnered with Fox Sports. They plan to introduce a “Fox Bet” sports betting product.
Pennsylvania legal sports betting is here
Everything is changing fast in the Pennsylvania casino world as sports betting and online gaming begin to roll out.
After the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, Pennsylvania was one of the first states to pass a law authorizing sports betting. In a remarkably sensible move, it has also legalized online gaming.
First up with sports betting is the Hollywood Casino, which launched inaugural legal Pennsylvania sports betting on Nov. 17.
There was a short window when Hollywood allowed sports betting a day earlier, but this was a restricted test to signal to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) that all was ready to go.
The PGCB is in the driver’s seat as to when casinos can launch their new offerings. The new laws give it the responsibility to authorize licenses and start dates, so casinos are dependent on the speed at which the PGCB makes decisions.
A move toward speeding up the process, the PGCB has given Executive Director Kevin O’Toole the authority to greenlight new sportsbook operations, which avoids the need to wait for decisions at the regular monthly PGCB meetings.
After all the PGCB activity, we can now make reasonably good forecasts of which casinos will launch what new games and when.
Key features of Pennsylvania’s new online gaming and sports betting
But first, a quick review of the key points about Pennsylvania’s new sports betting and online gaming laws:
- Sports betting is now legal and subject to authorization by the PGCB and payment of a $10 million license fee.
- Online casino games, slots and poker are also authorized, including on mobile devices. Casinos have paid $4 million per license to offer these or $10 million for the package of three.
- Taxes vary from game to game but can be very high. Online slot machines pay 54 percent and online sports betting pays 36 percent.
- The taxes are paid by operators, not bettors, but do mean that odds and payout rates may be worse than in Nevada or New Jersey.
- Casinos may have multiple online gaming skins but can offer only one online sports betting brand.
- Casinos will offer a single account from which to fund all online gaming accounts.
- Patrons can sign up online for online accounts. There is no need to register in person.
- The existing licensed casinos have partnered with online gaming companies to launch their online gaming products. The partnership means some of the world’s largest brands will soon be available in Pennsylvania.
Now, for all you need to know about Pennsylvania’s new sports betting and online gaming, here’s a quick guide, casino by casino.
Hollywood Penn National
Hollywood’s sports betting operation is now running from the simulcast theater on the second floor of the property.
The sportsbook is powered by William Hill US, which has substantial experience of running books in Nevada and New Jersey.
Penn National, which owns the casino, has also applied for online gaming licenses to allow the following online offerings:
This full set of the licenses are available under the PGCB regulations.
Hollywood is partnering with special online providers for its internet gaming offer, although William Hill will continue to power the online sports betting.
Penn National told the PGCB that IGT would be the primary online technology provider. IGT is big in online casino and slots games, but less well known for its online poker product.
IGT launched a significant update to its online poker platform at this year’s G2E conference, but it will face stiff competition from better known international brands PokerStars, 888 and PartyPoker.
The launch date for Hollywood Casino online gaming will probably be mid-June to mid-July although all the company would say to the PGCB was “sometime in 2019.”
The PGCB has given Harrah’s conditional approval for its live sportsbook and its interactive licenses. The technology partner for the sportsbook is Scientific Games and 888 for the online games.
Harrah’s is owned by Caesars Entertainment, which has plenty of live and online sports betting experience in Nevada.
As part of the new expansion of state-regulated sports betting, Caesars has also started sportsbooks at two of its casinos in New Jersey and two in Mississippi. All are run in partnership with Scientific Games.
Caesars already offers online casino and sports betting in New Jersey, so Pennsylvanians can see what to expect.
No timeline is officially available. Best guess is Harrah’s won’t hang around and should have live sports betting up and running in January 2019 with everything else to follow in the first quarter. [Editor’s note: Harrah’s launched on Jan 24].
Mohegan Sun Pocono
Mohegan Sun’s $12 million worth of interactive license applications got the green light. The PGCB approved licenses for online slots and online table games. Mohegan decided not to follow through with its license for interactive poker.
On May 3, the Mohegan Sun finally got its act together and applied for a sports betting license.
European online gaming group, Kindred, has teamed up with the Mohegan Sun to deliver the technology and sports betting expertise for both online and casino sportsbooks. No word yet on when a sportsbook will open.
Mount Airy Casino
Mount Airy Casino has partnered with PokerStars and 888, so it might be significant in the online poker market. Under PA laws, casinos can launch several online poker and casino skins, but only one online sports betting brand.
Mount Airy has conditional approval for three interactive gaming licenses, so online gambling should launch at the beginning of 2019.
But the casino doesn’t have a sports betting license application in the works. If it does apply, it could work with either BetStars or 888.
[Editor’s Note:] They finally did it–applied for a sports betting license on May 3. It looks like the sportsbook will be powered by BetStars with products and branding also coming from Fox Sports. The Stars Group struck a nationwide deal with Fox Sports on May 8.
Lady Luck Casino
The Lady Luck Casino is part of the Eldorado Group. Eldorado agreed to sell Lady Luck to Churchill Downs, but the agreement fell through.
Nevertheless, Churchill Downs is about to take over operational control of the casino under a separate deal.
Churchill Downs also operates the Presque Isle Downs & Casino and the racetrack which it and Eldorado are buying.
Lady Luck has not filed any license applications for interactive gaming or sports betting. The window for filing license applications has now closed, so expect no change at Lady Luck.
Churchill Downs has applied for a full set of interactive licenses for Presque Isle, so the company’s online ambitions can be realized through those licenses.
One new element has entered the equation. PokerStars parent, the Stars Group, has signed a deal with Eldorado.
This will give PokerStars and its sports betting brand, BetStars, the opportunity to open online gaming skins at Eldorado properties.
Since Lady Luck has missed the deadline for license applications, this casino may not be in any of the Stars Group’s plans. Then again, the future is in the future, so who knows what might develop.
Parx Casino was one of the first to get its license applications in, and eventually kicked off sports betting at Parx Sportsbook on Jan. 8 with a two-day testing period.
It has partnered with GAN and Kambi. Kambi will be providing the sports betting platform with GAN delivering a bunch of other services, which includes managing customer accounts.
Parx owner, Greenwood Gaming, also owns the South Philadelphia Turf Club where Kambi will launch a second live sportsbook.
Parx’s Kambi-powered online gaming product will launch shortly. It looks like they’ve missed the end of May, but expect an announcement in early June.
Presque Isle Downs
Presque Isle Downs is conditionally approved for interactive gaming. The casino did not apply for a peer-to-peer license that would have allowed it to offer online poker.
Churchill Downs and Eldorado have finalized their takeover of Presque Isle so their previously opaque plans are now coming clear.
In its presentation to the PGCB, Presque Isle said that it would launch online gaming early in 2019 under BetAmerica. BetAmerica is the online brand currently used by Churchill Downs for online horse race betting.
These plans are delayed, but expect some online gaming from July 2019.
Presque Isle submitted its sports betting license application on December 7. The Presque Isle sports book is due to open on June 1.
The Stars Group deal with Eldorado should not impact these existing arrangements, but could allow the launch of PokerStars online casino at Presque Isle Downs.
Rivers Casino and SugarHouse Casino
Rivers Casino applied for online gaming licenses, then pulled its application. It also applied for sports betting authorization.
A spokesperson for Rivers told PlayPennsylvania:
“Rivers Casino Pittsburgh intends to provide iGaming to Western Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth; however, we’re taking additional time to explore the various options for doing so. Rivers is actively pursuing a sports wagering certificate to offer both land-based and mobile sports betting.”
It is partnered with Rush Street Interactive, which is the Rush Street Gaming subsidiary tasked with the company’s online gaming plans. Rush Street also owns the SugarHouse Casino.
Kambi is the Rush Street Interactive sports betting technology partner, so by default is also running sports betting at the Rivers Casino.
Live sports betting has already launched at both casinos. The first sports bets were coordinated for 2 p.m. EST on December 13.
Timings and technology may be coordinated, but style and user experience is very different.
SugarHouse did apply for the interactive licenses and planned to launch online casino and sports betting through its playSugarHouse brand. PlaySugarHouse is already live in New Jersey with sports betting and casino games on offer.
[Editor’s Note] SugarHouse managed to beat the other casinos to market and launched its PlaySugarHouse online casino and sports betting app on May 28. The app is currently only available for Android. An iOS version awaits approval from the PGCB but should be available in the first few weeks of June.
The Rivers Casino should launch its version of the app very soon. In the past the PGCB has sequenced sports betting launches by the same casino group.
The South Philadelphia Turf Club launched a week after its sister casino, Parx because the PGCB wanted to confirm the the first roll-out worked properly. If they do the same for the Rivers, it might only be a few days before they approve the Rivers app.
Despite the well-known opposition of owner Sheldon Adelson, Sands has applied for interactive gaming licenses.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is buying the casino through Wind Creek Hospitality. As the sale has yet to go through, Sands could produce no business plan for sports betting or online gaming.
Nevertheless, the Sands applied for all three interactive gaming licenses to take advantage of the $2 million discount on offer. It did not apply for a sports betting license.
When online games will launch and who the Sands will partner with is currently unknown.
The Meadows Casino
The Meadows is owned by Penn National, which owns the Hollywood Casino. It has not applied for any licenses, so will not be taking advantage of the new laws.
Meadows will probably advertise Penn National’s online gaming through the Hollywood Casino.
Valley Forge Casino
Valley Forge has conditional approval for online gaming and applied for a sports betting license on Nov. 14. The casino is partnered with IGT and GAN and is expected to launch online gaming in July 2019.
Although not publicly confirmed, Valley Forge probably has a partnership with GVC.
GVC and MGM have a joint venture which will see them launch online sports betting and gaming wherever the law allows.
Valley Forge has established a partnership with FanDuel for its sports betting operations, both live and online. Sports betting went live on March 13.
FanDuel is better known to Pennsylvanians for its daily fantasy sports (DFS) business. Since Paddy Power Betfair bought FanDuel in May this year, the company has become PPB’s leading brand in establishing US sports betting.
In New Jersey, FanDuel is making the second-highest revenues from online sports betting. It also powers the live sports betting at the Meadowlands racetrack which has the highest live sports betting revenues.
If the New Jersey experience is a guide, FanDuel and Valley Forge should become major players in the new Pennsylvania market.
Valley Forge Turf Club
The Valley Forge Turf Club is a racetrack based facility which opened sports betting on March 12.
It is part of the Greenwood Gaming run trio of Parx, South Philadelphia Turf Club and now the Valley Forge Turf Club. In other words, not to be confused with the Valley Forge Casino.
The sports betting area offers 6 teller windows and 14 sports betting kiosks. Technology is provided by Kambi which has the reputation of providing the most user-friendly kiosk technology yet deployed.
Stadium Casino is a casino without a casino. This is a bit tricky when it comes to knowing what it plans to do in regard to sports betting and online gaming.
Stadium has a site. The old Packer Avenue Holiday Inn in Philadelphia is now gone and preliminary construction work has begun on the new casino, but there’s nothing casino-like about what’s there yet.
The casino was to be a joint venture between Parx owner Greenwood Gaming and Cordish Companies. In a not very surprising move, Greenwood backed out of the deal last week leaving the whole project to Cordish.
The launch of the live casino is now projected for December 2020. Stadium has applied for interactive gaming licenses, but obviously, nothing is going to happen in the near future.
In a cost-saving move, the casino asked the PGCB to allow it to abandon its application for an online poker license. The PGCB agreed to allow Stadium to receive $2 million back in license fees.
Recently the owners have said that development plans include the creation of a sports bar and a sports betting area. Maybe… but there’s no license application in front of the PGCB yet.
Extra interactive licenses
Twelve interactive gaming licenses are up for grabs after none of the existing PA casinos applied for them—or in the case of the Rivers Casino and Stadium Casino, relinquished them.
Applications for groups outside of Pennsylvania seeking interactive licenses were due Oct. 31. We do know that the PGCB approved MGM and Golden Nugget as qualified gaming entities. The next step for these two properties is filing interactive applications
Announcements on these licenses should come soon.