When Will You Be Able To Gamble At Legal Online Casinos In Pennsylvania?

Martin Derbyshire December 14, 2017
PA legal online gambling start date

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed online gambling legislation as a part of a comprehensive gambling expansion package in October 2017. It became the fourth state in the US to do so, following Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.

However, you can’t gamble online in PA just yet. So, when exactly will online casinos get up and running in PA?

The regulatory process is just getting underway. That makes it hard to pinpoint an exact date as to when players will be able to start gambling online. However, a quick look at that process in other states and the cold hard facts regarding online gambling in PA can give us a pretty good idea.

PA online gambling licensing process

The first step in the regulatory process is for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to start accepting applications for licenses. There are 36 available. That’s licenses for online slots, online table games and online poker – one for each of PA’s 12 existing brick and mortar casino properties.

All 12 Pennsylvania casinos can apply for licenses for all three. Those will cost $10 million each. Individual licenses will cost $4 million a piece. If any remain after the 12 PA casinos have had a chance to snatch them up, those licenses will be made available to other interested parties.

No timeline has yet been set for the application process. However, once the first casinos start applying, the PAGCB will have 90 days to approve or deny them. Plus, the clock will start ticking on a 120-day window in which existing casinos have the exclusive right to apply for the licenses.

Once the first casinos have their licenses, it will still take some time for them to get online gambling sites up and running. The question is: How long?

The New Jersey online gambling timeline

Over in neighboring New Jersey, it took approximately nine months from the time online gambling legislation passed until the official launch of regulated online gambling. However, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to improve upon that.

The new law does allow regulators to move forward quickly with certain aspects of the approval process. Additionally, there has been plenty of dialogue back and forth between regulators in NJ and PA. PA is sure to benefit from New Jersey’s experience.

June 2018 looks to be an important month for PA on this front. Pennsylvania’s fiscal year wraps up at the end that month. Lawmakers in the state have turned to online gambling and further gambling expansion to help balance the current budget. As a result, they would likely prefer to see the licensing fees from it on the books before the fiscal year ends.

If that is indeed the case, there will some pressure to get the first sites licensed and functioning in the first half of 2018.

Experienced online casinos wanted

Regulators are one thing and operators are another. However, operators with previous experience in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey should be able to streamline their own processes and be ready to launch online gambling sites in PA sooner rather than later.

They’ll still have to jump through the usual regulatory hoops. But from a software and logistics perspective, experienced operators may be able to improve upon the nine-month New Jersey timeline.

That said, nothing is set in stone in the new PA online gambling market, outside of the date for the end of the state’s fiscal year. Lawmakers may want to ensure the money starts rolling in before then. Experience shows, however, that the wheels of government bureaucracy often turn more slowly than anyone would hope.

Plus, this being the PAGCB’s first real experience with online gambling could make the process an even lengthier one.