The new law allows for the 12 casinos in Pennsylvania to apply for one of 36 available licenses. There are separate licenses for online table games, online slots, and online poker.
The state’s existing casinos may pass on any of the 36 licenses. If they do, operators from outside the existing PA casino industry will be invited to apply for them.
The first online gambling sites in the state won’t be up and running until sometime in 2018. However, there are already indications as to who wants to be a part this new market.
Here’s our best guess as to bets for who is likely to lead the PA online casino industry:
Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino and owners Rush Street Gaming have been running a New Jersey online gambling site since September 2016. As a result, opening up a similar site in Pennsylvania is probably just the flip of a switch away.
Its tried-and-tested software is ready to go. All indications are SugarHouse will be one of the first to apply for the table games and slots licenses. It may even want to jump in the PA online poker market as well. Leveraging the brand recognition its Poker Night in America poker room seems like a good idea.
The SugarHouse Casino NJ online casino site is part of the industry-leading network of sites operating under the Golden Nugget’s internet gambling license in New Jersey. That certainly suggests SugarHouse has the experience and know-how to lead the PA online gambling market out of the gate.
Parx Casino is the top-grossing casino Pennsylvania. Its 3,300 slots, 130 table games and 80-table poker room is only rivaled in size by Sands Bethlehem.
Parx executives made a lot of noise about tax rates in the lead-up to the passage of online gambling legislation. However, the casino appeared to get the level playing field it was after when the state settled on slot taxes of 54 percent both online and off.
Parx launched a social casino in 2015 designed by online gambling software provider GAN. GAN indicated in the past that it would continue to be Parx’s real-money internet gaming provider once the state enacted legislation to regulate real-money iGaming. That day has now come, and Parx and GAN appear ready to lead the online casino industry to market in the state.
Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono doesn’t boast one of the biggest casinos in the state. However, it appears poised to join one of the largest online casino networks in the United States at launch.
Mount Airy has just 1,800 slot machines, 70 table games and a nine-table poker room. That makes it the smallest Category 2 casino in the state.
However, property executives have long advocated online gambling. Plus, it actually entered into an online gambling agreement with 888 in 2014. The partnership is still in place. As a result, 888 is expected to be the software provider for any Mount Airy online offering.
Of course, 888 already does that for Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s online gambling sites in New Jersey and Nevada. Plus, it runs its own casino and poker sites in New Jersey as well.
Mount Airy Casino Resort may lack the size and revenue to effectively market an online gambling site in Pennsylvania. However, its partnership with 888 might just do enough to make it a major player in the market.
Because of the limits placed on Valley Forge Casino Resort’s Category 3 casino license, it remains one of the smallest casinos in the state. There are just 600 slots and 50 table games on the property.
However, Valley Forge Casino Resort executives have long supported the idea of online gambling in the state. Plus, rumor has it the property has already struck a partnership with online gambling giant GVC, formerly bwin.party.
GVC is a big player in the New Jersey online casino market, providing software for Borgata and MGM’s online casino and poker sites. It also runs its own partypoker-branded site.
If the rumors are true, the tiny Valley Forge Casino Resort certainly has the potential to punch above its weight in the PA online casino market at launch.
Mohegan Sun Pocono
Mohegan Sun Pocono offers 2,300 slot machines, more than 90 table games and live harness racing. Plus, its parent company runs a pair of online casino sites under its Resorts Atlantic City online gambling license in New Jersey.
Powered by Scientific Games/NYX software, these aren’t the biggest sites in the New Jersey market. But their existence suggests Mohegan Sun is at least prepared to go live online in PA at market launch.
Mohegan Sun Pocono could also be the launching point for PokerStars in the state. In New Jersey, PokerStars runs its online poker and casino site under the Resorts Atlantic City online gambling license. If it’s looking for a similar partner in PA, Mohegan Sun Pocono would be the obvious choice.
On its own, or with PokerStars, Mohegan Sun Pocono will likely be a player in the new PA online casino market. It’s just a question of how big a player it wants to be.
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in Chester is a Caesars Entertainment property. Caesars and software partner 888 are participants in the existing New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware online gambling markets, even if they are not the biggest ones.
It’s a good bet Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack will open up the flagship online casino site for Caesars in the state. But while a WSOP-branded online poker site could ultimately be part of the largest online poker network in the United States, Caesars online casino sites have tended to lag behind the rest of the market where they operate.
The rest of the market
Other casinos in PA including the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, the Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and Presque Isle Downs may want in on the new online gambling market in PA.
If the New Jersey market-leading Golden Nugget online casino is any indication, one does not need to be the largest casino in the state to compete online, either.
However, these casinos will need to make a major investment in software and marketing to follow Golden Nugget’s lead. Most indications are they don’t have the current revenue to do so.
In the meantime, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has the revenue to compete. However, it is likely to bow out of the market due to moral objections from Las Vegas Sands Corporation founder, chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.