Update March 24, 2015: Parx has denied that they have a deal with bwin. And, in a press release following this story, GameAccount Network reiterated their deal whereby Parx will “rely exclusively on GameAccount Network’s Internet gaming system […] for all forms of real money Internet gaming (including poker, for the avoidance of doubt) in the event the State of Pennsylvania enacts legislation to regulate real money Internet gaming.
Original story follows.
On a recent conference call with investors bwin.party executives confirmed that the company had secured a partner for online gaming in the state of Pennsylvania, but stopped short of naming the land-based casino they had entered into an agreement with.
During the call, bwin.party CFO Martin Weigold stated:
“Outside New Jersey, we’re continuing to keep a watchful eye on other opportunities in the U.S. We’ve secured a land base partner in Pennsylvania, where new bills to regulate online poker was [sic] recently introduced there.”
The CEO of bwin.party, Norbert Teufelberger, made similar comments:
“You’ve heard, I guess, a lot over the last few weeks. There is one state which is quite hot right now, which is Pennsylvania, neighboring state to New Jersey.
We will know more in a few months there. We’ve identified a market access partner and should Pennsylvania open later that year, we again have the goal to be first to market there as we did in New Jersey.”
When asked for comment, a bwin.party spokesperson told us they were not revealing their Pennsylvania partner at this time.
This isn’t the first mention of a Pennsylvania partner by bwin.party’s CEO. And all signs are pointing towards the partner being Parx Casino.
In a call in March of 2014, Teufelberger said bwin.party was partnership talks with “one of the state’s leading casinos.”
Teufelberger went on to say the unnamed casino was only interested in a partnership if Pennsylvania compacted with other states to pool online players.
Both of these statements, as well as the recent relationship between Parx and the bwin.party-owned World Poker Tour, seem to indicate bwin.party’s Pennsylvania partner is Parx Casino.
When you talk about successful Pennsylvania casinos, two properties immediately jump to mind, Sands Bethlehem and Parx.
Sands Bethlehem is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp and can therefore be scrubbed from the iGaming rolls, which leaves us at Parx.
However, there are a number of second tier casinos, such as Sugarhouse, Harrah’s, Penn National, The Rivers, and Mohegan Sun – more on these other casinos in a moment.
This is a bit more speculative, but last year Parx Casino Chairman Bob Green was very tentative about online gaming expansion.
More to the point, Green was basically against it, but saw it as inevitable, and said that if online gaming were to be legalized in Pennsylvania, his casino would be a part of it.
Because of these statements, it wouldn’t surprise me if Green was in preliminary talks with bwin in 2014 – talks that would include caveats such as “if Pennsylvania compacts with other states.”
The World Poker Tour (owned by bwin.party) held a championship event at Parx Casino as recently as 2012, so there is some history between the two companies.
Is a single tournament enough to cement an online gaming partnership? Probably not, but it does mean the two companies have a line of communication.
While Parx is the clear number one contender, I’ve been around this industry long enough to know you need to hedge your bets.
So with that in mind here are three other partnership contenders for bwin.party.
SugarHouse Casino is located in Philadelphia proper and is in the middle of a massive $164 million remodel and expansion project.
Included in the project is the only licensed poker room in Philadelphia, and if the interim poker room is any indication, SugarHouse has spared no expense in creating a state of the art facility.
At a hearing last June, SugarHouse spokesperson Wendy Hamilton urged restraint on online gambling, opining that Pennsylvania should wait until 2015 before discussing online expansion – 2015 is coincidentally when SugarHouse’s expansion is expected to be completed.
Rivers Casino is located in Pittsburgh, and is the third biggest revenue generator in Pennsylvania behind Sands Bethlehem and Parx Casino. Rivers Casino boasts a 30-table poker room.
Interestingly, Rivers Casino is owned by the same company as SugarHouse Casino, Rush Street Gaming, which could offer Party Poker the chance to partner with two casinos in PA.
This makes SugarHouse/Rivers an attractive partner, particularly if a company has designs on interstate compacts down the road as Rush Street also operates casinos in New York and Illinois.
Mohegan Sun took over a racetrack from Penn National in 2005, and since that time has transformed the facility into a full-fledged casino in the Poconos, first adding slots, then table games, then a hotel.
Like their sister casino in Connecticut, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs offers a free-play online poker game powered by OnGame that launched in 2013. That being said, the details of the Mohegan/OnGame partnership are unknown, and while unlikely, they may be a candidate for bwin.party’s iGaming partner in Pennsylvania.