Who's Going To Dance With Who In PA iGaming?
Online Poker Report

Regulated Online Gambling In Pennsylvania: Who’s Dancing With Whom?

Pennsylvania online gambling partnerships
This article may be outdated. Get the latest news on Pennsylvania here.
With the obvious exception of the Sheldon Adelson-owned Sands Bethlehem, every casino in Pennsylvania is a potential player should the state pass an online gambling bill.

In addition to the interest by the state’s brick and mortar casinos, with a population of over 12 million, the state is an attractive market for iGaming operators, particularly if, as is anticipated, a Pennsylvania online gambling bill allows for interstate agreements.

Still, in contrast to the pre-launch period in New Jersey, little is known about potential partnerships in PA.

Here is a look at what we know about the twelve Pennsylvania casinos and their prospective online gambling partners.

Likely partnerships

Parx

Parx Casino is one of only two Pennsylvania properties that has explicitly named its iGaming partner.

The announcement came on the heels of statements by bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger indicating the company had entered into a partnership with a prominent Pennsylvania casino, which many people believed to be Parx, during a conference call in March.

Parx’s actual partner, GameAccount Network, decided to nip these rumors in the bud:

“Throughout the multi-year term of the agreement, Parx Casino will rely exclusively on GameAccount Network’s Internet gaming system, deployed on-property in Pennsylvania, 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.”

Mount Airy Casino Resort

With a 188-room hotel, spa, and five restaurants, Mount Airy is one of the state’s few full-fledged casinos – Mount Airy and Sands Bethlehem are the only two AAA 4-Diamond resorts in the state.

All American Poker Network (AAPN) Executive Chairman David Licht recently appeared at an online gaming hearing held at Mount Airy Casino where he announced 888 (and the AAPN) had partnered with Mount Airy, when, and if, Pennsylvania passes an online gaming bill. More on this story, and the partnership between 888 and Mount Airy, can be found at US Poker.

Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack

Caesars is one of the most prominent companies involved in U.S. iGaming, and it would be a complete shock if the Caesars-owned Harrah’s Philadelphia didn’t team up with 888 Holdings, which powers Caesars’ Nevada and New Jersey online gaming sites.

Caesars will almost certainly push for interstate online gaming to be an option, allowing them to link up with Nevada, Delaware, and/or New Jersey, as 888 has a presence in all four states.

But, with Caesars’ ready-made interstate network already in place they will likely face opposition from most other PA casino properties on this front.

Possible partnerships

Mohegan Sun at Pocono

Mohegan Sun Pocono already offers a full suite of freeplay online gambling options powered by Bally Technologies. Bally Tech also powers the freeplay online casino offered at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

It’s likely this partnership will continue if real money online gambling is legalized in Pennsylvania, as Bally Tech is already involved in the real money online gaming sector in the U.S. through its partnership with Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

The freeplay online casino options at Mohegan Sun properties are currently used as a marketing tool to help promote the land-based casinos, but with Bally Tech’s experience in New Jersey it would be an easy transition from player acquisition tool to a revenue generating vertical.

It will be interesting to see if Golden Nugget AC decides to launch an online poker room (they are currently casino-only) that they could link up with Mohegan Sun Pocono if the two states were to enter into an interstate agreement.

It’s also worth noting that Mohegan manages Resorts AC, which is partnered with NYX / Sportech for online casino and PokerStars for online poker in New Jersey.

SugarHouse Casino/Rivers Casino – Pittsburgh

Owned by Rush Street Gaming, Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh already have a foot in the online gaming door.

RSG has an interactive division that has procured a transactional waiver in New Jersey (even though they hadn’t partnered with a land-based casino in the state) as well as owning two other casinos in states with iGaming potential: Illinois and New York.

If online gaming comes to Pennsylvania, the company’s two PA casinos are likely to work in unison in the online gaming sector.

Furthermore, Rush Street could increase their presence in the regulated online gambling market by taking a similar approach to Pala Interactive in New Jersey – partnering with a brick and mortar casino simply to use its iGaming license.

If Rush Street isn’t the software platform the casinos use, the combination of Sugarhouse and Rivers would be an attractive partner for an iGaming company.

Casinos without known partners

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse

Hollywood Casino is one of the highest grossing casinos in the state, and the casino’s parent company, Penn National, owns a total of sixteen casinos across the country and over a dozen racecourses (you can find more on Penn National’s properties in the Meadows write up below).

Because of these factors, we’ll offer a bit of speculation on who might be desirous of partnering with Hollywood Casino.

Their strong brand in Pennsylvania and nationally should make them an attractive partner for a major corporation such as bwin.party, or because of their racing link, Churchill Downs. Another potential candidate for Hollywood Casino could be PokerStars.

You can find more information on these, and other, iGaming free agents below.

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino

Meadows is one of the state’s higher grossing gaming facilities and holds the distinction of being PA’s first pari-mutuel horse racing track, opening in 1963.

The storied racino was bought by Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. in 2014 – this deal is expected to be finalized sometime in 2015.

GLPI owns parts of nearly two dozen casinos, including the M in Las Vegas.

Most of GLPI’s casinos are operated by Penn National, including the Penn National Racecourse in PA, which could lead to both properties settling on the same iGaming partner and an online poker network between Meadows and Penn National.

Presque Isle Downs and Casino

Presque Isle is owned by Eldorado Resorts which owns a total of six casino/racetrack across the country. This presence in other states (including Reno, Nevada) might boost the profile of the otherwise minor racino.

At a June hearing in front of the State Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development, Presque Isle’s Jeff Favre seemed agreeable to online gaming expansion, but did voice concerns over cannibalization.

Valley Forge Casino Resort

Valley Forge Casino’s Robert Pickus seemed keen on Pennsylvania passing an online gambling bill at during the hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development last June, expressing his belief the state should move early on this issue for two reasons:

  1. To enter into interstate agreements.
  2. To entice gaming companies to set up shop in PA as a first adopter.

It’s unclear who Valley Forge might partner with for iGaming, but it’s evident they want to get in on the ground floor.

Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin

Owned by Isle of Capri Casinos (which has casino properties in three other states as well), Lady Luck Nemacolin is a supporter of online gaming, and Don Mitchell thinks it should happen sooner rather than later to insure PA gets out in front of a potential federal ban.

At the hearing last June, Mitchell advocated for the passage of a bill with a slow timeline for implementation.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem

Sands Bethlehem is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Unless something drastic occurs, it’s extremely unlikely the casino will be part of Pennsylvania’s online gaming industry.

Free agent iGaming operators

bwin.party/partypoker

bwin.party isn’t technically a free agent as the company has announced they have secured a partnership with a leading casino in the state. That being said, just who that casino is continues to be a source of speculation.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs has been developing an online gambling platform for several years, but they have yet to unveil it in the U.S.

Pennsylvania is likely a perfect launching pad, provided they can find a partner.

PokerStars

With their truce with Caesars in place, and Representative John Payne’s bill lacking a bad actor clause, PokerStars is almost certainly eyeing Pennsylvania, and as we have seen in both New Jersey and California, PokerStars likes to form its partnerships early on in the process.

So who would a likely partner be? That probably depends on what occurs in New Jersey in the coming months.

If PokerStars is able to get a foot in the door in New Jersey in Q3 of this year, their stock as an iGaming partner in PA will likely rise. However, if they continue to be denied access in NJ it may scare off likely partners in PA.

GameSys

GameSys is having a lot of success in New Jersey, and they are doing it with what many would consider a mid-tier brick and mortar partner in Tropicana.

Look for GameSys to try to replicate their New Jersey successes in Pennsylvania by partnering with another mid-tier casino/racetrack.

Sign Up For The Grove Report – US Online Gambling Industry Insights Delivered To Your Inbox:
Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.