As PA casinos wait on final regulations, many are mum about the future

What We Know And Don’t Know About Pennsylvania Online Gambling Partnerships

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It’s been more than three months since Pennsylvania legalized online gambling. While the state made some progress — it instituted some temporary regulations and made applications for certain online gaming licenses available — there are still a lot of unknowns.

Hashing out all of the regulatory and licensing details has proven problematic. The state’s 12 casinos are drawing fault lines. Some are lobbying for a strict limitation on the number of branded websites; others advocate for a more open model.

The temporary regulations don’t expressly cover this issue. Without clarity, many stakeholders are playing their cards close to the vest when it comes to online partnerships.

With Pennsylvania’s legal online gambling sites expected to launch sometime in 2018’s second half, here’s a look at what we know and don’t know about these partnerships.

What we know

Four partnerships are pretty much set in stone:

  1. Rivers Casino – Rush Street Interactive
  2. SugarHouse Casino – Rush Street Interactive
  3. Parx Casino – GAN
  4. Mount Airy Casino888

Rush Street casino will use proprietary software

Rush Street Gaming operates two Pennsylvania casinos, SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Both will use the company’s proprietary online gambling software, developed by Rush Street Interactive.

The company successfully deployed the platform in New Jersey with

Mount Airy Casino has a partnership with 888

A partnership between Mount Airy Casino Resort and 888 has been in place since at least 2014.

The agreement wasn’t public knowledge until David Licht, the executive chairman of the All American Poker Network (the name of 888’s US-facing network at the time), announced the partnership during a 2015 Pennsylvania online gambling hearing.

There’s no reason to think the partnership is no longer in place. Mount Airy is still advertising and running promos for 888’s New Jersey online casino on its website.

Parx Casino has partnered with GAN

Parx has acted as something of an obstructionist when it comes to online gambling. Still, the casino plans on being a part of the market.

Parx is also one of the few casinos with a known online gambling partner. It signed an exclusive multi-year agreement with GAN in November 2014.

Per a press release from March 2015:

“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.”

What we think we know

There are reasons to suspect these five partnerships are in place:

  1. Valley Forge Casino Resort – GVC
  2. Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack – Scientific Games/NYX and 888
  3. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course – Scientific Games/NYX
  4.  Meadows Racetrack and Casino – Scientific Games/NYX
  5. Mohegan Sun Pocono – Scientific Games/NYX

The worst kept secret in PA: Valley Forge and GVC

We know PartyPoker (now owned by GVC) entered a partnership with a Pennsylvania casino in 2015. The best guess at the time was Valley Forge. Considering the casino’s continued advocacy for online gambling, it’s likely the partnership is still in place.

Harrah’s likely to use separate casino and poker platforms

Caesars (the parent company of Harrah’s) partnered with 888 and NYX on the casino side and 888 for online poker in New Jersey.

In Pennsylvania, we expect Harrah’s to take advantage of the state’s bifurcated licensing system and choose NYX for online casino and 888 for online poker. That would provide Harrah’s with the best of both worlds.

NYX is a top-tier online casino platform, perhaps the best in the US market, while 888 is active in every state with online poker. It’s the only company that make such a claim. That would allow Harrah’s to share online poker liquidity, should Pennsylvania join the NevadaDelaware-New Jersey multi state poker association.

Rumor mill links Penn National’s two PA casinos with Scientific Games/NYX

After acquiring Pinnacle, Penn National now operates two Pennsylvania casinos: Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Meadows Racetrack and Casino.

Online Poker Report is hearing rumors Penn National and Scientific Games/NYX have partnered in Pennsylvania. If true, both Hollywood Casino and Meadows will likely operate on NYX’s online casino platform.

Mohegan Sun sticks with its NJ partner

OPR is also hearing Mohegan Sun will migrate its New Jersey partnership with NYX to Pennsylvania.

Given NYX’s reputation and track record, continuing the partnership makes perfect sense for Mohegan Sun. And it solidifies NYX as the top online casino platform in the US.

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What we don’t know

Finally, there are three casinos in the Pennsylvania market about which we know very little:

  1. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem
  2. Presque Isle Downs and Casino
  3. Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin

Presque Isle and Lady Luck could be targeted by PokerStars

Assuming PokerStars doesn’t try to procure an unclaimed license, it will probably look to partner with one of the state’s smaller casinos, like Presque Isle or Lady Luck.

PokerStars isn’t the typical white-label platform provider looking for a brand. The company seeks to advance its brand in the US market, and it’s unlikely a well-known casino brand would be interested in taking a backseat to PokerStars.

On their own, Lady Luck and Presque Isle might not even launch an online gambling site. The money involved and the eventual return might keep them out of the market … unless a company like PokerStars comes along and foots the bill, kicking a percentage of its revenue back to the casino.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to Sands

Sands Bethlehem stands as the true wild card in Pennsylvania.

The company has fought tooth and nail to prevent online gambling from spreading across the US. Now, it must deal with the hard reality that it operates a casino in what will be a robust online casino market.

Sands might sit on the sidelines, but it probably won’t. As crazy as it sounds, there’s a good chance Sands launches an online gambling website.

Failing to procure an online gambling license would:

  • Result in a loss of revenue;
  • Put the casino at a marketing disadvantage;
  • Harm a possible sale down the road.

It’s unclear who might power Sands online casino site.

- 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.
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