Editor’s note: Pennsylvania recently legalized online poker and casino games. This is the next installment in a series of articles about the casinos in Pennsylvania and their possible place in the online gambling market.
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack is technically located in Chester, Pa. The southern suburb of Philadelphia sits along the Delaware River, halfway to Wilmington.
The property was initially opened in 2006 as a racetrack, but it got its slots license within the first month of operation. A 100,000-square-foot casino opened the following year, and table games were added in 2010.
There are currently about 2,450 slot machines and 90 gaming tables, plus a 28-table poker room and a large event center. The 5/8-mile limestone track still hosts about 150 harness racing days per year when the weather is suitable for horse racing, too.
The former Harrah’s Chester officially became Harrah’s Philadelphia in 2012. The name change was designed to appeal to a broader customer base as several new casinos began to appear in the region.
Harrah’s Philadelphia’s location puts it in competitive casino territory.
Parx, SugarHouse and Valley Forge have the city of Philadelphia surrounded to the north, and Delaware casinos run the neighborhoods to the south. The region’s gambling capital, Atlantic City, is a short drive down the Expressway.
Still, the brand holds its own in the crowded space.
Financially speaking, Harrah’s Philadelphia is the state’s fifth-largest casino. Slot machines generate around $16 million in monthly revenue for the property, and tables add about another $5 million.
Total gaming revenue for the 2016-17 fiscal year amounted to about $265 million according to records from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Harrah’s returned more than $120 million of that to the city, county and state in the form of taxes.
Harrah’s parent company, Caesars Entertainment, is a Goliath in the casino industry. Its reach gives it significant resources to invest in online gambling, which it’s already done in Nevada and New Jersey.
888 powers the poker product, but Caesars uses its own poker brand where it has a physical presence. WSOP Nevada and WSOP NJ are available in their respective states, making it the only brand with a live product in both.
In entering Pennsylvania, it seems likely Caesars will use the same 888 platform to power a Harrah’s online casino.
The expectation is that the 888 platform will be used for online poker under the WSOP brand, as well. 888 has recently expanded its NJ presence by adding new online casino games from both NYX and NetEnt.
If the number of skins/brands allowed is limited in PA, however, you might not see the WSOP brand deployed.
Mount Airy Casino also has an existing partnership with 888. It seems likely that it will use the platform to launch its own online gambling product, although that’s not been confirmed. The two casinos likely won’t share anything more than an online provider.
As mentioned, Caesars has built a network of online gambling sites across Nevada and New Jersey. It will be more than happy to welcome Pennsylvania, the largest state of the bunch, into the fold.
Sites in each state operate independently of one another, but multistate poker agreements could facilitate shared liquidity in the future. A WSOP-branded poker product could allow players from multiple US states to compete against each other on a regulated platform for the first time since Black Friday in 2011.
The Harrah’s land-based poker room in Philadelphia already features WSOP branding.
Rolling out a Pennsylvania online gambling product quickly will be key to capturing early customers. Most of the state’s 12 land-based casino licensees will apply for online licenses, and the early bird will get the biggest worm.
The fact that Caesars’ online products are already approved elsewhere bodes well for a quick entry into PA. It is already building an interstate product in Nevada and NJ, although the timeline is still up in the air.
The brand has struggled with online gambling of late in the Garden State so far. It’s currently bringing up the rear in both NJ online poker and NJ online casino revenue. Competing with the Borgata poker presence is tough sledding, and Golden Nugget seized control over the online casino market with a huge push in 2017.
Caesars will hope that the Harrah’s brand carries a bit more weight in Pennsylvania than it does in New Jersey.
Past installments of this series: