Sands Bethlethem, Valley Forge, Meadows and Presque Isle have all changed hands
Online Poker Report

The Opportunity For Online Gambling Played Role In Big Shake-up For Pennsylvania Casinos

PA casino shakeup

The Pennsylvania casino market has been extremely fluid since the state passed a comprehensive gaming package last October.

In less than six months, four of the state’s existing 12 casinos have been sold, and a 13th received final approval to begin construction.

I don’t even know who you are anymore

Here’s how the market looked at the time of the gaming bill’s passage in October (roughly in order of gaming revenue):

  • Parx Casino – Greenwood Gaming
  • Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem – Las Vegas Sands
  • Rivers Casino – Rush Street Gaming
  • SugarHouse Casino – Rush Street Gaming
  • Hollywood Casino Penn National – Penn National
  • Meadows Racetrack and Casino – Pinnacle Entertainment
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino – Mohegan Sun
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino – Caesars Entertainment
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort – Mount Airy LLC
  • Presque Isle Downs and Casino – Eldorado Resorts
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort – Valley Forge Convention Center Partners
  • Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin – Isle of Capri

And here’s what the market currently looks like following four sales and the authorization of the 13th casino:

  1. Parx Casino – Greenwood Gaming
  2. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem – Las Vegas Sands Wind Creek Hospitality
  3. Rivers Casino – Rush Street Gaming
  4. SugarHouse Casino – Rush Street Gaming
  5. Hollywood Casino Penn National – Penn National
  6. Meadows Racetrack and Casino – Pinnacle Entertainment Penn National
  7. Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino – Mohegan Sun
  8. Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino – Caesars Entertainment
  9. Mount Airy Casino Resort – Mount Airy LLC
  10. Presque Isle Downs and Casino – Eldorado Resorts Churchill Downs
  11. Valley Forge Casino Resort – Valley Forge Convention Center Partners Boyd Gaming
  12. Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin – Isle of Capri
  13. Philadelphia Live! Casino (under construction) – Cordish Company and Greenwood Gaming

What caused the fire sale?

The gaming package created a number of new opportunities. From online gambling to sports betting, and from video gaming terminals to mini-casinos, the nation’s second-largest gambling market underwent a seismic shift.

The legalization of online gambling was likely a factor in three of the sales. Some companies view the new law as an opportunity, while others see them as a convenient escape hatch.

Meadows to Penn National

Meadows Racetrack and Casino was part of a blockbuster deal that saw Penn National take over the bulk of Pinnacle Entertainment’s assets across the country.

That doesn’t mean Penn National won’t leverage a second Pennsylvania casino in the future online gambling market. But the multi-billion-dollar deal had little to do with the passage of Pennsylvania’s gaming act in 2017.

Sands to Wind Creek

For anyone following the Pennsylvania casino industry, the Sands Bethlehem sale came as no surprise.

The property has been an outlier in the Las Vegas Sands portfolio and the subject of multiple sale rumors over the years.

Add in the passage of online gambling, something Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson abhors, and the proverbial writing was on the wall.

Wind Creek’s online gambling future is unknown at this point.

Presque Isle to Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs’ purchase of Presque Isle seems largely predicated on the new online gambling opportunities in the state.

Following the announced sale, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen released the following statement: “Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”

Churchill Downs has eyed opportunities in legal US online gaming for more than a decade. Its foray into this space occurred when the company launched its advance-deposit wagering site, TwinSpires, back in 2007.

Churchill began expanding its online portfolio when it purchased Bluff Media in 2012, saying at the time that the deal “provides new business avenues to pursue if there is a liberalization of state or federal laws regarding Internet poker.”

In 2015, Churchill Downs partnered with two California cardrooms when online poker was believed to be coming to the state.

Unfortunately for Churchill, progress on this front has been slow, and most of its planning has been for naught. Bluff Magazine and its associated websites were put on ice in 2015, and online poker legislation in California has turned into a quagmire, with no end in sight.

That said the company is poised to fulfill its long-held dream of joining the legal online gaming industry in the US in PA.

Valley Forge to Boyd Gaming

Last year’s gaming act turned Valley Forge into one of the most interesting casinos in the market.

Changes to Category 3 licenses allowed Valley Forge to grow revenue. And now that bidding for Category 4 casinos is open to Category 3 casinos, Valley Forge could jump into that arena.

And then there’s online gambling.

On that front, Valley Forge has long been linked  to GVC / PartyPoker. If that partnership is still in place, the transition to Boyd Gaming should be seamless, considering Boyd Gaming worked with GVC in New Jersey prior to its divestiture of Borgata in June 2016.

Following the acquisition of Valley Forge, Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith touted all the opportunities the gaming reform law presents Valley Forge:

“And thanks to Pennsylvania’s recent passage of gaming expansion legislation, there are new opportunities to drive incremental growth at Valley Forge through the expansion of the property’s slot capacity and the introduction of new forms of gaming.”

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.