PA Gaming Control Board tries to clear up confusion for online casinos
Online Poker Report

PA Regulators Offer New Online Gambling Explanation, But Are Still Making It Difficult To Operate As A Skin

Difficult for PA online casino skins

In a new explanatory package to the regulations it released last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board attempted to clear up some confusion surrounding the discharge of skins in its pending online gambling market.

What needed to be explained in PA

The PGCB defines skins, or branded online casino sites, as:

“portal or portals to an interactive gaming platform or interactive gaming website through which authorized interactive games are made available by an interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator to registered players in this Commonwealth…”

The two areas that required a more detailed explanation were:

“All interactive gaming skins must, at all times, clearly identify the interactive gaming certificate holder or an entity within the interactive gaming certificate holder’s organizational structure, on the display screen visible to players.

 “Interactive gaming operator licensees are not permitted to offer interactive games in this Commonwealth independent from an interactive gaming certificate holder and the interactive gaming certificate holder’s webpage or the webpage of an entity within the interactive gaming certificate holder’s organizational structure.”

And:

“A player shall have only one interactive gaming account for each interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator licensee. Each interactive gaming account shall be non-transferable; unique to the player who establishes the account; and distinct from any other account number that the player may have established with the interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator licensee for non-interactive gaming activity.”

Initial interpretations of the passages drew heavy criticism.

After reading the explanatory package, that criticism appears not only warranted but understated.

Short of a prohibition, Pennsylvania has made itself pretty inhospitable to skins. What the regulations have done is the equivalent of a restaurant accessed by a narrow spiral staircase claiming it’s disability-friendly because they have wheelchair accessible restrooms.

PGCB clarifies the required association between skin and main license holder

The PGCB did a good job of explaining what the branding and URL requirements are. Unfortunately, it turns out it’s far more onerous than anyone thought.

According to the PGCB:

“Clear and prominent display” includes, at a minimum, identifying the interactive gaming certificate holder in the URL/web address AND clear branding on the interactive gaming site or interactive gaming application operated on behalf of the interactive gaming certificate holder that identifies the interactive gaming certificate holder. For instance, an interactive gaming website or app offered by an interactive gaming operator or skin should include the name of the certificate holder.”

If this was in place in New Jersey:

  • PartyPoker NJ would have to call itself “PartyPoker brought to you by Borgata” or something to that effect.
  • To download the PartyPoker software you would have to go to a subpage on the Borgata website, or to some website that somehow features Borgata in the URL.

There was one piece of good news. Skins can link to their specifics page in ads and marketing, so long as the link to the main license holder is clearly identified.

“There are no restrictions on how interactive gaming operators (platform providers) operating on behalf of interactive gaming certificate holders provide access to their skins (e.g. links from different webpages or apps) so long as it is at all times clear to the player that the interactive gaming site is being offered on behalf of the interactive gaming certificate holder.”

The only way a skin can disregard the burdensome requirements is if they are deemed a “qualified gaming entity” and secure one of the interactive gaming certificates, for poker, slots, and/or table games that come at a cost of $4 million each.

Of course, in that scenario, they would no longer be a skin.

More explanation needed on the limit of one account

The PGCB cleared up some, but not all of the confusion surrounding the limit of one account per interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator license.

In its explanatory package, the PGCB said:

“In other words, a player in this Commonwealth may establish ONE non-transferrable interactive gaming account with an interactive gaming certificate holder, or in the case where an interactive gaming certificate holder employs multiple interactive gaming licensed operators, the player may establish no more than ONE interactive gaming account with EACH operator. The player may establish the account with either the interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator so long as the account information is ultimately visible and centralized with the interactive gaming certificate holder.”

The best interpretation of this rule is that players can have only one account per online gaming platform, regardless of how many skins operate on that software.

For example, if Parx Casino uses GAN for casino games a player can only have one account. But if Parx were to contract with another software platform to offer online poker, a player could register one casino account and a separate poker account.

It’s still unclear if or how that account can be used to access other skins of the main license holder. “Skins” are defined clearly under the law, so if the PGCB means that users can have accounts at different skins, it would be strange that it simply didn’t use that term to help clear up remaining confusion.

Pennsylvania is claiming there is no restriction on skins, but that may be a moot point, since its regulations may keep all but the most optimistic operators out of the market.

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.