Still Zero Applications For PA Online Gambling Licenses After Two Months

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board began accepting petitions interactive gaming certificates on April 16. Nearly two months into the process the PGCB has yet to receive a single application.

“The PA Gaming Control Board has not received any Interactive Gaming Petitions from casinos,” a PGCB spokesperson told Online Poker Report earlier this week.

It’s not time to hit the panic button, but the lack of applicants should be concerning. It should also make Pennsylvania reconsider some of the head-scratching policies it has put in place.

The three online gambling licensing windows in PA

Pennsylvania is currently offering a comprehensive license that covers online slots table games, and poker at a cost of $10 million. Pennsylvania’s existing casinos have 90 days (from April 16) to apply for this license.

Here’s the language that covers this from the gaming expansion law:

No later than 90 days after the date the board begins accepting petitions under this chapter, a slot machine licensee may file a petition with the board for an interactive gaming certificate. If the board approves a petition for an interactive gaming certificate under this paragraph, the board shall authorize the interactive gaming certificate holder to offer any category of interactive gaming.

If Pennsylvania’s casinos don’t apply within the initial 90-day window, the three licenses — slots, table games, and poker — are separated and cost $4 million each.

Licenses still unclaimed after 120 days will be opened up to qualified outside entities at the same $4 million price.

Why haven’t applications been submitted?

There are no shortage of possible reasons for the slow response time, some more concerning than others.

It takes time

The most obvious reason the state’s casinos aren’t beating down the PGCB’s doors for an online gambling license is that the licensing process takes time and requires a lot of legwork.

There are pages and pages of documents that need to be filled out for vetting, and partnership agreements to consummate.

As such, the lack of applications shouldn’t be overly concerning… yet.

Casinos would rather pick licenses a la carte

Another reason that shouldn’t be too anxiety-inducing is if some casinos would rather pick and choose which online licenses they want.

Yes, there’s a nice discount if you purchase all three for $10 million within the first 90 days, but if a casino has no intention of launching an online poker site, it’s cheaper to take the a la carte approach and spend $8 million on an online slot and table game license.

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Uncertainty abounds

If the state’s casinos are getting cold feet that’s more problematic.

There could be concerns about some of the policies Pennsylvania has put in place, and the general uncertainty that still exists.

There are overarching questions like how will the exorbitant online slot tax rate affect business? And, will the instant win games the PA online lottery offers harm online slot revenue?

There are also unknown regulatory issues that are almost certainly holding up online partnerships:

  • How will skin websites be tethered to the main license holder?
  • How restrictive will account creation be?

The policies coupled with the uncertainty has led to a rather unfriendly atmosphere to operate an online gambling site in.

As Aviram Alroy, vice president of interactive games for Mohegan Sun, said during the recently concluded GiGse conference, the company is having an internal discussion about the viability of the Pennsylvania online gambling market.

- 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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