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Last month ended with nine of Pennsylvania’s casinos applying for interactive gaming licenses. At this morning’s meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board three of them were approved to offer interactive gaming.
All three will be able to offer online poker. Most significant of these has got to be the Mount Airy Resort Casino which announced a partnership with PokerStars this week. Mt Airy also has a deal with 888 which dates back to 2015.
Mount Airy is comparatively small compared to its peers, but it has big ambitions to stake out its place in Pennsylvania online gambling.
Pennsylvania’s new gambling laws allow casinos to partner with multiple online operators and vice versa; operators can partner with multiple casinos. Mount Airy looks to have bagged two of the biggest names in US online poker and can look forward to a large share of the online poker market.
The regulations insist that Mount Airy’s name must be featured prominently on the poker rooms offered by 888 and PokerStars, so any internet traffic that they generate should also feed through to increased traffic in the live casino.
We also learned on Wednesday that Presque Isle Downs petitioned for online slots and table games only with the PGCB.
The other two approvals went to Chester Downs and Marina, LLC, operator of Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, Inc., operator of the Parx Casino.
Each of the three casinos will be allowed to offer:
The other six license applicants, together with any late applicants will be considered at the PGCB’s meetings in September and October.
During The Stars Group Q2 earnings call on Monday, CEO Rafi Ashkenazi expressed his belief that online poker would go live sometime in the first quarter of 2019, but couldn’t confirm the schedule, partly because the PGCB hadn’t yet issued their approval.
Now that approval is confirmed, PokerStars may be able to launch at the early end of that time bracket.
Ashkenazi also told investors that the group also planned to offer sports betting in Pennsylvania. However, to date there have been no notifications that any of the casinos have applied for the $10 million sports betting licenses. News can be expected soon.
As a subsidiary of Caesars, Harrah’s Casino is partnered with 888, and so we will have to wait to find out what 888’s plans are for launching its poker brand.
Theoretically, it could launch a Harrah’s 888 online poker room and a Mount Airy 888 online poker room, but more likely is that it will launch its own brand with one casino and launch a casino branded poker room using the 888 platform.
888’s close relationship with WSOP.com in both New Jersey and Nevada strongly implies that WSOP.com poker will also come to Pennsylvania. Again no specific announcements have been made, but this prediction is close to 100 percent certain.
That leaves Parx short of a global online poker brand to offer. Maybe they’ve missed a trick, or just maybe they will pull a rabbit out of the hat and announce a poker partnership with someone unexpected.
The rollout process continues, but the next three months should see the shape of Pennsylvania’s online gaming environment become clear.