Valley Forge has plans for online sports betting, too

Sands Bethlehem, Valley Forge Join List Of Approved Pennsylvania Online Casinos

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Pennsylvania is creeping closer to the launch of its online gambling industry.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) fielded two more applications during a public hearing on Wednesday, granting conditional approvals to both Sands Bethlehem and Valley Forge.

Sands applies on behalf of buyers

Despite Sands having no plans to offer online gambling itself, its representatives were first up at the table. The group didn’t even bring a presentation.

Almost apologetically, general counsel Michael Magazzu told the board why he was seated before them.

“We are only applying for the interactive gaming certificates because of the pending sale of the Sands Bethworks Gaming assets to PCI Gaming. If not for that pending acquisition, Sands Bethworks Gaming would not be applying for these interactive gaming certificates.”

In a deal announced in March, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is working to acquire the property for $1.3 billion.

It can’t apply under the license of a casino it doesn’t yet own, however, so Sands agreed to get the ball rolling in the interim. Closure is “not imminent,” and statutes press the group to present their application within 90 days of the July 13 filing date.

“It may be premature,” Chairman David Barasch said, “but we have no choice under the statute but to take the testimony we’re taking today.”

Given the focus on the real estate transaction, PCI Gaming hasn’t chosen a supplier for its interactive platform. The tribal group does operate a social casino at home in Alabama, though, so it has some relevant experience in the space.

When it does select a partner, PCI Gaming will have to ensure that it meets a list of 22 conditions set out by the Office of Enforcement Counsel.

Magazzu indicated that Sands is “ready, willing and able” to post the $10 million payment within 60 days, as required by statute. More interestingly, he also confirmed that the property would forfeit the permits and the non-refundable fee if the sale falls through.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously approved Sands’ petition on behalf of PCI Gaming.

Plans coming together for Valley Forge

Boyd Gaming, on the other hand, came quite prepared for its Valley Forge presentation. The group is about three weeks removed from final acquisition of the $280.5 million property near Philadelphia.

The Valley Forge slides shone a spotlight on its new interactive gaming partner, FanDuel Group. Boyd and FanDuel announced their union in August, and Pennsylvania will mark their first joint endeavor.

IGT will provide the platform for Valley Forge, offering all three categories of interactive gaming — slots, table games, and poker. It plans to launch online sports betting in the future, too, almost certainly under the FanDuel Sportsbook brand.

From the looks of it, the Valley Forge online casino is just about ready to go. The presentation included mock-ups of the website, with parenthetical plans to bring live-dealer games over from New Jersey. FanDuel subsidiary Betfair is at the front edge of that trend in the neighboring NJ online casino market.

The board also approved Valley Forge’s application subject to proposed conditions. Given the head start it has, the group could be among the first to enter the market as soon as next month.

Where does PA interactive gaming stand?

Eleven of the 13 PA casinos have applied for some form of interactive gaming, with most opting for the full suite of permits. Presque Isle Downs did not apply for online poker.

In addition to the two approved on Wednesday, the PGCB has signed off on five other applications.

Mohegan Sun and Rivers are waiting for their approvals, as is the Stadium Casino currently under construction.

Together, these properties account for 32 of the 39 individual permits available in PA.

Regulators are now preparing to award the seven remaining permits to “qualified gaming entities” without a presence in the Commonwealth. There’s no shortage of candidates for those stragglers, including operators like DraftKings Sportsbook.

The PGCB meets again on Oct. 31.

- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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