Following passage of an omnibus expansion package in 2017, Pennsylvania is drawing closer to the launch of online gambling — including poker, casino and sports betting. The latter went live in the brick-and-mortar setting in November 2018.
The PA Gaming Control Board is currently reviewing interactive applications, having awarded the first permits to operators. Expect full-scale online gambling in the not-too-distant future, maybe even before the end of the year.
What follows is everything we know about PA online poker and PA online casinos. They call the combined industry “interactive gaming” in the Commonwealth, so we’ll use the two terms interchangeably.
This page will update often as the landscape fills in.
Pennsylvania has 12 existing casinos, and number 13 is under construction in the stadium district of Philadelphia.
Each property is permitted to offer three categories of interactive gaming: poker, slots and table games. Those 39 individual permits cost $4 million apiece, or the full suite can be had at a discounted $10 million.
Another 13 sports betting permits are available for $10 million apiece. Those include approval for both retail and online/mobile wagering.
Given they were passed together and follow similar timelines, its natural to include sports betting alongside interactive gaming. Here is the current status of each property in the application process:
√: Approved O: Applied X: None
The number of brands in the Pennsylvania marketplace will likely be much greater than the 13 that originate with casinos themselves. Each is allowed to partner with multiple interactive platforms, sometimes called “skins.” Sports betting permits, on the other hand, are limited to a single brand per licensee.
PA casinos essentially have two paths to enter the interactive market in a given vertical:
Here is the current landscape of PA interactive gaming partnerships:
Caesars and 888 have a long-standing alliance spanning Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. Harrah’s is a Caesars property, so it will carry its interactive partner into its fourth US market.
The potential for liquidity sharing bodes especially well for PA online poker. Considering their relationship elsewhere and the combined player pool, expect to see 888 Poker deployed alongside a WSOP PA platform. Many of Caesars’ existing platforms, including WSOP NJ and WSOP NV, operate on the back of 888 software.
Another however, the eponymous Caesars online casino, uses Scientific Games. That arrangement may continue into PA if the company decides to launch interactive platforms under both the Caesars and Harrah’s brands, as is the case in NJ.
Scientific Games will definitely power the sportsbook under an expanded partnership announced in July. Regulators approved Harrah’s sports betting petition on Oct. 31.
Hollywood is one of two Penn National Gaming properties in Pennsylvania and the banner carrier for the group. Penn will use the Hollywood license/brand to deploy interactive platforms throughout its home state. The Penn paperwork was some of the first regulators approved.
The application process revealed a new alliance with IGT for online casino and the extension of an existing sports betting partnership with William Hill. Expect to see both a Hollywood-branded sportsbook and an expansion of William Hill’s digital reach.
Hollywood became the first PA casino to book a legal sports bet on Nov. 15, 2018.
Lady Luck is unique among PA gambling establishments. As an amenity to the sprawling Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, the casino is technically private, though barriers to entry are low.
The property is also undergoing a change of operational control right now, with Churchill Downs (CDI) grabbing the wheel. Eldorado Resorts still owns the real estate. CDI is also taking outright ownership of Presque Isle Downs, and it seems logical to use the license of that more-accessible property.
See the Presque Isle section for more on CDI’s interactive plans.
Despite what those bullet points say, Meadows customers will have access to both interactive gaming and sports betting.
It is one of two Penn National Gaming properties in the Commonwealth, but the one with the weaker branding presence. Penn has already submitted applications for its interactive platforms under the license of Hollywood.
Find more information about its partnership structure in the Hollywood section on this page.
After missing the deadline for the bulk discount, Mohegan Sun paid $12 million to apply for all three categories of interactive gaming individually.
Although it hasn’t yet confirmed which partner(s) it will use for interactive platforms, the list is pretty much two candidates long. The tribal operator from Connecticut has experience with both PokerStars and Scientific Games in neighboring New Jersey, though the former appears to be off the board.
So far, Mohegan has not applied for a PA sports betting permit.
Mount Airy has confirmed its rumored partnership with The Stars Group, parent company to PokerStars. In August, the duo announced they will work together to provide interactive gaming across all verticals. Regulators approved the trio of permits in August.
Neither Mount Airy nor PokerStars has applied for PA sports betting to date, but they did commit to doing so during the announcement. That would seem to indicate the coming deployment of a BetStars platform under its umbrella.
In July, Parx and GAN broadened their multi-year partnership to cover PA online gambling. Among the very first to receive interim permits to operate, the duo made an early addition to the the list of those approved for all forms of expanded gambling.
Regarding sports betting, Parx plans to open a pair of sportsbooks — one at its home property near Philadelphia and another at the South Philly Turf Club adjacent to the stadiums. The use of GAN as a supplier likely foreshadows a self-branded Parx sportsbook.
The single-provider arrangement allows gamblers and bettors to use a unified Parx account across all platforms. A third party, Kambi, appears to be involved in the integration.
Presque Isle Downs is the newest Churchill Downs property after completing an acquisition this year. CDI has its roots in horse racing, of course, but has new ambitions for online gambling and sports betting in multiple markets. Those efforts will begin in Pennsylvania.
Just two days after the US Supreme Court decision in May, CDI announced an onmi-channel, multi-vertical partnership with SBTech. The European supplier with similar ambitions will use Pennsylvania as its point of entry into US online gambling, providing a turnkey platform for Presque Isle Downs.
CDI declined the option for online poker. Instead, it paid $8 million for permits to offer only slots and table games. Regulators approved its application on Oct. 31.
Presque Isle Downs has not yet applied for a sports betting permit, but CDI’s appetite and existing horse betting platform, TwinSpires, make it a foregone conclusion.
Rivers is one of two Rush Street Gaming properties in Pennsylvania, and it applied for the full suite of interactive permits. And then it gave them back.
In October, Rush Street withdrew its applications for Rivers. The group maintains intentions to offer interactive gaming but is “taking additional time to explore the various options for doing so.”
For now, those three permits go back on the table where they are available to qualified gaming entities from outside of PA. Read the SugarHouse section for more about Rush Street Interactive’s plans for casino/poker.
As for sports betting at Rivers, regulators approved that permit on Oct. 31.
Sands Bethlehem will serve as the PA launchpad for a tribal gaming effort with its roots in Mississippi.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians acquired the property this year for $1.3 billion, almost certainly with an eye to the expanded forms of gambling. The sellers, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, applied for the full suite of interactive gaming permits on the buyers’ behalf.
Regulators granted approval in October despite a lack of clarity on any partnerships or immediate plans. The Poarch Band doesn’t even own the property yet, after all.
The rebranded Sands property will almost certainly offer sports betting, though there is a similar lack of insight for now.
Here’s an interesting one.
Greenwood Gaming and Cordish Company recently broke ground on a joint project in the stadium district of Philadelphia. The developers of what was to be Philadelphia Live! applied for the full suite of interactive permits in advance of a projected 2020 opening.
Those plans seem to have been laid on loose soil.
Recent rumors indicate the owners are shopping the so-called Stadium Casino and its assets. In addition to the $50 million casino license, developers also paid $40.1 million for a satellite casino and another $10 million for the interactive permits.
Make that $8 million for permits, actually. The Stadium group withdrew its online poker petition during an October hearing, forfeiting it back into the pool. Regulators did approve the other two categories, however, authorizing online slots and table games at $4 million apiece.
Sports betting is also a given at the stadium property when it opens, though the developers have not yet submitted an application.
SugarHouse is the other of two Rush Street Gaming properties in the state, and the one the owner uses as its primary interactive brand.
PlaySugarHouse online casino and SugarHouse Sportsbook are operational in New Jersey under the license of Golden Nugget. Rush Street has an in-house interactive division which handles the development of its online gambling platforms.
In September, the company announced a sports betting partnership with Kambi, the large European supplier serving several US clients. Expect to see the full suite of SugarHouse interactive platforms, including the sportsbook, in PA in short order.
Regulators approved its sports betting permit on Oct. 31.
Valley Forge is a Boyd Gaming property, which gives it access to some of the premier partners in online gambling. Regulators approved its permits in October.
Boyd has a long-standing alliance with GVC/partypoker that is set to spread into Pennsylvania. Expect to see the partypoker brand deployed for online poker, and possibly an MGM online casino platform under a separate partnership. Valley Forge will also launch in-house interactive products with help from IGT and GAN.
The network also includes a deal with FanDuel Sportsbook, which is poised to expand into a third state. Already operational in New Jersey and West Virginia, the emerging giant will run both retail and online/mobile sportsbooks under the Valley Forge license. Neither has yet applied for a permit, though.
As described above, there are a total of 39 interactive gaming permits available in Pennsylvania. With Rivers’ withdrawal and Stadium changing its mind on poker, the current applicants account for 28 of those.
Here are the 11 permits left over, costing $4 million apiece:
Regulators will award the remaining permits to “qualified gaming entities” without a presence in the state. Bringing out the boxes once again, they will use a random draw to determine the pecking order for interested companies. There is no shortage of candidates.
That being said, there are only two petitioners.
MGM was the first, filing its paperwork about a week before the deadline. The company does have a presumed point of entry into PA via a partnership with Boyd Gaming (Valley Forge), but a standalone set of licenses would facilitate a clean branding presence.
Just before the deadline, Golden Nugget also petitioned for PA online gambling as a QGE. Like MGM, it has access to the Commonwealth under its alliance with Rush Street Gaming (SugarHouse, Rivers) but would likely prefer to deploy its own branding.