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Nearly all of the chess pieces are now on the board for the Pennsylvania online casino market. Nine land-based properties have rolled out interactive products under their licenses, and at least one more is preparing to join the market in the coming months.
On Thursday, Cordish Gaming Group announced its plans to launch its own online casino this fall under a new partnership with GAN.
What’s interesting about the news is that Cordish doesn’t yet offer any form of gambling in Pennsylvania. It’s in the final stages of constructing two properties bearing its Live! brand, one in the stadium district of Philadelphia and the other near Pittsburgh.
Company President Robert Norton explained the choice of partner: “With our established relationship, GAN was the logical provider of our enterprise platform for launching real money Internet gambling and offers Cordish the ability to extend on-property rewards into the online channel.”
The Philadelphia casino will be the larger of the two by far, with over 2,200 slot machines and 150 table games. The standalone satellite casino in Pittsburgh will be smaller but still substantial with 750 slots and 30 tables.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise, as neither property was expected to open before early 2021. Although Cordish hasn’t specified a target date for either its online launch or physical opening, it now says it expects both to happen before the year is out.
The online casino will launch first, sometime in the fall with GAN providing the platform. That timeline implies that the group expects a grand opening for the physical properties sometime in early winter.
Neither GAN nor Cordish gave a reason for the accelerated timeline. There is, however, a general sense of urgency in the US online gambling industry to get new sites and new markets off the ground since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online traffic and revenue have spiked during this period of casino closures, particularly online slots and poker. Some casinos have begun reopening in the past month, but many expect a resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall.
From that perspective, it makes sense for Cordish to prioritize getting its online casino off the ground before opening new physical properties.
When Pennsylvania lawmakers authorized expanded gambling, they allowed regulators to issue up to 13 licenses for PA online casinos in each category: slots, tables, and poker. The existing land-based casinos received priority — including Cordish, whose “Stadium Casino” project was already under way in Philadelphia.
Not all PA casinos applied for licensure, however, and gaming officials subsequently made the unclaimed licenses available to “qualified gaming entities” (QGEs) licensed in other jurisdictions. These licenses ended up going to Golden Nugget and MGM, both of which operate online casinos in New Jersey.
Neither the QGEs nor the last remaining licensee, Wind Creek Bethlehem, have begun offering online gambling in PA yet.