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Wind Creek Bethlehem went live with its online casino on Wednesday.
It’s the 11th to launch in the Pennsylvania market, which turned one-year-old last month. Initially sparse, the iGaming space in Pennsylvania has grown in leaps and bounds over the past six months, and Wind Creek will need to market aggressively to make room for itself.
Wind Creek has chosen Pala Interactive as its partner. At launch, the PA online casino includes 77 slots titles, seven table games and two varieties of video poker. That selection should expand quickly over the coming weeks and months. It also has a PA sportsbook app coming soon, and even the chance to offer online poker in PA if it chooses to do so.
Wind Creek Hospitality is owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, based on Atmore, Alabama. Unlike most tribal gaming companies, it conducts much of its business out of state. The tribe owns three properties in Alabama, but operates four more in other states, including Wind Creek Bethlehem. It also has two properties abroad, in Aruba and Curaçao.
The Bethlehem property is a recent acquisition, and one with significant repercussions for online gaming in the state. Formerly known as Sands Bethlehem and owned by Las Vegas Sands, it was sold to Wind Creek at the end of May last year.
Before the announcement of that deal, there was some doubt as to whether the casino would participate in the online space at all. Las Vegas Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a notorious opponent of online gambling. Its legalization in Pennsylvania may have formed part of the motivation for the sale.
Wind Creek will also offer sports betting, both online and retail. Its partner for those products, as announced in January, is the British bookmaker BetFred, with Scientific Games as the technology provider. The sportsbook opening and app launch should be coming in the fall.
There’s an outside chance the launch of Wind Creek’s online casino could mean a new poker site is coming to Pennsylvania as well. The casino was among those that elected to shell out $10 million for the full package of licenses, including slots, tables games and poker.
The choice of Pala Interactive as its partner increases the odds, as that company has shown an interest in entering the poker space. Technically speaking, Pala Poker is active in New Jersey. However, it never gained much traction there. For the first few months after launching in June 2017, it had a few cash games running during evening hours. Now, its tables are almost always empty.
That doesn’t mean it has given up on the concept, however. Even at the time, it seemed unlikely that it would be able to make much money in that limited market against the likes of PokerStars, WSOP.com and partypoker. Rather, the New Jersey launch was probably preparation for the eventual expansion of legal online poker in the US.
The question is whether Pala is interested in trying its luck in Pennsylvania without the possibility of a multi-state poker compact. A combined market with Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and eventually Michigan would be a different ballgame. At that point, there certainly would be room for a fourth site.
For now, though, such an arrangement looks to be a long way off. A Pala Poker launch in Pennsylvania would therefore be surprising. It isn’t out of the question, however, given that Wind Creek has already paid for the license to do so.