The Newest Pennsylvania Online Casino Doesn’t Even Have A Physical Casino Yet

The newest Pennsylvania online casino began its soft-launch testing phase this week.

PlayLive! rolled out with limited hours and little fanfare, but a full launch should be coming soon.

It’s the second new entry to the market this month, following the launch of Wind Creek‘s online casino last week. That makes it a total of 12 in the state so far. Now, every land-based licensee in the state has launched at least one online casino. Interestingly, the land-based casino is not complete yet in the state.

The casino was active from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on its first day. On Wednesday and Thursday, those hours are being extended until midnight. This presumably means that PlayLive! expects to have its full launch on Friday, and begin round-the-clock operations at that time.

PlayLive! Casino is currently available on desktop browsers and Android mobile devices. As is often the case for gambling products, there is no iOS app available at launch, though one should be coming eventually.

The soft launch features a fairly robust selection of games for a first-time casino:

  • Blackjack
  • Baccarat
  • Three video poker titles
  • Four versions of roulette
  • Nearly 100 slots, including five with progressive jackpots

Unfortunately, Live! Hotel & Casino is not among the licensees to have bought the full package, including poker. It will add mobile and retail sports betting at some point in the future, but an online poker room is off the table.

A first for Cordish Companies

PlayLive! is owned by the real estate developer Cordish Companies, which is in the process of building new properties in the state. The larger of these will be a hotel-casino Philadelphia, while the other is a standalone casino at the Westmoreland Mall in Pittsburgh.

Both properties were scheduled to open sometime this year, with the associated online products to follow. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed construction, however, while also increasing the importance of online gambling. Both should still open before the year is out, but later than expected. Cordish revealed in May that it had changed its plans as a result, and would be launching the online casino first.

Cordish isn’t primarily in the gambling business. Its holdings comprise mostly event venues, hotels, apartments and office buildings. It does, however, own three casinos aside from those under construction in Pennsylvania. These are the two Seminole Hard Rock casinos in Florida, plus Maryland Live! Hotel & Casino. According to the company, all three are in the top ten largest casinos in the country.

However, none of these existing properties are in a state with legal online gambling. This is therefore uncharted territory for Cordish, as it was for Wind Creek. These newcomers bring an element of uncertainty to the market, and it remains to be seen how they fare against more established competitors like FanDuel, DraftKings and PokerStars.

What’s next for Pennsylvania?

Now that all the locally-issued licenses are in use, the Pennsylvania market is getting close to the form we expected. With PlayLive! now operational, the only players still missing from the stage are the two “qualified gaming entities.”

These out-of-state entities were allowed to apply for one of the three sets of online casino licenses that went unclaimed by the state’s 13 land-based casino operators. BetMGM and Golden Nugget, both active in neighboring New Jersey, jumped on the opportunity. The third set of licenses went unclaimed.

BetMGM took care of some minor legal business with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in July and was expected to be up for licensing this month. But that didn’t happen, so it will be at least another month before either of these companies have their chance to launch.

That won’t necessarily mark the end of casino launches in the state, however. Multiple skins can operate on a single license, though so far, only Rivers and Penn National have taken advantage of that fact.

New Jersey’s first legal online casinos went live seven years ago under a similar system. There are almost two dozen casinos active in that state, on just seven licenses, with even more to come. Based on that, we can probably expect additional skins to keep trickling in for Pennsylvania, even after all the primary licensees have launched their sites.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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