Pennsylvania Online Gambling in Holding Pattern as Licensing Process Continues

Updated: July 29th, 2018 by Haley Hintze

Pennsylvania continues its slow march toward having regulated real-money online gambling sites available to its residents, even if now appears the first wave of live online sites may not appear until 2019. In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has accepted the first wave of applications for online operator’s licenses.

The PGCB recently announced that nine of Pennsylvania’s 13 licensed casino properties (including one that’s under construction) had filed the proper application with the state, including committing to an upfro

nt, $10 million licensing fee. The nine properties committing include the following:

  • Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., operator of the Parx Casino (received July 12, 2018)
  • Stadium Casino, LLC, licensed to operate the unopened Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia (received July 13, 2018)
  • Mount Airy #1, LLC, operator of Mount Airy Casino Resort (received July 13, 2018)
  • Sands Bethworks Gaming, LLC, operator of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem (received July 16, 2018)
  • Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, operator of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course (received July 16, 2018)
  • Valley Forge Convention Center Partners, LP, operator of Valley Forge Casino Resort (received July 16, 2018)
  • Chester Downs and Marina, LLC, operator of Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack (received July 16, 2018)
  • Holdings Acquisition Co., LP, operator of the Rivers Casino (received July 16, 2018)
  • Sugarhouse HSP Gaming, LP, operator of SugarHouse Casino (received July 16, 2018)

The Stadium Casino project in Philadelphia is under construction and will also open either late this year or in 2019, raising the possibility that the first gaming that facility conducts will be online, rather than live. 

The inclusion of Sands Bethworks Gaming, parent company of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, is also a bit of an eye-opener. The Sands Bethlehem casino was recently sold to an Alabama tribal nation. Wind Creek Hospitality, a privately held affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, will take over the Sands Bethlehem facility once the deal is approved by the PGCB. but until the deal is complete, that means that the Sheldon Adelson-led Las Vegas Sands Corp., still owns the property.

That’s extra-interesting because of Adelson’s frothing opposition to all things online gambling; Adelson and Las Vegas Sands vowed to sell the Bethlehem casino if Pennsylvania’s lawmakers approved online gambling. They did, and he did. And now, because Wind Creek’s purchase isn’t final, Sands Bethworks has to make the application on behalf of Wind Creek.

In the application for the online license as filed by Sands Bethworks, a footnote reads: “Sands submits this petition in the interest of Wind Creek so that, if approved, and after Wind Creek acquires the purchased interests, Sands can conduct interactive gaming in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The $10 million licenses will allow the holders to offer all three categories of online gaming that are approved under the new regulations: online poker, online slots, and other online table games such as blackjack.

Four other Pennsylvania casinos did not file all-category license applications by the July deadline. Those four are:

  • Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, in Farmington
  • Presque Isle Downs & Casino, in Erie
  • The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, in North Strabane Township
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono, in Wilkes-Barre

Mohegan Sun Pocono’s failure to apply for an online operator’s license might be the most surprising of the four, given the strong brand presence of that tribal nation in poker as related to its Uncasville, CT venue. Yet any of these four casinos could still apply for single-category licenses until August 16th. Those licenses will cost $4 million each, and it’s likely that at least some of the four will get on board.

If any application openings remain after August 16th, and it’s not clear that any will, only then will other entities will be able to apply for those remaining licenses.

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