Pennsylvania to Experiment with Online Gambling Skins

Updated: April 13th, 2018 by Dev Ops

To allow skins or not to allow them remains a debate even after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved temporary regulations allowing the state’s online-licensed casinos to operate multiple sites… if they wish. Though last week’s issuing of expanded rules on the “skins” topic seems a victory for the multiple-skins advocates, it’s not quite a total victory, but more of a decision on points.

It’s not that the regulations allowing the multiple skins are temporary. After all, any such rule, temporary or not, can be rewritten at any time. Instead, it’s the creation of an artificial bottleneck that seems intended to appease both sides in this debate. Pennsylvania’s casinos can offer and promote multiple sites, but they can only do so through after ensuring that all such skins are fully and prominently branded in accordance with the casino licensee, rather than only with the third-party software provider (e.g.: 888).

PGB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole issued a statement about the temporary skins rule, with this excerpt being the meat of the new rule:

“What the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board did at its public meeting of April 4, 2018 was to approve temporary regulations that enable a very open and competitive market for internet gaming while at the same time assuring transparency and accountability for the consumers. Under these temporary regulations there is no limitation on the number of skins that a slot machine licensee may employ to deliver games, but every “skin” that a casino offers must be branded in a manner that makes it clear that it is offered on behalf of the slot machine licensee consistent with language of the act.”

Some initial media reports suggested that the new regulation might require the online casinos to be marketed only through a gateway site added to those casino’s online home bases, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Among other things, such a rule would be a severe impediment to any affiliate-style marketing done on the online sites’ behalf, thus reducing all marketing benefits.

The battle over whether single or multiple skins in Pennsylvania will likely be readdressed at some future date, but for the time being it’s a victory for the smaller several (casinos) over the larger, richer two. Those two, Parx Casino and Penn National, had advocated strongly for a single-skin approach in order to preserve their perceived brand-awareness advantage over other casinos in the Keystone State.

The PGCB was also up against a deadline of their own making, which is why the skins decision was put into place at this time. The state plans to begin accepting applications for online licenses this coming Monday, April 16th. Given that the application fee is a rather pricey $10 million, casinos considering the online venture had every right to know the answer to the skins debate.

However, there is one bottleneck that is likely to dampen the market… at least to some effect. The players themselves will be limited to only one online account per licensed PA casino, rather than one for each of that casino’s skins. That will have an impact, though the exact percentage of that rule won’t be calculable for some time.

Further, with the first online sites in Pennsylvania possibly being approved as early as June, there’s scant time for the remaining blank spaces in the state’s and casinos’ new venture to be resolved.


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