Internet gaming comes to Pennsylvania

On July 15th, Pennsylvania became the fourth state in which their local, land based casinos are now able to launch their own online version of themselves.  Of course, our own Grande Vegas Casino online has been available for the past 25 years.  This update is about a change to local, land-based casino activity.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board chose that date to launch the first public test runs of betting applications and now, registered players, age 21 and over, are permitted to play casino-style games online. The games, including slots,  will be accessible from PCs, laptops and some tablets and smart phones. Online poker is not yet available but it should be added to the menu of games later this summer.

Parx Casino in Bensalem and Penn National Hollywood Casino rolled out their apps on July 15th and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia launched its test run 2 days later.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board  said that they are expecting several other igaming providers to come on board later in the summer. PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said that the goal is to launch online sports betting in time for the start of the 2019 football season. “They feel that there’s a synergy in doing them at or about the same time.

Why Online?

What’s the attraction to betting online?  Of course, Grande Vegas players already know the answer to this, but....

Online betting is becoming the wave of the future for casinos around the country. Customers expect to have the convenience of online access to their games and betting apps while younger players are most comfortable with playing online.

Industry studies say that most online gaming play reaches new audiences that don’t regularly visit casinos. Additionally, land-based casino customers can extend their gaming event through online access.

Michael Soll, president of gaming industry consulting firm The Innovation Group commented, “It doesn’t replace casino gambling. ……It occupies that place we put ourselves into when we’re passing time, or moving into our evening activities, sort of tuning out the day and doing something more recreational.”

Soll explained that the casinos feel that they need to offer an online option. Their competitors are already there and “it is a window into new players, and it is a window into their existing players off the casino floor.

Why a Test Period?

Why do the new online apps need a “test period?” What is involved?

During the test period, bettors will be able to set up accounts and play real money games. However, the online platforms will only be open for a limited amount of time each day. For example, during the test period, Parx will run from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day and Hollywood will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. As the test period moves forward the number of hours that the apps will be available will be extended.

O’Toole said that the tests provide an opportunity for the gaming control board and the casinos to check that gaming, accounting and security systems are working properly. “We just want to make sure that the rules, our regulations and the casinos’ internal controls are complied with because this is the first time that certain employees will be engaging in that kind of activity,” O’Toole said.

The test period should end later this month and the apps will then be available 24/7 - like Grande Vegas is already!

Controls

The casinos are obligated to control who can play.  Players must be 21 or older and must be located, geographically, within Pennsylvania. Geo-location tools are used to identify the player’s location and the casino’s pre-registration system, which obligates players to produce ID, will monitor age restrictions.

These controls are part of the pre-testing and test period.

State Revenue

Economists believe that income from these online/land-based casinos won’t really have a large impact on revenue flowing into state coffers. They say that much more money is raised by land-based casino table and slot games.

In New Jersey, for instance, Atlantic City casinos accounted for 82.6 percent of all commercial gaming revenue in the State. Online games brought in 14.4 percent of the total win and the remaining 3.0 percent was from online sports and in-person sports betting.

Devices

In Pennsylvania, the games will be accessible on any desktop or laptop computers as well as on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones on the Android operating system. Due to recent changes in Apple’s rules for granting App developers’ clearance to get applications listed in its App Store, Pennsylvania casinos’ platforms are not accessible via iPhones or iPads.  

That cuts out approximately 50% of the smartphone market. Gaming companies, however, say that they are optimistic that they will reach an agreement with Apple that will allow their apps to operate on Apple devices (like Grande Vegas already does....).

The casinos companies say users will be able to download an Android-compatible app direct from the casino website to enable the casino app to operate on Android operating system. This will allow Android users to circumvent the prohibition on gambling apps in the Google Play store.

Operators

In Pennsylvania, the option to operate an online casino was first offered to casino companies that were already running brick-and-mortar facilities in Pennsylvania. Casinos who wanted to run online platforms were required to acquire an interactive gaming license. Now, in tandem with their online partners, they are rolling out the product.

The state has opened the market to non-Pennsylvania operators. Applications have been received from Golden Nugget and MGM Entertainment. At present, these applications are still in the process of being reviewed.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director O’Toole said that he expects that other casino companies will roll out sports books a

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