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Three Casinos Approved for Online Poker in Pennsylvania

- August 20, 2018 By Oliver Young -

Pennsylvania approves first online poker operators.

Each license holder had to pay a total of $10 million for the right to offer online poker, slots, and table games in the state.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) officially announced that three licensees have been approved to offer online poker in the state, over a year after the first online gambling bill was passed in the State Senate. Following a months-long application window that began in the middle of April this year and initially seemed to draw little interest, the first three out of nine applicants for online gambling licenses have been approved, and more are expected to be given a green light in the upcoming months.

Early Birds Get the Worm

According to the official update from the PGCB, the three approved operators were Mount Airy Resort Casino, Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia, and Parx Casino. Having received a licensing approval, the operators will now be able to provide not only online poker but also table games and slot machines for online gameplay. However, an official date as to when the casinos will begin offering online poker rooms is yet to be revealed.

As the PGCB regulations state, any approved operator will not be able to keep its licenses dormant. The regulations clearly indicate that any licensed operator will have to begin operating on a date established by the PGCB, unless an extension is granted based on exhibited “good cause”. Such an extension could delay the launch up to 12 months from the original given date. Failure to comply to these rules could lead to a license suspension or sanctions by the Board.

With the big money invested in each license, industry experts believe that the approved operators already have plans in place as to how they will use their licenses. News reports speculate that Harrah’s online poker room will likely be associated with 888/WSOP while Mount Airy has already announced its partnership with the Stars Group’s PokerStars brand. As for Parx, the casino has chosen GAN to help it set up its online slot and table games operations but no information is available as to who will help it realize its online poker license.

Millions Spent for Licenses

Each operator that applied for all three licenses in Pennsylvania (slots, poker, and table games) had to pay a total of $10 million in fees. By the official deadline, July 16th 2018, a total of nine operators had submitted their applications, the other six being Hollywood Casino, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, Rivers Casino, Sugarhouse Casino, Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia, and Valley Forge Casino Resort.

The three remaining casinos in Pennsylvania can still apply for a license but they will have to pay $4 million for each, rounding up to a more expensive total of $12 million for all three licenses. When the fees were first announced, concerns were voiced as to whether operators will be interested considering the price asked by the state was quite steep. The 54% tax rate on online slot games was particularly concerning, since that’s the same amount asked from land-based casinos who have other ways of generating revenue like shops or restaurants, which online casinos lack.

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