The announcement that bwin.party has struck a deal with a land-based licensee in Pennsylvania in preparation for the state’s possible regulation on online poker has caused some industry observers to turn into sleuths.
Bwin.party declined to mention the identity of its new partner, inviting speculation as to which of Pennsylvania’s 12 land-based casino operators best fit the bill. The plot thickened last Friday when the most likely suspect, Parx Casino, denied any such relationship with bwin.party.
Parx had been top of the list for a number of reasons. First, as a host of the World Poker Tour it already has an existing relationship with bwin.party.
Second, Norbert Tefelberger, CEO of bwin.party, recently alluded to partnership talks with “one of the state’s leading casinos.”
It seems plausible that the company would seek to align itself with one of Pennsylvania’s biggest operators, as it has done in New Jersey with the market-leading Borgata. That would narrow it down to Parx or the Sands Bethlehem.
Since the latter is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s LVS Corp, which remains vehemently opposed to all forms of online gambling, we can probably scratch it off the list.
So if it’s not Parx, then it must be one of the state’s second tier casinos, such as Harrahs, Sugarhouse, Penn National, The Rivers, or Mohegan Sun. Harrahs would seem unlikely; owners Caesars operates the WSOP.com brand in New Jersey and Nevada, and the software is provided by 888.
Thus a relationship with bwin would obstruct future player pool-sharing with WSOP.com in those states should Pennsylvania opt to regulate online poker.
This probably makes The Rivers, as Pennsylvania’s third biggest casino in terms of revenue, the new prime candidate. The Rivers’ owners, Rush Street Gaming, also owns the SugarHouse, so bwin.party could effectively be partnering with two casinos in the state.
Pennsylvania as emerged as the state most likely to legalize online poker this year, as initial optimism towards California’s efforts has faded due to the familiar intractability of opposing stakeholders. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has introduced two bills this session, one to regulate online poker only, and another to regulate online gaming in general.
Pennsylvania State RepresentativeÂ John Payne, the new Chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee and sponsor of the latter bill, recently told OnlinePokerReport that lawmakers, as well as State Governor Tom Wolf, were open-minded about regulation, and that there were reasons to be cautiously optimistic.
“Most people are open-minded about it,” he said. “[They say…] show me how it’s going to work, show me how we’re going to protect the minors and the compulsive gamblers, and show me how the revenue stream will work.”
Payne believes that a legal and regulated online gambling market in Pennsylvania would generate approximately $120 million for the first year.