Penn National Says Online Gambling “Vital” to Land-Based Casinos

May 13th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
Penn National online gambling poker vital

Penn National’s Hollywood Casino outside Harrisburg is struggling, the leading reason the PA-based company is asking state lawmakers to legalize online gambling. (Image: pngaming.com)

Penn National operates 26 gambling facilities in 16 states and another in Canada, so it might come as a surprise that the company is one of online gambling’s biggest advocates.

Delivering testimony to Pennsylvania’s House Gaming Oversight committee last week, Eric Schippers, a Penn National senior executive handling public affairs and government relations, told lawmakers that Internet gaming and poker is “another vital tool to continue to evolve and protect what we’ve built.”

Online and Upwards

The Gaming Oversight committee, chaired by State Rep. John Payne (R-106th District), is holding a series of hearings and meetings throughout the state to listen to leading industry personnel on where they stand as it relates to iGaming.

With three current pieces of legislation seeking to legalize online gambling, and one that seeks to prohibit it, the issue has taken center stage recently in Pennsylvania politics.

According to Schippers, it’s a no-brainer. “We estimate that if the Commonwealth’s existing brick-and-mortar casinos were permitted to conduct online gaming, the operations could ramp up relatively quickly and begin generating approximately $250 million in total revenue in year one; approximately $300 million in year two; and approximately $350 million in year three and beyond.”

At the 14 percent tax rate proposed by Payne in his House Bill 649, that means the state would stand to collect $49 million in annual revenue by the third full year.

Penn National Seeks Partner

Though anti-online gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson’s presence is widely felt through his Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort in eastern PA, the most profitable casino in the state, his clout isn’t scaring other operators from taking steps towards Internet poker.

Parx Casino, a racino located 20 miles north of downtown Philadelphia, has revealed its partnership with GameAccount Network, an online gaming and poker software provider based in London.

The Mount Airy Casino is also readying itself for iGaming, announcing its agreement with 888 Holdings and the All-American Poker Network (AAPN).

Thought it hasn’t released any official word, Harrah’s Philadelphia will likely also team with 888 and AAPN as it has previously done in New Jersey.

Penn National hasn’t formally reached a deal with an online poker supplier, at least publicly. The company has, however, appointed Chris Sheffield to the newly created position of managing director of iGaming.

Market Saturation 

During the closing of his testimony, Schippers pointed to a market becoming increasingly saturated as reason for online gaming’s much-needed implementation. “In Central PA, our casino is down seven percent year-over-year and it’s down nearly 14 percent from its all-time high water mark.”

That’s due to adjacent states welcoming the casino industry, primarily its neighbor to the south. “In Maryland, Horseshoe Baltimore and Maryland Live! will soon be joined by the nearly one billion-dollar MGM resort at National Harbor, which is scheduled to open in 2016,” Schippers explained.

Gamblers from northern Maryland and even the Baltimore area that previously traveled to Penn National’s Hollywood Casino outside of Harrisburg are no longer making the trip. The answer to that problem, at least according to Schippers, is to remain on the forefront of the industry.

“All of this further reinforces the importance of focusing our collective efforts on working together to protect the nearly 18,000 jobs and nearly one billion in annual gaming tax revenues that our industry generates,” he concluded.

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