Application Process for Pennsylvania Online Gaming Licenses to Open in April, Operations on Track for Year-End Launch

March 12th, 2018 | by Kaycee James

Ever since Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf put his signature to legal online casinos five months ago, players have wondered when they’ll be able to log on and play.

Pennsylvania Flag

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expecting to open the first round of online gaming licenses in April. (Image: Standard Flags)

A launch of online operations is on track for years end, while the application process for Pennsylvania online gaming licenses is slated to open next month.

Lurking Licenses

Over the weekend, lawmakers were updated on Pennsylvania online gaming licenses during a state House budget hearing. Kevin O’Toole, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), revealed that they are currently crafting regulations for internet gaming and that the first 90-day application period should begin in April.

O’Toole also stated that online gaming and another part of gambling expansion – video gaming terminals in truck stops – are slated to rollout by the end of the year.

Once applications for Pennsylvania online gaming licenses are submitted, the PGCB has 90 days to review them, meaning the first license could be granted this fall if not sooner.

According to legislation, which became law back in October, there are 13 Pennsylvania online gaming licenses available, one for each of the state’s land-based casinos, for each of three categories – poker, casino table games, and slots.

That means there are a total of 39 licenses available, each costing $4 million or all three for $10 million. However, the initial application process will only be for all three licenses, meaning those who want individual ones will have to wait at least 91 days to apply.

The existing land-based casinos, which include Parx and the recently-sold Sands Bethlehem, will have first dibs on licenses during a 120-day exclusivity period. After that, licensed entities from other jurisdictions may apply.

According to Online Poker Report, given several operators run multiple casinos in the state (each only needing one license for online operations), there should leftover licenses available.

888poker’s Skin in the Game

One issue still up in the air in Pennsylvania is that of poker skins. Regulators have yet to answer how many brands an operator can have through a single license. In New Jersey, land-based properties get one master license but are allowed to form multiple partnerships. That’s how the Golden Nugget New Jersey license is good for both Betfair and Sugarhouse online.

Two Pennsylvania casinos, Parx and Penn National, oppose multiple skins and both sent letters to the PGCB stating as such. They are worried allowing multiple skins will open a new sub-licensing system and bypass the law, and that online gaming should be the same as the primary license holder.

On the flip side, 888 Holdings, parent company for both 888poker and 888 Casino, is pushing for multiple skins. Last month, Itai Freiberger, CEO of 888 casinos USA, wrote a letter to the PGCB expressing their thoughts and enthusiasm on gaming regulations.

“As an experienced operator with superb technology, experience in regulated markets, and an attractive offering enjoyed by players worldwide, we hope that we will be given the opportunity, as an Internet Gaming Operator, to bring our technology and experience to the service of a Pennsylvania property seeking to offer service online.”

Freiberger also states that 888 is the only operator currently operating in all three U.S. jurisdictions were online gaming is legal (Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey) and that they power nearly 300 online gaming brands.

“Allowing our partner to use not only its own brand but ours as well, would allow our partner to benefit from our international brand-recognition and marketing efforts, and will also inform players that they will be enjoying a world-class and popular offering.”

Freiberger adds that multiple brands allow each license holder to offer diversified platforms to appeal to different types of costumers.

The PGCB will now consider all arguments and is slated to rule on the skin issue in the near future.

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