Pennsylvania GCB’s Casino Licensing Begins on April 2

Pennsylvania Online Poker Applications

Online vendor licensing begins in April and end in July, with rollout expected by October or November 2018.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced it would begin accepting casino license applications on April 2, 2018. The PGCB continues to fine-tune regulations for online casinos and poker sites in the meantime.

Players might be frustrated that online gaming is taking so long for the application process to begin, since legalization was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in October 2017. When one compares the time period between New Jersey’s legalization of online gambling in November 2012 and the November 2013 launch of online casinos, Pennsylvania’s process might not seem so slow.

Once online gambling was signed into law in late-October, the legislature set a 60-day moratorium on the creation of regulations. During that time, Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board focused on the expansion of land-based casino gambling.

Pennsylvania Satellite Casino Development

The same bill which legalized online gambling in Pennsylvania also called for 10 mini-casinos or satellite casinos. The 10 new brick-and-mortar gaming operations represented a major expansion of tax revenues for the state, so it only made sense for land-based developments to take priority.

In mid-January, Pennsylvania’s officials began the process of allotting locations for the land-based casinos through a blind bidding process. That process continues, as the various casino license holders in the state bid to see who gets the next pick. Penn National Gaming won right to have the first pick.

PGCB Officials Met with DGE

While that process was taking place, officials from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board met with officials from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Pennsylvania’s online gambling framework is going to borrow heavily from the DGE’s regulatory framework, so officials could learn how a nearby state’s rollout happened. Since New Jersey had to undergo growing pains with geolocation software, credit cards declining, and slow licensing, it made sense for Pennsylvania officials to gain perspective.

After months of deliberation and study, the PCCB told prospective interactive gaming operators on February 6 they could look at the license application. Such paperwork might seem elemental, but it told the potential operators exactly the kind of details they would need to provide, three months out from the beginning of licensing.

Enterprise Entity Application

The vendor license, named the “Enterprise Entity Application and Disclosure Information Form“, is 58-pages long. Every supplier, software manufacturer, and sub-license holder will need to fill out their application and disclosure form with 100% accurate information to avoid additional time and scrutiny, so each probably needs 3 months of lawyering to get their application right.

The interactive gaming operators collecting those forms are the online casino and poker software companies which might sign partnership or licensing deals with Pennsylvania casinos, to provide technical support. If New Jersey is any indication, top operators would be 888 Holdings, Bwin.Party, PokerStars, and so on. Also, out-of-state casinos might make a deal with a Pennsylvania casino to operate inside the state, the way SugarHouse Casino out of Philadelphia signed a deal with Golden Nugget Atlantic City (for New Jersey online gaming).

To this date, Pennsylvania’s casino operators still are waiting to see their prospective licenses. Once licensing begins, people will begin to see land-based operators like Penn National, SugarHouse, and Bethlehem Sands sign deals with the interactive software developers. It will be interesting to see if Bethlehem Sands, which is owned by online gambling’s number one opponent, Sheldon Adelson, is going to launch its own gaming portals. It’s an important decision, because Bethlehem Sands is the state’s number one casino operation, in terms of revenue.

120-Day Gaming License Period

According to the Gaming Control Board, the licensing period is likely to last 120 days. Many believe the period will end at the last of July 2018. Once that happens, state regulators will take several months to do their due diligence and approve licenses. Meanwhile, the various parties will prepare for the online poker and casino rollout period.

If all goes according to plan, one can expect to see Pennsylvania online casino and poker sites begin to launch in the final months of 2018. If so, the Pennsylvania’s time between legalization and launch might be similar to New Jersey’s — in the 12-month range. That would make October 2018 as the estimated time for the rollout of Pennsylvania’s online gambling industry.