The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has opened up a new avenue for online casino operators to get licensed in the state. Back in 2017, the Gaming Expansion Act made it possible for out-of-state operators to step into the PA online gambling market, by first getting approval as a Qualified Gaming Entity, or QGE. But the petition window has been closed for years.

That is, until now. Beginning Jan. 3, the PCBG will begin accepting petitions from casino operators that currently operate in another state.

Approval as a QGE allows an operator to apply for one of the 12 remaining iGaming certificates, without partnering with a brick and mortar casino that already operates in PA.

QGE process reopens with renewed interest in PA online casino licenses

The PCGB released this news as an increased interest in the PA licenses became apparent. For example, Bally’s has had an interest in securing PA licensure for some time, and in early December petitioned for QGE status. The petition was automatically denied because the PGCB wasn’t accepting petitions.

Of the 39 total interactive gaming certificates made available by the PCGB, 27 have been awarded across the three categories of online games – slots, table games and poker.

The remaining 12 certificates include:

  • 3 for online slots
  • 3 for online table games
  • 6 for online poker sites

Golden Nugget is the only current qualified gaming entity applicant

When the PCGB initially opened the petition process in late 2018, only two operators earned QGE status. The first, Golden Nugget, is yet to receive final approval for their table game and online slots certificates.

The other operator, BetMGM, changed course and partnered with land-based casinos Hollywood Casino Penn National and Hollywood Casino Morgantown to launch their online gaming platforms, which includes a sportsbook app.

The sports betting app is notable, because qualified gaming entities aren’t eligible to operate sportsbooks in PA. BetMGM operates its sportsbook app in partnership with Hollywood Morgantown.

New licenses could mean up to $48 million more for PA

A QGE can apply for one or more of the license types, which cost $4 million a piece. That will mean up to $48 million in additional up-front licensing fees for the state.

Once the operators have QGE status, the application process is the same as for operators that partnered with land-based casinos. That process can take several months, but it could be helpful that all QGE licensees already operate online gambling elsewhere. Doug Harbach, PGCB Communications Director, commented to PlayPennsylvania:

“While QGEs are required to be licensed operators in other jurisdictions, so they know the licensing process, it’s difficult to say how long a background investigation will take.”

PA online gambling offerings continue expansion

Despite the delay with Golden Nugget’s license approvals, it is among several new online casinos that could launch soon in PA.

The 10 existing land-based licensees currently offer a combined 18 different PA online casino skins.

There are also four PA online poker rooms operating and another three poker certificates not being used.

The addition of QGE licensees could see the bustling PA online gambling market get even busier in the coming years.