Big Treats for October Jackpot Winners at PA Casinos

PA casinos paid out dozens of jackpots to PA residents and visitors in October. Have a look at some of the biggest winners of the month.

October was filled with plenty of treats for these lucky winners at Pennsylvania casinos. In the upcoming months, two new casinos will offer players more ways to win.

Live! Casino Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s first mini-casino, is set to open on Nov. 24. In early 2021, Live! Casino Philadelphia will welcome guests.

Pennsylvania is also home to 12 online casinos, which give players a chance to win from the comfort and safety of their own homes — or anywhere in PA. Here’s a look at some of the biggest winners from October.

(The following is not a complete list of winners.)

Harrah’s Philadelphia’s biggest winner

October was a historic month for Harrah’s Philadelphia and a ridiculously happy month for one lucky player.

Eugene L. won a $1,319,265.50 mega table games progressive jackpot at Four Card Poker. It is the largest payout ever at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Great weekend for two players at Valley Forge Casino

Brian N., a King of Prussia resident, won $714,000 at the Super 4 Progressive table on Oct. 9. Two days later, an unnamed player hit for $192,000.

Valley Forge Casino’s vice president and general manager David Zerfing commented on the winners:

“It was an exciting weekend, and we’re thrilled that not one, but two of our valued guests had such notable wins. As people continue to feel more comfortable in safely returning to the casino, we hope to see this trend of large jackpot winnings continue to occur often at Valley Forge.”

The Super 4 Progressive side bet wager wins when the dealer has a blackjack and the combination of the dealer’s blackjack AND the player’s two cards qualifies for the 100% progressive bonus. Additionally, any player who places a wager on the Super 4 receives an “Envy Bonus” payout when another player at the table is the winner of the 100% bonus.

Lightning Link Strikes at Harrah’s Philadelphia

Mohegan Sun Pocono October winners

Presque Isle Downs October winners

There was a $100K winner at Wheel Of Fortune Triple Red Hot 7s.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia October winners

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh October winners

More Rivers winners:

Valley Forge Casino October winners

More Valley Forge Casino winners:

Wind Creek winners

There was a Black Gold Wild winner at Wind Creek.

Penny slot wins at Wind Creek:

Hollywood Casino October winners

Hooray for these Hollywood Casino winners:

October Jackpots at other PA casinos

A $100,000 Play Ten Draw Poker jackpot at The Meadows.

A $40,000 Wheel of Fortune win and other October jackpots at Parx Casino.

A $80,375 jackpot winner at Mount Airy.

Here at PAOC, we always remind you to keep gambling fun: Play responsibly.

Lead image via Dreamstime/Wisconsinart

Philly Resident Hits $1.3 Million Jackpot At Harrah’s, Largest Ever

The royal treatment: One Philadelphia resident hit the largest-ever jackpot at Harrah’s when he was dealt a royal flush of spades at four card poker.

A player at Harrah’s Philadelphia got a wonderful October surprise.

In the early hours of Oct. 11, he won a $1.3 million mega table games progressive jackpot at Harrah’s in Chester, PA.

It is the largest payout ever at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Royal flush at four card poker

Philadelphia resident Eugene L. became an instant millionaire after he was dealt a royal flush of spades at four card poker.

Eugene was dealt a royal flush (10-J-Q-K-A) of spades and was playing the $5 optional progressive bet that pays 100% of the Mega Jackpot.

Two other players at the table received an Envy bet of $5,000 each. The Envy bet pays when another player at the table is dealt a royal flush.

A big check for the biggest Harrah’s winner

Know before you go: Harrah’s Philadelphia

Harrah’s Philadelphia reopened in late June. It is following the health and safety protocols that apply to all casinos in PA, such as:

  • Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Employees and guests must wear masks.
  • There are markings on the floor to promote social distancing.

In addition, at Harrah’s Philadelphia, all guests and team members are required to have their temperature checked via thermal scanners before entering the property. Other health and safety measures are listed here.

Food and beverages are not currently allowed on the gaming floor. Also, smoking is not permitted on the gaming floor, but designated outdoor areas are set up.

PA Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed new orders for increased coronavirus mitigation efforts on July 16. For casinos, it means a temporary pause on drink service and sitting at the bar, and lower capacity limits at restaurants.

Play Pennsylvania was the first to exclusively report that the poker room at Harrah’s closed permanently in August.

Ratings On The Rise For The Surging Sixers And NBC Sports Betting Content

Thanks to a hot start to the season, more and more people are watching the 76ers and the sports-betting content on NBC surrounding the team.

NBC Sports Philadelphia has jacked up its 76ers broadcast lineup with a massive dose of sports betting info for the 2019-20 season.

Of course, it may not be the betting info driving viewership to new highs with the team off to a hot start, along with no defeats at home. However, it could play a part.

NBC having its best Sixers season

NBC Sports Philly is currently on track to have its highest-rated season in recent memory for Sixers broadcasts, according to spokeswoman Maureen Quilter of NBC Universal.

Viewership of the games is up 38% over last season at the same point, she said.

And through 20 games, 173,000 unique devices have streamed the 2019-20 Philadelphia 76ers, which is on-pace to be the most-streamed season in terms of uniques ever for the 76ers, she added.

Pre- and post-game shows are also up, according to viewer data.

Viewer engagement is key

“For NBC Sports Philly, it is a really exciting time for us to be the first in this space, and to provide fans another opportunity to engage with the Sixers and us in a new and way,” she said.

But Quilter added it is not possible to say if the betting info is a primary reason for an increase in viewers,  though they have integrated betting data into all aspects of their coverage.

“The idea behind our Sixers NBC Sports BetCast is to improve the engagement level, to keep fans interested throughout. That being said, it’s hard to map a direct correlation to Nielsen averages at this point.”

But there is no denying bettering engagement seems to be working for NBC Sports Philly, she added:

We’re always looking for new ways to increase viewer engagement so the ability to have this alternative broadcast for Sixers games on NBC Sports Philadelphia presents a perfect opportunity for us to do so.  We also incorporated sports betting information into our pre and postgame shows, we air a simulcast of The Daily Line radio program on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, and air a Betting Break weekdays in the Mike Missanelli Show

Sports betting has gone mainstream

NBC has pumped up its betting content just as the Sixers have also embraced sports wagering.

The hoop team recently signed deals with FOX Bet, Parx Casino, and Caesars Entertainment/Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Claim $500 at FOX Bet
Risk Free Bet
Up To $500 Risk Free Bet
Must Opt-In on Promotions Page
Available on Desktop, Android & iOS
To Claim: Click Play Now

BetCast Sixers schedule

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, “NBC Sports BetCast: 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets” airs at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia+.

Additional Sixers BetCast broadcasts, all at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated, are:

  • Dec. 13: New Orleans Pelicans
  • Jan. 6:  Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Feb 7: Memphis Grizzlies
  • Feb. 9: @ 6 p.m. Chicago Bulls
  • Feb. 24:  Atlanta Hawks
  • Feb. 27: New York Knicks
  • March 18: Toronto Raptors

Marc Farzetta hosts the show and sports betting expert Brad Feinberg, an analyst on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Betting Break, and Anthony Gargano from 97.5 The Fanatic.

During the game, Farzetta, Feinberg, and Gargano focus on topics such as betting odds and how the flow of the game impacts the lines

Enhanced on-screen graphics are focused on real-time sports betting data, integrated into the program, meant to complement the hosts’ commentary and analysis.

NBC flooding the Sixers coverage

NBC Sports Philadelphia has further amped up sports betting programming with the addition of The Daily Line radio show. That show airs weekday afternoons on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, plus coverage in all pre/postgame programs, as well as Quick Slants and The Mike Missanelli Show.

The broadcast team of Marc ZumoffAlaa Abdelnaby, and Serena Winters are calling the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Harrah’s Philadelphia Locks Down A Major Sports League Partner In The 76ers

Caesars Entertainment is teaming up with the Philadelphia 76ers and NJ Devils to promote its non-sports betting offerings at their home arenas.

It’s not just the Delaware River that separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.

Or the fact that Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with a storied history and numerous claims to cultural fame while Jersey is, well, Jersey (just kidding).

No, if there’sone obvious thing that New Jersey has over their slightly more western brethren, it’s sports betting.

Lots of it.

Pennsylvania is doing their best to catch. For example, SugarHouse is operating a New Jersey sports betting app despite being located across the river. Meanwhile, PA sports betting won’t take effect for weeks, maybe even months.

But that hasn’t stopped at least one gaming entity from making early forays into the world of professional sports.

The Sixers & sports betting

The Philadelphia 76ers may be scuffling at the start of the 2018-19 NBA season, but team owners are already sitting pretty.

Sure, at least some of that is due to the fact that the 76ers are averaging the second-highest attendance for home games across the league.

But it’s also because Harris Blitzer Sports, owner of both the 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, struck a deal this month with Caesars Entertainment.

Reports suggest it’s a multi-year deal, though financial specifics have not yet been released.

The partnership makes Caesars the first gaming group to sign agreements with both NBA and NHL individual teams since the Supreme Court sports betting decision.

The NBA is actually something of a trailblazer in this arena, having been the first major sports league in the U.S. to partner with a sportsbook operator.

The league as a whole has a non-exclusive deal in place with MGM Casinos, making it the “official gaming partner” of the NBA and WNBA.

The deal allows MGM to use NBA logos on oddsboards, something that hadn’t been legally acceptable prior.

As the deal wasn’t exclusive though, it leaves teams like the Sixers the opportunity to expand into the online gambling space as they see fit. Which is exactly what Harris Blitzer seems to be doing.

Details on the Caesars and 76ers promotion

A whole lot of marketing meant to introduce casual and serious Sixers fans to Caesars Online Casino, which has a sportsbook built in.

Currently, Caesars has two sportsbooks in Atlantic City, at Bally’s and Harrah’s.

The partnership means that the Sixers and Devils will promote Caesars at their home venues, while Caesars will promote both teams at all of their more than four dozen venues across the globe. That includes Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino, Racetrack in Chester, PA. and, of course, plenty more.

Caesars will promote their non-sportsbook offerings to Sixers and Devils fans, so keep an eye out next time you take in a winter sporting event in the tristate. However, don’t be surprised if the deal downplays sports betting elements of Caesars Online Casino. After all, leagues are still touchy on the subject.

And it just wouldn’t be a sports franchise marketing deal without some hokey contests attached.

For Sixers fan, that means a chance to win a complimentary stay at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino or an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway to The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Both prizes will be offered as part of in-game deals, “Score for the Shore”, and the social media-based “Live Like a Caesars VIP.”

For Devils fans, that means the chance to win $1 million during the second intermission of 10 select regular season games.

The Prudential Center, where the Devils play their home games, will also play home to a new 5,000-seat restaurant and bar called Caesars Club, making that a whopping two things that New Jersey can lord over the more comely Keystone State.

Harrah’s Philadelphia Latest PA Casino To Sign Up For Sports Betting

Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack is making plans to open up a sportsbook on the property and launch a mobile sports betting product.

Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in Chester is making plans to open up a sportsbook on the property and launch a mobile sports betting product across PA.

In fact, this week, the Caesars Entertainment casino and horse racing facility became the third casino license holder in the state to apply for a $10 million sports betting license.

Land-based, interactive and mobile sports betting

Harrah’s Philadelphia’s application clearly states its intention is to offer a combination of land-based, mobile, and interactive sports wagering.

Plus, it outlines that subsidiary Caesars Interactive Entertainment and gaming tech firm Scientific Games Corporation are collaborating to put together the online, mobile, and interactive sports wagering side of things.

Additionally, the application indicates modifications will be made to the property to create a sports wagering area.

However, details of exactly what the sports wagering area will include and how much money Harrah’s Philadelphia is spending on building it are unknown at this time.

Appendices attached to the application included specific details. A publicly released version of the application had the appendices redacted though.

The other two PA casino license holders to apply for sports betting licenses are:

Harrah’s Philadelphia’s application also indicates it will lean on its casino operations and parent company Caesars Entertainment’s sportsbook operations elsewhere to build a successful sports betting operation in PA.

Caesars and Harrah’s sportsbook locations

Caesars Entertainment runs sportsbooks at 13 Nevada casinos. Plus, it runs a Nevada mobile sports betting app. Additionally, the company launched sports betting at several of its New Jersey and Mississippi properties this summer.

In New Jersey, Caesars Entertainment opened sportsbooks at its Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s Atlantic City casinos. Plus, it launched an NJ mobile sportsbook app under the Caesars Casino & Sports brand.

In Mississippi, Caesars opened sportsbooks at its Harrah’s Gulf Coast and Horseshoe Tunica properties.

PA sports betting timeline

When exactly sports betting will launch at Harrah’s Philadelphia or any other PA casino is still up in the air.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) could approve the first three license applications at its next meeting on Oct. 3.

However, license applications must be submitted 90 days ahead of operations launching in accordance with state sports betting regulations.

That would mean a sportsbook at Harrah’s Philadelphia could not start taking bets until December. However, the Board could shorten the process for any of the applicants, as it sees fit.

PaddyPower Betfair and FanDuel want in

Additionally, PaddyPower Betfair submitted an application to the Board to become a PA sports betting technology provider this week.

It is the parent company of daily fantasy sports and New Jersey sportsbook operator FanDuel.

FanDuel plans to run sports betting operations out of Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia. It has a deal in place with the casino’s new owner Boyd Gaming. However, Valley Forge has not yet applied for a PA sports betting license.

Photo by RaksyBH /

Latest Caesars Restructuring Puts Harrah’s Philadelphia In New Hands

Caesars is selling its Harrah’s Philadelphia in a sale and lease-back deal with bankruptcy spin-off real estate investment trust VICI Properties Inc.

Caesars Entertainment is selling its Harrah’s Philadelphia casino and racetrack property in Chester. However, the property won’t exactly be changing hands.

The US casino giant announced this week it had struck another sale and lease-back deal with bankruptcy spin-off real estate investment trust (REIT) VICI Properties Inc. This deal will sell Harrah’s Philadelphia for $82.5 million in cash and then lease it back. As such, Caesars will continue to run the casino and racetrack.

Additionally, a similar deal was struck to sell and lease back its Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada for $507.5 million in cash.

The Harrah’s Philadelphia transaction will close in the fourth quarter of this year.

VICI Properties and Caesars

VICI Properties was born out of Caesars’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2015. Caesars split into two companies, a REIT taking ownership of its casinos, and an operating company that continued to manage them. REIT’s are designed to allow small investors into large real estate investments and provide certain tax breaks.

At the time, some members of US Congress members opposed the reorganization, claiming that allowing Caesars to create a REIT amounted to giving a taxpayer-funded subsidy to one of the largest casino companies in the country.

However, the spin-off went ahead regardless. VICI Properties launched in 2017 with ownership of 19 Caesars casino properties, including its flagship Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

Now, VICI Properties calls itself one of the country’s largest owners of gaming, hospitality, and entertainment destinations.

The company struck another sale and lease-back deal for Harrah’s Las Vegas in December 2017 and its portfolio now includes 20 casino properties. The properties are all leased to Caesars Entertainment and continue to operate under brands including:

  • Caesars
  • Horseshoe
  • Harrah’s
  • Bally’s

In fact, VICI Properties now boasts 36.6 million square feet of space, 14,500 hotel rooms and more than 150 restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

MGM Growth Properties made an estimated $5.9 billion offer to buy the company in January of this year. Howeve, VICI’s board rejected the offer. VICI went public in February 2018, raising $1.2 billion through its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Harrah’s Philadelphia opened as Harrah’s Chester in 2006. It was originally a harness racing track overlooking the Delaware River. However, slot machines were added within the first four months. Construction cost an estimated $400 million.

The casino and racetrack sit just off I-95. Additionally, it is only a half-hour drive from the center of Philadelphia.

Harrah’s Chester became Harrah’s Philadelphia in 2012. Additionally, three new restaurants opened at that time and the property launched a summer concert series.

The casino now features more than 2,800 slots and 125 table games. Additionally, it houses a World Series of Poker-branded poker room. It is the fourth-largest grossing casino in Pennsylvania. The 5⁄8 mile racetrack features a limestone-based surface.

In connection with the sale of Harrah’s Philadelphia to VICI Properties, Caesars will face some near-term rent increases.

Caesars Entertainment calls itself the world’s most diversified casino-entertainment provider. In fact, it now operates 47 casinos in 13 states and five different countries.

Photo by cheapbooks /

PA Gaming Board Hands Out Close To Half A Million In Fines

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board dished out a total of $481,116 in fines to one casino and a variety of gaming services firms this week.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) dished out close to half a million dollars in fines last week.

In fact, the Board levied a total of $481,116 in fines to one casino and a variety of gaming services firms at its latest public meeting in Harrisburg on June 27.

The largest fine went to a Nevada-based gaming manufacturer and distributor. Apparently, the firm was doing business with Pennsylvania casinos without proper authorization from the Board, or its knowledge.

American Gaming Systems (AGS) was hit with a $351,271.40 fine. The Board says AGS failed to disclose its intellectual property purchase agreement with a New Jersey casino games company called In Bet Gaming. AGS also did business with PA casinos through In Bet Gaming. Plus, it received proceeds from that business, without gaining authorization or a license from the Board.

In Bet Gaming is authorized by PGCB to conduct gaming related business with PA casinos. A $55,744.60 fine was also levied against it.

PGCB says Pennsylvania licensing requirements were circumvented when games in which AGS holds the intellectual property right were operated in PA casinos.

Super 4 Blackjack Progressive

AGS manufactures and distributes a variety of casino games and slots, including a number of Asian-themed slot machines. Plus, the company produces various versions of traditional table games like Baccarat and Blackjack.

It also runs a number of social casino mobile apps on its own and for various casino partners. For the most part, it’s clients are in the Native American gaming market.

In Bet Gaming is a casino game developer. The company has developed a variety of Blackjack and Baccarat side wager and progressive wager games. The games are in various casinos across the US. In Bet Gaming’s website claims its Super 4 Blackjack Progressive game is available in Pennsylvania. In fact, it lists Valley Forge Casino Resort and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack as locations where the game can be found.

However, AGS bought five games from In Bet Gaming in October 2017, including Super 4 Blackjack Progressive.

As part of the purchase agreement, AGS received the five games and approximately 500 installations of those games. In addition to Super 4 Blackjack Progressive, the other games include:

  • Blackjack Match Progressive
  • Jackpot Blackjack
  • Royal 9
  • Jackpot Baccarat

AGS also purchased In Bet Gaming’s In Between and Criss Cross Poker games in 2014.

Super 4 Blackjack side bets win when the dealer shows an ace. Players trigger the Super 4 Bonus if the dealer makes Blackjack. This allows them to combine their cards with the dealer’s cards to make a four-card poker hand. Various four-card poker hands offer the opportunity to win progressive jackpots.

Excess free slot play

Additionally, a $50,000 fine was levied against operators of Valley Forge Casino Resort. The board says  Valley Forge was guilty of giving out what it calls excess amounts of free slot play.

According to PGCB regulations, PA casinos must impose limits on the amount of free slot play an organization can give away. Plus, they must impose limits on the number of employees who can give it away.

An investigation by the PGCB’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement revealed that in 2015 and 2016, various amounts of free slot play was awarded to Valley Forge players by employees who were not authorized to do so. Plus, authorized employees gave away more than approved levels.

Finally, a Nevada-based slot machine provider, licensed to do business with PA casinos, filed financial statements late.

A $24,100 fine was levied against Ditronics Financial Services as a result.

Photo by  nrqemi /

Claim Your Free $20 at PA iLottery!
$20 Free Play
On Sign Up
Up To $500 Bonus On First Deposit!
Instant Win Games!
Bonus Code: PLAY20

Philadelphia Poker Rooms: Breaking Down Parx, SugarHouse And Harrah’s

A comparison of the games, tournaments and amenities at the three Philadelphia area poker rooms in Pennsylvania: Parx, SugarHouse and Harrah’s.

Ten of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos have poker rooms, but the size, game offerings, promotions and amenities vary quite a bit.

Here is a look at the three poker rooms in the Philadelphia area — Parx, SugarHouse, and Harrah’s — with a rundown what each has to offer.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Located in Chester (just outside Philadelphia), Harrah’s Poker Room is in the heart of Pennsylvania poker country. The room is of average size for the region, with 28 cash-game tables, and offers daily tournaments at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. most days.

Harrah’s runs several monthly poker promotions. Currently, players will find high-hand jackpots every 30 to 60 minutes and a promotion where anyone showing a qualifying full house is entered into a monthly drawing.

With so much competition nearby, the room offers a couple of interesting options players won’t find in many other poker rooms. Harrah’s allows players in time-raked games to “Run it Twice” and players in any Hold’em or Omaha game can post a Mississippi Straddle — basically posting a straddle from any position, which makes the next player the first to act pre-flop.

Stakes and games typically found at Harrah’s are:

  • $2-$6 limit hold’em
  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em ($60-$300 buy-in)
  • $1/$3 no limit hold’em ($100-$500 buy-in)
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 no limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 Omaha 8 or better
  • State-approved games are available upon request

Parx Casino

With over 80 tables, Parx can lay claim to being the largest poker room in Pennsylvania. It’s also one of the only poker rooms in the state with consistent high-stakes action.

Unlike most of its competitors (which offer two daily tournaments), Parx only offers one daily tournament, mixing night and daytime starts, but the poker room also runs multiple tournament series throughout the year.

The casino has an ongoing bad-beat jackpot. Monthly promotions at Parx run the gamut, with the casino currently running a high-hand giveaway every half-hour, along with a grand-prize drawing at the end of the month.

Stakes and games typically found at Parx are:

  • Limit hold’em: $3/$6 – $6/$12 – $15/$30 – $40/$80
  • No limit hold’em: $1/$2 – $1/$3 – $2/$5 – $10/$10 – $10/$25
  • PLO: $5 single blind – $5/$5
  • PLO8: $1/$2
  • Omaha 8 or better: $8/$16 – $10/$20 – $15/$30 – $30/$60
  • Mix games: $6/$12 – $10/$20 – $15/$30 – $30/$60
  • State-approved games are available upon request

SugarHouse Casino

After moving from a temporary home to its permanent location in early 2016, SugarHouse has the newest and swankiest poker room in the state. The 28-table room has all the modern niceties, including backlit tables, in-seat text-to-order food service and full charging stations at every position.

SugarHouse is also a branded Poker Night in America poker room and routinely hosts televised cash games and tournament series.

SugarHouse’s daily tournament schedule consists of a nightly tournament during the week and three tournaments on weekends typically.

SugarHouse is big on promotions, notably its hourly high-hand giveaways. This core promotion is often augmented as is the case right now, where SugarHouse is offering:

  • 3x giveaways at select times on Tuesday and Sunday where a high hand prize is awarded every 20 minutes;
  • $300 every 30 minutes at select times on Monday and Wednesday;
  • $500 every 30 minutes at select times on Thursday and Friday;
  • Super Saturday, where SugarHouse will give away $300 every 20 minutes from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Stakes and games you’ll typically find at SugarHouse are:

  • $1/$2 no limit hold’em
  • $1/$3 no limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 no limit hold’em
  • $2-$6 limit hold’em
  • State-approved games are available upon request

PA Regulator Says Casino ‘Novelty Has Worn Off’; Could Online Gambling Spur Growth?

Pennslyania’s top gaming regulator says that the “novelty has worn off” for Pennsylvania’s casinos, leaving online gambling as a possible avenue for growth.

Pennsylvania’s top gambling regulator says that the “novelty has worn off” for Pennsylvania’s casinos and that growth may have plateaued, leaving online gambling as a possible avenue for growth in the state’s gaming industry.

What the Gaming Control Board’s head said

William H. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, was commenting as part of an in-depth feature at Trib Total Media on the current state of Pennsylvania’s casinos.

The story notes that casino revenue growth peaked in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and that only two of Pennsylvania’s 11 casinos have experienced growth over the next two years (Sands Bethlehem and Valley Forge).

Ryan noted that he believes that growth for PA casinos may have topped out, without changes to their economical model and/or streams of revenue:

“The boom times for casino revenues we saw in years past are probably history,” said William H. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. “Those were caused by the opening of new properties. And a lot of the novelty has worn off.”

And later:

“You have to expect as the number of casinos increases, the revenue of existing properties will drop some,” Ryan said. “The gaming industry is no different from any other industry. It is up to the people who run them to make them work and be profitable.”

One of the ways to foster growth in the casino sector? Online gambling.

Online gambling can help brick and mortar casinos

While Sheldon Adelson (casino magnate behind Sands Bethlehem) and company would like you to believe that internet gambling will cannibalize revenue from land-based casinos, that’s really not the case.

The most recent research on the subject of online gaming suggests that it can be complementary to brick-and-mortar casinos. The concept also came up at a Senate committee hearing last month, as representatives from both SugarHouse Casino and Harrah’s talked about iGaming’s potential for:

  • Growing revenue.
  • Creating new customers.
  • Reactivating inactive players.
  • Cross-promotional possibilities.

Then what’s stopping online gambling in PA?

In reality, there’s not much stopping it. There is minimal opposition to the idea of iGaming — notably from Sands and some horse-racing interests. The other 10 casinos generally support launching online gambling, to the point that some have already partnered with online platforms.

Most interests in the state approve of iGaming in some form, although the proposed tax rate and implementation remain issues that would need to be resolved.

In the spring, Reps. John Payne and Nick Kotik — a Republican and a Democrat — made their case for online gambling legalization in an op-ed, and both sides of the aisle have introduced regulation bills. The PGCB said it is more than ready to handle the task of regulating online gaming, if a bill is passed.

At the same time, legislation regulating online gambling has not really come up much in the current budget standoff. That’s despite the fact that online gambling has the potential of creating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state as the state looks to trim huge projected deficits.

But if casino revenue growth in Pennsylvania actually has plateaued or continues to dip at some casinos — and the state is still looking for revenue in the coming weeks and months — the solution on online gaming waits in the wings as a fairly non-controversial way to help foster growth in the sector.

Photo by It’s Our City used under license CC BY 2.0.

Stance Of Seven PA Casinos Hurts Chances For Online Gambling

Seven Pennsylvania casinos announced that they oppose parts of a proposed gaming act and asked for a lower internet gambling tax rate in the bill.

Seven Pennsylvania casinos announced that they oppose parts of a proposed gaming act and asked for a lower internet gambling tax rate, perhaps complicating regulation of online gaming in the state during this legislative session.

Who wants work to be done on gaming bill?

Gambling Compliance first reported (paywall) a letter sent by a group of casinos that oppose SB900 — a bill introduced by Sen. Kim Ward that would legalize and regulate online gaming in the state. Internet gambling is viewed as one of the ways potentially to chip away at a deficit of more than $2 billion in Pennsylvania. The state budget is supposed to be due in just a few days, on June 30, but lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolfe remain at an impasse.

While the letter doesn’t seem to be a death knell for a gaming act passing this year, it certainly illustrates that there are issues that likely need to be resolved before such a bill passes. While brick-and-mortar casinos in the state are generally behind online gaming, interested parties in the state differ on the tax rate associated with the bill.

The group of casinos that penned the letter — which you can read at Gambling Compliance — runs the gamut across Class I, II and III casinos and accounts for half of the current B&M locations in the state:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Mt. Airy
  • Nemacolin
  • Presque Isle Downs
  • Rivers
  • SugarHouse
  • Valley Forge

Earlier, Sands Bethlehem — of the Sheldon Adelson empire — voiced its displeasure with the online gambling portion of the bill.

What the casinos want

On internet gambling, the casinos suggest a much lower tax rate than the proposed 54 percent tax rate — which would be among the highest of any regulated jurisdiction in the world. From the letter:

We support internet gambling at a fair rate of taxation (15%) and a reasonable upfront fee;  available to all Classes of licensees on the same terms.  The industry needs to avoid the fate of other industries that have ignored the Internet (record industry, book stores etc.).  Based on experiences to date in regulated U.S. jurisdictions, online gaming is likely to increase – not cannibalize – overall revenues and taxes. And, it will create cross marketing opportunities for licensees and improve distribution channels for operators to all customer segments.

The tax rate, though, appears to be far from the most controversial portion of the bill, at least from the perspective of these casinos.

The casinos are also against provisions in the bill that would:

  • Allow slots at off-track betting facilities
  • Allow video-style gaming at bars
  • Create an admission fee for Category III licenses

In the letter, the casino group offered this:

The positions set forth are tied together as a collective package and the failure of one of the components would impact the group’s ability to collectively support the remainder of the issues.

And later:

If these proposals cannot be adopted as an entire package, we would respectfully ask that opening the Gaming Act be deferred at this time and we commit to work with leadership in the next session to find a workable solution.

Despite a lot support for some sort of online gaming regulation in the state and the revenue it would create, it appears casinos will not back a carve out just the internet gambling portion of the bill. Other than differences of opinion on the tax rate and questions on implementation, getting to a “yes” on online gaming would seem to be much easier than passing an over-arching bill.

Bill is not done, yet

There has been little movement on the gaming bill since a hearing in front of Ward’s Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee last week. And Ward even said in an interview last week that she does not think her gaming bill has a chance of making it into this year’s budget. But a story at the Daily Times painted a slightly more optimistic view on the chances for online gaming regulation.

In reality, little progress has been made on anything associated with the budget. A Penn Live editorial says the Wolf and the Republican-run legislature are still “miles apart” on many key issues. At this point, a budget passing by the June 30 deadline appears unlikely — “hope is waning” for that possibility, according to an Associated Press story.

That may give casino interests and lawmakers time to get on the same page on the gaming act and online gambling. Either way, however, time is running out for the possibility of internet gaming regulation to pass in 2015.

Photo by Mark used under license CC BY 2.0.