West Virginia Passed Online Gambling; Should Pennsylvania Worry?

Pennsylvania casinos, namely the ones near Pittsburgh, will soon have to contend with competition for online casino players from neighboring West Virginia.

Pennsylvania’s neighbor will soon join the Keystone State in the world of online casino gaming.

Last Wednesday, West Virginia legalized online casino gambling when House Bill 2934 became law. Gov. Jim Justice failed to act on the bill, just as he did with West Virginia’s sports betting last year. Even though he did not act, the bill become law after 15 days of inaction per WV law.

“There are a lot of different things out there that I guess people do (in online casino gaming),” West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers said in an article on MetroNews. “I think there are even some video lottery games like we have in the casinos to a smaller degree that you could even play.”

WV online gaming takes cues from other states

West Virginia is now the fifth state to legalize at least some form of online poker and online casino gambling, joining Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. PA passed its online gaming law in October 2017.

The West Virginia law is similar to those passed by other states. Anyone 21 and older, and who is within West Virginia’s state lines will be able to play online casino games with a computer or mobile device. Each of the state’s five casinos are eligible to purchase a permit to host online gaming:

  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
  • Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
  • Wheeling Island Hotel

Currently, the most popular online casino games are poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and slots.

WV online casinos shouldn’t greatly affect PA’s gaming

While the Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland and Wheeling Island are only about an hour away from the Pittsburgh area, it’s unlikely West Virginia’s new law will steal substantial business from its neighbor. That is good news for the city’s two casinos, Rivers and The Meadows.

First of all, Pennsylvania’s online casinos are expected to launch much earlier than West Virginia’s. Most estimates expect PA’s online gaming to arrive in June or July. West Virginia will likely be more than a year behind that.

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PA online gaming will feature numerous options

Furthermore, Pennsylvania is on track to provide online gamblers with a wealth of options. The PA Gaming and Control Board has already provided conditional approval for 10 of the state’s 13 casinos to offer online poker, slots, and table games.

Presque Isle Downs, Mohegan Sun Pocono, and the upcoming Stadium Casino project will just offer online table games and slots.

Furthermore, qualified gaming entities (QGE) from outside of Pennsylvania were allowed to apply for the remaining online gaming licenses. Both MGM Resorts and Golden Nugget Atlantic City have filed paperwork. Each group is expected to offer some form of online gaming in Pennsylvania upon launch, pending PGCB approval.

West Virginia’s online gaming is more likely to target other states

Pennsylvania’s early action on online gaming will likely keep most of its online players within the confines of the Keystone State.

However, the new law in West Virginia is aimed beyond its borders. The online gaming legislation is hoping to attract gamblers from neighboring states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland. Those states have not yet legalized online gaming.

And that’s the biggest reason the bill drew bipartisan support in the WV state legislature.

“iGaming has the potential to bring millions of dollars in revenue to our state,” West Virginia legislator Jason Barrett said in the PlayWV article.

Put simply; the new online gaming bill is a boon for West Virginia. But not a major threat to its neighbor in Pennsylvania.

PGCB Signs Off On Penn National’s Meadows Acquisition

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved Penn National Gaming’s takeover of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino gaming license this week.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved Penn National Gaming‘s takeover of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino gaming license this week.

The board approved the transfer of the license from Pinnacle Entertainment to Penn National at its March 21 meeting. Pinnacle has held the license since September 2016.

Penn National Gaming, Inc., is a publicly traded company based in Wyomissing. It owns and operates dozens of casinos and racetracks across the country. Its list of gaming properties includes Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville.

Penn National acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment

Penn National announced in December 2017 it was acquiring gaming-industry competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth approximately $2.8 billion.

Rumors of the deal first surfaced in October 2017 when the Wall Street Journal reported ongoing discussions.

According to reports, Penn National Gaming will operate a combined 41 casino and gaming properties once the deal is finalized, including The Meadows.

In order to meet regulatory requirements, Penn National was forced to sell four Pinnacle casino properties that were part of the deal to Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. for $575 million.

These casinos include:

  • Ameristar Kansas City
  • Ameristar St. Charles
  • Belterra Park
  • Belterra Casino Resort

Penn National Gaming corporate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties originally bought The Meadows from Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts for $465 million in 2014.

However, Pinnacle signed a $138 million deal with the company to operate the Pennsylvania casino in 2016.

Gaming and Leisure will continue to own the real estate and lease the casino and racetrack to Penn National as a part of the Pinnacle acquisition.

However, Penn National will have to cough up a $3.75 million control fee to PGCB.

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino

The racetrack at The Meadows first opened near Pittsburgh in June 1963. The Meadows takes its name from part-owner and Pennsylvania horse racing industry legend Delvin Miller‘s nearby Meadow Lands Farm.

The track traded hands a few times over the years. However, racetrack giant Magna Entertainment Corporation held ownership when Pennsylvania first started considering authorizing the operation of slots at racetracks.

Las Vegas gaming operator Cannery Casino Resorts bought the property at that time.

A temporary casino with more than 1,700 slot machines opened at The Meadows in June 2007. That same year, Australian billionaire James Packer bought a minority interest in the property.

A permanent casino with 350,000 square feet of gaming space took its place in April 2009. Plus, the casino added table games a year later in accordance with a change in Pennsylvania gambling laws.

Penn National Gaming Buying Pinnacle Entertainment In $2.8 Billion Deal

Penn National Gaming has announced plans to buy competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth close to $2.8 billion.

Pennsylvania’s largest casino company is getting even bigger.Penn National Gaming announced Monday it is planning to buy competitor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth close to $2.8 billion.

Once the deal jumps through the usual regulatory hoops, Pinnacle shareholders are going to receive $20 in cash and 0.420 shares of Penn National stock per share.

After the deal is complete, Penn National Gaming shareholders will own 78 percent of the company. Pinnacle shareholders will hold the other 22 percent. The combined company will be one of the largest casino companies in the entire country. There is no indication Penn National plans to leave its Pennsylvania home.

Boyd Gaming buying the Ameristar casinos

As a part of the transaction, Penn will sell the gaming operations of four existing Pinnacle properties to Boyd Gaming Corp. for $575 million in cash. The selloff is reportedly in order to meet regulatory requirements in the areas where these casinos operate.

The casinos include:

  • Ameristar Kansas City
  • Ameristar St. Charles
  • Belterra Park
  • Belterra Casino Resort

There is also a leaseback deal in the works involving Belterra, Boyd Gaming, and Penn National real-estate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties. However, Boyd Gaming says its end of the entire deal is not likely to close until the second half of 2018.

Boyd Gaming operates more than two dozen gambling operations across the country, including a dozen in the Las Vegas, Nevada area. Its flagship property is arguably the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Wyomissing’s Penn National Gaming

Wyomissing, PA is home to Penn National Gaming’s headquarters. Prior to this Pinnacle deal, the company owned and operated 26 casino properties in the US and managed one in Canada. Of course, this includes the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA.

The Hollywood Casino brand is Penn National Gaming’s largest. In fact, it owns and operates Hollywood Casino properties in seven other states:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Ohio

It also owns the M Resort in Henderson, Nevada and Tropicana Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip.

Reutersreported that once the Pinnacle deal is done, Penn National Gaming will operate a combined 41 casino properties. These properties include more than 53,000 slot machines and 1,300 table games. They also include more than 8,300 hotel rooms.

Nevada’s Pinnacle Entertainment

Pinnacle Entertainment is headquartered in Spring Valley, Nevada. The company operates 16 casinos in nine states as well as a horse track in Texas.

This included The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County, PA.

The casino and racetrack property was bought by Penn National Gaming real-estate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties in 2015. However, Pinnacle inked a $138 million deal with Gaming and Leisure to run the casino at the property in 2016.

Pinnacle Entertainment’s largest casino brand is Ameristar. Ameristar properties can be found in:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri

Rumors of a Penn National-Pinnacle merger began to surface in October of this year when the Wall Street Journal reported both sides were in discussions.

Both companies refused to comment as stock prices soared.

Table Game Revenue Boost Helps PA Casinos Combat 11-Month Slots Slide

A big boost in table game revenue throughout the month of August helped the Pennsylvania casino industry again as slot revenue was down for the 11th month.

A big boost in table game revenue has helped pull the Pennsylvania casino industry’s fat out of the fire once again.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released table game revenue numbers for the month of August 2017 this week. What the numbers revealed was an increase of close to 11 percent over the same month last year.

Earlier this month, the gaming board released similar numbers showing the state’s slot machine revenues were down in August, marking the eleventh straight month of year-over-year slot machine revenue declines.

However, the 10.92 percent increase in table game revenue helped the state’s 12 casinos post an increase in total gambling revenues for the month.

Total gambling revenue up 2.5 percent

In fact, Pennsylvania’s total gaming revenue reached $267.4 million in August 2017. This represented a 2.5 percent increase from the $260.9 million reported in August 2016.

Statewide table game revenues reached $74.2 million throughout the month. This was up from the $66.9 million reported in August 2016. August 2017 slot machine revenues were down 0.4 percent, from $193.9 million in August 2016 to $193.19 million last month.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem continued to post the state’s largest table game revenue numbers in August. Sands reported table game revenues of $19.9 million. This represented an increase of 3.19 percent from the $19.3 million Sands reported in August 2016.

The race at the top tightened up a little, with perennial table game take runner-up Parx Casino posting a 23.95 percent increase in table game revenue last month. Parx’s table game revenues hit $16 million in August 2017, up from $12.9 million in the same month last year.

However, the biggest increase in table game revenues in August 2017 were reported by The Meadows Casino. In fact, Meadows posted $3.4 million in table game revenue throughout the month, up a whopping 114.12 percent from the $1.6 million the casino reported in August 2016.

Parx sets the total gambling revenue pace

Parx continued to set the pace for total gambling revenue in the state in August. The casino chalked up $48 million in total revenue. This represented a 7.02 percent increase over the same month last year.

Sands remains in second place, after posting $45 million in total gambling revenue throughout the month. This represented a 2.17 percent increase over August 2016.

In the meantime, Mount Airy Casino Resort saw the biggest increase in total revenues for the month. Mount Airy reported $17.3 million in total gambling revenue, up 10.65 percent from the $15.6 million the casino reported in the month of August last year.

The state charges a 16 percent tax on table game revenues. Total tax revenue from table games play during August hit $11.9 million.

However, Pennsylvania charges a 54 percent tax rate on slot machine revenue. As a result, the state pulled in $95 million in tax revenue from slot machines in August 2017. Total gambling tax revenue collected by the state for the month equaled approximately $106.9 million.

PA Gaming Revenues Dip 0.51 Percent In July 2017, As Slots Revenue Dwindles Again

Even an uptick in revenue from table games could not prevent Pennsylvania gaming revenues from declining $1.5 million in July. Slots continued to slump.

Even an uptick in revenue from table games could not prevent Pennsylvania gaming revenues from declining in July.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released July 2017 table games revenue numbers last week. The $77.8 million in table game revenues reported by the state’s 12 casinos represented an increase of approximately 3.8 percent.

However, when combined with declining slot machine revenue numbers posted earlier this month, total gaming revenue in the state was actually down around $1.5 million. This represented a 0.51 percent decrease compared to July of last year.

PA total gaming revenues hit $286.9 million

Pennsylvania’s total gaming revenue hit $286.9 million in July compared to $288.4 million last year.

Slot machine revenues in the state fell two percent in July. The number was down from $213.4 million in July 2016 to $209 million in the same month this year. This also represented the tenth straight month of year-over-year declines in slot revenues.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem continued to hold the market lead in table game revenue in July. Despite a 2.5 percent decline from last year, Sands still reported $20.6 million in revenue from table games. No other casino reported more than $20 million.

Parx Casino was a distant second with $15.4 million in table game revenue. This July 2017 number actually represented a 10.38 percent increase over July 2016.

Both Mount Airy Casino Resort (up 44.93 percent to $5 million) and The Meadows Casino (up 39.57 percent to $3.7 million) saw massive increases in table game revenues in July.

Valley Forge Casino Resort saw the biggest drop. Its numbers were down 30.4 percent from $3.7 million to $2.6 million.

Parx Casino heads up the list

In terms of total gaming revenue, Parx Casino continued to lead the pack with $49.9 million in total gaming revenue in July 2017. This represented a 4.69 percent year-over-year increase.

Sands continued to hold on to second place, despite reporting a 3.72 percent dip in total gaming revenue to $47 million.

Pennsylvania charges a 54 percent tax rate on slots and 16 percent on table games. As a result, Pennsylvania casinos paid approximately $115.4 million in gaming taxes in July.

The Gaming Control Board estimates the state’s 12 casino operations generate approximately $1.4 billion in tax revenue from slot machine and table games play annually.

Lawmakers look for $200 million more

However, the state is still hoping to see an increase in tax revenue from gaming, having included $200 million in revenue from gambling expansion in its current budget. This hope lives in a comprehensive gaming expansion bill that is likely to legalize and regulate online gambling in PA.

The bill is still being considered by state lawmakers. After separate versions of the bill were passed by both the PA House and Senate, lawmakers appear stuck on whether to approve video gaming terminals at locations including bars, social clubs, and truck stops around state.

However, some form of the legislation is expected to pass in the fall.

Western PA Poker Rooms: Breaking Down Rivers Casino, Presque Isle And Meadows

Here’s a closer look of the three poker rooms scattered across western Pennsylvania, including the 30-table poker room at Rivers Casino.

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

In this column, we’ll take a look at the three poker rooms in the western part of the state — at Presque Isle, Rivers, and Meadows — and see what they have to offer.

Rivers Casino poker

Rivers Casino is the only Pennsylvania casino located in Pittsburgh (right next to Heinz Field), so it’s not surprising the property boasts one of the largest poker rooms in the state, with 30 tables. The Rivers poker room also has one of the better mixes of games and stakes, with both low- and high-limit games available.

Its tournament schedule is also one of the most robust in the state, with two to three daily tournaments. Rivers is a Poker Night in America-branded room and hosts a number of different tournament series throughout the year.

On the promotions front, Rivers has a bad-beat jackpot, as well as “hot seat” and “high hand” giveaways. Rivers also offers 24-hour food service, discounted hotel rates and call-ahead and online seating.

Stakes and games typically found at Rivers are:

  • $1/$3 no-limit hold’em
  • $1/$3/$6 no-limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 no-limit hold’em
  • $10/$20 no-limit hold’em
  • $4/$8 limit hold’em
  • $1/$3 pot-limit Omaha
  • $5/$5 pot-limit Omaha
  • $5/$10 limit Omaha 8
  • State-approved games are available upon request

Presque Isle Casino poker

Situated in Northern Pennsylvania — in Erie —  Presque Isle has a small seven-table poker room that mainly caters to low limit players.

One thing potential visitors should be aware of is, unlike other rooms, the Presque Isle poker room isn’t open 24 hours. The room opens at 1 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on the weekends. There isn’t a specific closing time, as games run as long as people continue playing.

Presque Isle does offer weekend tournaments and Sit & Go’s (when they run), as well as high-hand promotions on select days and times.

Stakes and games typically found at Presque Isle Casino are:

  • $1/$3 no-limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 no-limit hold’em
  • $2/$4 limit hold’em
  • State-approved games are available upon request

Meadows Casino poker

Nestled in the southwestern corner of the state, in the town of Washington, Meadows Casino boasts a 14-table poker room. This makes it the only real alternative to Rivers Casino in western PA, although it’s still a 30-minute drive from Pittsburgh.

Meadows’ poker room hosts daily poker tournaments, high-hand jackpots, phone-in seating and tableside food delivery.

Meadows’ daily tournaments are some of the lowest buy-ins you’ll find in a casino, with reentry tournaments priced as low as $30, not to mention a $51 buy-in deepstack tournament on several different days.

Stakes and games typically found at Meadows Casino are:

  • $1/$3 no-limit hold’em
  • $1/$3/$6 no-limit hold’em
  • $2/$4 limit hold’em
  • $3/$6 limit hold’em
  • $5/$10 limit hold’em
  • $2/$5 pot-limit Omaha
  • State-approved games are available upon request