Online Sports Betting By May, Online Casinos July 15

After more than a year, the launch dates for PA online gambling expansion are finally set. Early May for sports betting. July 15 for online casino.

No more speculation. There are now firm dates when Pennsylvania online gambling will get underway.

Online casinos go live July 15

The most concrete of the two dates is online casino launch. Rather than have sites go as they are ready, there will be one launch date.

All casinos ready to go live on July 15 can. That gives the 10 PA casinos with interactive gaming licenses with roughly three months to prepare.

PA sports betting apps online by May

As for PA sports betting apps, those will be here even sooner. This week, the PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB) confirmed to Legal Sports Report that the live testing phase of the first betting app is only 2-3 weeks away.

The PGCB will test and launch sports betting apps as they are ready. It may be a slow sports season. However, with Pennsylvania teams making runs in both the NHL and NBA playoffs, there are reasons to move quickly.

Keep in mind that the most recent sportsbook applicants will be behind the first movers. PGCB does not allow an online launch until the retail sportsbook is up and running.

Presque Isle Downs is the next retail book to open. It will launch on June 1. Meanwhile, Mount Airy Casino and Mohegan Sun Pocono are still at the beginning of the application process. That means, unlike everyone else, they will need to move quickly to be up and running in time for football.

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Expect a rush of new online casinos July 15

With a simultaneous casino launch, expect most of the PA interactive gaming providers to be ready to go in July. With the single date, the playing field is a little more level, so casinos will want to take advantage.

Don’t expect to see all 10 operators in action though. Stadium Casino and Sands Bethlehem are two examples of properties that will run behind the rest. Neither has moved ahead on their interactive gaming plans beyond obtaining the licenses.

Online poker will have less of a mad rush

There are currently eight active online poker licenses. Frankly, there is not enough interest in the game for eight PA online poker sites.

With the Wire Act opinion potentially threatening the viability of interstate compacting, casinos realize there is not much money in poker.

You will likely see a couple of sites launch in July. But don’t be surprised if some of the eight shelve their online poker plans indefinitely.

Last Minute Memo Throws A Wrench In Wire Act Lawsuit

A late DOJ court filing includes a memo suggesting its new Wire Act interpretation does not apply to lottery. It could get the NH Lotto suit dismised.

The legal compass of the Wire Act has changed once more with a new 11th-hour filing. The DOJ filed new evidence, including a memo on how the new Wire Act opinion applies to state lotteries. Or rather, that it does not apply to state lotteries.

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DOJ conducting a review of state lotteries

In the memo the DOJ filed, state lotteries are exempt currently from the opinion issued by the DOJ OLC on January 15, 2019. That new opinion stated that any transmission of a bet or wager across state lines would violate the Wire Act.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated in the memo that Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion earlier this year did not address the issue of state lotteries or their vendors.

Vendors are companies like NeoPollard and Pollard Banknote that provide lottery technology. These companies successfully joined into the New Hampshire suit against the DOJ.

The DOJ alleges it is now conducting a review on the applicability of the Wire Act to state lotteries and will not be prosecuting such cases while the DOJ conducts the review. The group will look both at multi-state draw games like Powerball and Mega Million and online lottery games.

The 11th-hour legal maneuver by the DOJ

State lotteries and their vendors can breathe a heavy and collected sigh of relief for now. However, what follows from this new memo released by the DOJ is a downright brilliant and shrewd legal maneuver.

It is also one that can extricate the government from the pending litigation brought by New Hampshire and NeoPollard. The case impacts other states too. Many states with a stake in online gaming and lottery, including Pennsylvania, filed amici briefs in the case.

Because the DOJ exempts state lotteries and its vendors out of the most recent opinion regarding the Wire Act, this potentially leaves New Hampshire, NeoPollard, and Pollard Banknote with no standing to bring suit. The New Hampshire Circuit Court could dismiss the case because there is no expectation or fear of prosecution for violation of the Wire Act.

NeoPollard’s attorney speaks out

Matthew D. McGill of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, represents NeoPollard in the suit. He told Law360 (paywall) via email that the DOJ considers state lotteries as “felonies in progress.” McGill further stated:

“Desperate to avoid judicial review of its radical reinterpretation of the Wire Act, DOJ now is backtracking from the clear import of the reversal of position that it supposedly had so carefully considered. DOJ’s eleventh-hour statement that it may — or may not — further revise its interpretation of the Wire Act only underscores the arbitrariness of the reversal of DOJ’s long-held position that the Wire Act addresses only sports betting activities.”

As both sides have filed motions for summary judgment, all parties plus those who filed amici briefs will appear for oral arguments as scheduled on April 11.

Sheldon Adelson involved again

Two weeks ago, the National Association of Convenience Stores and Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) filed amici briefs on behalf of the DOJ. CSIG is made up of many conservative Christian groups. Sheldon Adelson founded the group in 2013. The convenience stores group has always opposed lottery expansion online.

This is not the first instance of alleged meddling by Adelson. NJ Attorney General, Grubir S. Grewal, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to uncover links between Adelson and the issuance of the January 15, 2019 OLC opinion. The Wall Street Journal has also alleged a direct link between Adelson and the DOJ’s OLC opinion.

What happens next for the DOJ Wire Act case?

The NH District Court is expected to rule on the summary judgment motion as early as May. An appeal will likely be filed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The First Circuit Court of Appeals has previously stated that the Wire Act only applies to ‘wagers on any sporting event or contest,’ that is, sports betting.”

PA Online Lottery Could Face Competition From Neighboring Ohio

With Ohio considering an online lottery and launch of PA online casinos just a couple months away, the PA online lottery is about to get some competition.

It’s been a good run for the Pennsylvania Lottery.

In the time since former Gov. Tom Wolf passed Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion bill in Oct. 2017, the PA Lottery launched several different types of games, including PA iLottery instant-win games. All of this has come without in-state competition in the online space.

However, that reign prosperity may come to an end in a very short amount of time. Not only is online gambling in PA just a couple of months away. Neighboring Ohio is considering launching an online lottery as well.

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Ohio planning to launch iLottery

One danger to the Pennsylvania iLottery may emerge from Ohio within a year’s time.

This past weekend, Cleveland.com reported that lottery officials want to launch an iLottery in less than a year.

Speaking with Cleveland.com, Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald said going online is just common sense based on prevailing shopping preferences.

“By allowing additional methods of purchasing existing content, the lottery can keep up with the way people have become accustomed to buying everything from music and books to their groceries.”

That move could cut into the PA lottery’s profits. Geolocation rules require that you have to physically be in Pennsylvania to play the PA iLottery.

Therefore, Ohio residents that might be driving across the border to play in PA would no longer need to make the trek. Those residents will soon not even have to leave their homes to get the same action PA provided.

Online gambling expected to launch this summer

Meanwhile, the PA Lottery also has to prepare for in-state competition.

PA online gambling has been a much-anticipated facet of the Pennsylvania gambling scene ever since Oct. 2017. However, the implementation of gambling websites has progressed much slower than anticipated.

There were rumblings at the beginning of the year that casinos were finalizing plans to launch online gambling sites. A launch seemed imminent.

However, a surprise decision from the Department of Justice regarding the Wire Act put those plans on hold. The DOJ concluded that effectively all forms online gambling fell under the purview of the Wire Act. Practically speaking, this meant money and data was not allowed to cross state lines. This made it tricky for online operators who had servers in other states like New York, for example.

That development put any plans to launch online casinos in a holding pattern. Thankfully, though, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole testified earlier this year that no the DOJ decision did not deter casinos who paid $10 million for an online casino license.

This, in theory, was not good news for the iLottery. An onslaught of online gambling sites would most likely mean decreased traffic to its online games.

Ironically, the PA casinos filed a lawsuit against the Lottery because its online games resembled online casinos. At the time of publication, that suit was still active.

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.

New Problem Gambling Study Give PGCB Something To Think About

A new study from the National Council on Problem Gambling explores attitudes around gambling addiction and what states can do to help those affected by it.

This week the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) released the results of its National Survey of Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experiences. One of the key findings? The vast majority of Americans support responsible gambling measures to address the addiction as the industry expands nationwide.

Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion law legalized PA online casinos and PA sports betting, and online lottery within the Keystone State. Naturally, many Pennsylvanian’s are thinking about responsible gambling and concerns about a higher prevalence of gambling addiction.

Public more accepting of and willing to gamble

The NCPG, an advocacy organization for people and their families who are affected by problem gambling and gambling addiction, commissioned Ipsos to survey 3,000 participants across the country for the study.  The goal was to “examine the experiences with various forms of gambling.”

Additionally, the study gauged “attitudes about gambling among participants in the study.”

Results from the survey indicate something of a shift in public perception of gambling. Per the study, 57 percent of respondents disagreed that “gambling is immoral.” Only 13 percent agreed with the statement, while 30 percent remained neutral.

Gambling Policy Consultant for National Council on Problem Gambling and President of Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance Don Feeney noted in the release that “almost three-quarters of the American public” gambles occasionally.

Feeny added:

“However, there are a small but significant number who are indulging in risky practices or who don’t understand how gambling works. As we continue to analyze the data we anticipate learning more about these people and how we can help reduce their risks.”

Study homes in on sports betting

One emphasis of the NCPG survey was the legalization of sports betting.

Nationwide, state-regulated wagering industries are cropping up. Meanwhile, many other states have begun introducing bills to legalize the activity.

The NCPG found that 63 percent of respondents believed it was important for sportsbook operators to implement responsible gambling measures. That was not all the survey discovered either.

Gaming industry, PGCB could do more

Some 63 percent of participants believe the gambling industry “should do more to help people with a gambling addiction.”

Moreover, 43 percent agreed that governments should do more to help problem gambling. Similarly, 56 percent said a portion of revenue should go to public education about problem gambling. Some 52 percent said revenue should go toward treating problem gambling. Per the release:

“By a 2 to 1 margin clear majorities (of participants in the study) also believe it is important to set aside some revenues for treatment and for public awareness campaigns.”

Pennsylvania increased “gambling treatment and prevention dollars” following the gambling expansion law of 2017. According to a release from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) that increase ensures that newer legal gambling options contribute to the Compulsive and Problem Gambling Treatment Fund.

The PGCB recognized March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month as a way to “help individuals with a gambling addiction.”

PA celebrates Problem Gambling Awareness Month

Pennsylvania dove headlong into Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

The PGCB sent staff from its Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling to attend three events during March. The message?

Problem gambling can affect any person of any age, race, and background.

“Our agency has made outreach for problem gamblers a priority since the opening of the first casinos in Pennsylvania over 12 years ago,” said PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole. “With the expansion of gaming beyond the walls of the casinos, our agency is expanding its efforts in ensuring the tools will be available to self-exclude from gambling or limit one’s spend or time spent on gambling.”

According to a 2016 Survey of Problem Gambling Services in the United States, the NCPG estimated that 2.2 percent of adults in Pennsylvania have a gambling problem. That is 222,000 people.

It is also only a fraction of the 2 million who meet criteria for pathological gaming. And only a sliver of the additional 4 million to 6 million who would be considered problem gamblers.

This latest study provides the NCPG with an “important baseline” as gambling continues to expand, according to Keith Whyte.

“In analyzing the data, we hope to better understand problem gambling and people’s attitudes toward it,” the NCPG executive director said. “The data will be a critical tool for advocates, industry, and legislators as they consider state-by-state sports betting initiatives, providing evidence to illuminate patterns of past behaviors as they consider possible future impacts.”

After Selling Sands Bethlehem, Adelson Out To Get Sands Bethlehem

Be it a push for a new Wire Act opinion or a proposed NYC casino, Sheldon Adelson is making life hard on the incoming Sands Bethlehem owners.

There is a reason Sheldon Adelson is a billionaire. He can be a ruthless businessman. His company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., is proving that to be the case with its actions since selling Sands Bethlehem Casino for $1.3 billion.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians will soon be the owners of the Pennsylvania casino. The tribe’s company, Wind Creek Hospitality, took a big risk with the purchase. However, the property’s success and the chance to be a part of the PA online casino industry.

Now though, all that is in jeopardy. And Adelson and Sands are mostly to blame.

Sands lobbying for an NYC casino

Part of the reason Sands Bethlehem is one of the top-performing casinos in the state is its proximity to New York City. The Big Apple is just 86 miles away. That makes Sands Bethlehem just about the closest resort-style casino to the city.

Currently, there are no large casinos in the five boroughs. More than one casino company is trying to change that. Last week, representatives from both MGM and Sands met with New York lawmakers about an NYC casino project.

Adelson started the push for an NYC property late last year. In other words, once he sold his Pennsylvania casino, he began the push for a casino that would massively impact the customer traffic at that casino.

The NYC casino is far from a sure thing. Just six years ago, the state agreed to expand gambling with upstate commercial casinos.

All of those projects are financially floundering, so putting a casino in the city that would further negatively impact those properties is a tough sell. Especially when you consider that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s position on gambling expansion is not to consider new projects that have a negative financial impact on existing ones.

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Thank Adelson for the new Wire Act opinion, too

The attack on Sands Bethlehem isn’t just limited to pillaging its New York customer base. Adelson is also purportedly behind the new interpretation of the Wire Act released in January.

A longtime crusader against online gambling, Adelson certainly appreciates the new DOJ interpretation of the gambling law. The new view casts such a wide net that just about any type of gaming that involves an internet connection is at risk.

This means the online gaming industry Poarch Band of Creek Indians bought its way into is suddenly at risk. The good news for the group is that the delays the Wire Act is causing on launch dates actually helps them more than hurts them.

Because the Sands Bethlehem sale is not final, Wind Creek cannot really move forward on its online gambling plans. Sands representatives appeared in order to apply for the casino’s interactive licenses before the deadline. That is about all the progress they have made.

In the short term, the delay will shorten the window between when competitors launch and Sands Bethlehem launches online. However, the broader view is that the potential ramifications for the entire industry could be disastrous.

Wind Creek still moving forward with PA casino plans

Lehigh Valley Live recently reported on Wind Creek’s plans for the Bethlehem property. The deal includes the sale of the outlet mall, events center, and some of the historical steelworks.

Additionally, one of the first projects is a $190 million expansion that includes 300 new rooms. Another idea floating around is an indoor water park.

Wind Creek remains committed to making the property a success. But they can’t be happy that the current owners seem committed to making the new owner’s life as difficult as possible.

New Wire Act Opinion Trips Up PA Online Casino Launch Dates

Concerns about the DOJ’s new Wire Act opinion has PA regulators delaying online gambling launches until the summertime, namely June or July.

In the wake of the Department of Justice’s expansion of the Wire Act to include online gambling beyond sports wagering, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB)  has decided to postpone the launch of PA online casinos.

PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole broke the news during a 1-hour, 8-minute budget hearing this past week. O’Toole responded to questions from Rep. George Dunbar about the Wire Act’s effects on PA online gambling.

Basically, O’Toole told the PA House Appropriations Committee casinos need to review their online gambling operations. As a result, there will be a delay in launch dates. He told Dunbar:

“As soon as that reinterpretation of the Wire Act occurred, with the help of our office of chief counsel, we prepared a letter and we sent it to all the (casino) general managers and their council. What we wanted to accomplish in that letter was to make sure that the casinos thoroughly read that reinterpretation and looked very closely at their plan for implementing interactive gaming in Pennsylvania.”

Big Wire Act issue is server location

The gist of the DOJ’s reinterpretation is that the Wire Act applies to all types of internet gambling. This means iGaming operators and casinos would be limited to moving money and data within the state of Pennsylvania.

So, if an operator had a server in New York, for example, the Wire Act would prohibit the operator from transmitting information to and from Pennsylvania via that server. The information would be crossing state lines, which is a violation.

Originally, O’Toole pointed out, out-of-state operators planned on using their existing server infrastructure to run PA online gambling.

“There had been an expectation that those iGaming operators who were partnering with our casinos in Pennsylvania if they already had the infrastructure in another jurisdiction that they could leverage that to reduce the cost of implementing iGaming,” he said.

“But with that reinterpretation, it became quite obvious everything had to be on an intrastate basis and that would be probably the biggest challenge – not so much of a challenge but a modest delay to establish an adequate server location within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The expectation is that online gambling will launch this summer.

Lack of consensus means murky legal landscape

The server scenario we presented above is theoretical, though. There’s no guarantee the DOJ will enforce all possible interpretations of the decision.

In fact, PGCB Chief Counsel Douglas Sherman told Dunbar there’s a moratorium on U.S. District Attorneys prosecuting Wire Act violations.

This means there’s some time for state gambling governing bodies, casinos, and operators to make sense of the interpretation of the Wire Act. Then they can safeguard themselves against any theoretical or practical punishment.

Sherman went on to say that there are rumors that the DOJ will provide, “some clarifications with some guidance.”

PGCB legal council says iGaming licensing fees safe

After O’Toole and Sherman gave their perspective on the immediate effects of the DOJ’s decision, Dunbar asked if there is any indication that Pennsylvania casinos will pull out of their purchase of iGaming licenses.

A fair question, considering how fluid the Wire Act situation is.
Sherman responded with decisiveness, telling Dunbar the money is safe. As Sherman said:

“We’ve not heard that any will be pulling out. I think they’re all examining their operation to make sure it’s an intrastate operation and they can fulfill the goal of opening an online gaming (operation).”

Questions About Adelson’s Involvement In New DOJ Opinion Keep Surfacing

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in telling the US Department of Justice exactly what it can do with its latest opinion on the Wire Act.

In a letter dated Feb. 5, Shapiro and Grewal ask Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to withdraw the opinion completely. Or at the very least, tell DOJ prosecutors to refrain from bringing any action against the online gaming industry or players in either state based on it.

Is online gambling now a federal crime?

The DOJ’s latest interpretation appears to reverse its 2011 opinion the decades-old Wire Act only applied to sports betting. The 2011 opinion is what led several states to believe they could legalize online gambling.

Shapiro and Grewal’s letter expresses the pair’s “strong objections” to the DOJ’s reversal of that opinion. In particular, because it may make online gambling a federal crime, even in states where it is now legal.

The letter states:

“This about-face is wrong and raises significant concerns in our states. We ask that DOJ withdraw its opinion altogether or assure us that DOJ will not bring any enforcement actions against companies and individuals engaged in online gaming in our states — where it is appropriate under state law.”

It goes on to claim this DOJ opinion appears to run contrary to previous policies:

“We can see no good reason for DOJ’s sudden reversal. First, it runs contrary to plain language of the Wire Act. Second, DOJ has recognized that it should ’employ considerable caution in departing from … prior opinions,’ in light of the ‘strong interests in efficiency, institutional credibility, and the reasonable expectations of those who have relied on our prior advice.'”

Is it Adelson’s opinion or the DOJ’s?

Additionally, the pair has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request looking to find out exactly where the new opinion comes from. The FOIA request is specifically seeking information related to outside groups’ lobbying efforts urging the DOJ to reconsider.

Anti-online gambling zealot Sheldon Adelson is CEO and founder Las Vegas Sands Corporation. He has been asking the DOJ to reverse its Wire Act opinion since it was released in 2011.

A January Wall Street Journal report indicates the new opinion comes directly from a lobbying group memo. The lobbying group is funded by Adelson. The Washington Post also published a similar article Feb.7. It outlines how the opinion appears to have been influenced by Adelson and the group.

Although, the DOJ claims any accusation that the opinion was shaped by any outside interest is baseless and offensive.

Shapiro and Grewal’s letter states:

“Press reports … indicate that this new advice followed substantial lobbying by outside groups that have long been unhappy with the 2011 opinion — but who were unable to convince Congress of the merits of their view. That is not a good enough reason to trample over the law and states’ rights, and to upend the settled expectations on which we have been relying for nearly a decade.”

Hundreds of millions at stake

Shapiro and Grewal’s letter also indicates the new opinion threatens the online gambling industry in PA and NJ, and all it has created so far, including:

  • $350 million in annual revenue and $60 million in gaming taxes in NJ
  • $23.8 million in online lottery revenue in PA
  • Jobs, economic health, and state funds for the public good in both states

The letter states:

“The opinion casts doubt not only on traditional online gaming, but also multi-state lottery drawings (such as Power Ball and Mega Millions) and online sales of in-state lottery tickets. While regulators and the industry are reviewing the full range of impacts this opinion may have, each potential implication is of concern.”

Shapiro and Grewal’s letter appears to be only a part of growing opposition to the DOJ opinion.

The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries also sent a letter to the DOJ urging it to reconsider.

It states:

“The recent United States Department of Justice, reinterpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 creates a substantially detrimental impact on the lottery industry, including traditional retail-based draw and instant lottery games, as well as traditional lottery games offered over the Internet, and the billions of dollars for good causes lotteries provide.”

Lucky Seven: Presque Isle Downs Applies For Sports Betting

Presque Isle Downs applying for sports betting means more casinos in PA will offer sports betting than won’t.

The mystery surrounding sports betting plans for Presque Isle Downs & Casino is solved.

PlayPennsylvania confirmed last week that the Erie-based racetrack and casino submitted its application for a $10 million license to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) on Dec. 7.

Presque Isle Downs is the seventh PA casino to apply for a sports betting license.

So far, three casinos have launched temporary retail sportsbooks. Hollywood opened on Nov. 17SugarHouse and Rivers followed on Dec. 15. Parx and Harrah’s have been approved to offer sports betting. Both expect to open their respective retail operations during the first quarter of 2019. Valley Forge Casino was approved for its sports betting license at the Dec. 19 PGCB meeting. The board is scheduled to meet again Jan. 9.

Churchill Downs taking over   

There was never a question if Presque Isle Downs would offer sports betting. It was more a matter of when will it happen. Churchill Downs Inc. announced back in March it was purchasing the property from Eldorado Resorts. This will be the Kentucky-based company’s first, and currently only casino within Pennsylvania state lines.  

Churchill Hill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen addressed the pending sale and sports betting plans during the company’s third-quarter earnings call last month. He said the sale should close “early in or at least mid-first quarter 2019.”

As far as the sports betting plans go, Carstanjen spoke briefly about the retail and online plans:

‘We are also very interested in sports wagering and will file for that license when we have clarity on our transaction closing date. It is worth noting that a sports wagering license would allow a brick-and-mortar sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs as well as an online offering available throughout the state.”

Sports betting partners SBTech
and Golden Nugget

Churchill working with the Nugget in NJ

Churchill Downs, Golden Nuggetand SBTech are building a partnership in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania markets. In New Jersey, the three companies are working together on the Golden Nugget Atlantic City online sportsbook. There is no launch date yet. 

SBTech and BetAmerica working together in PA

SBTech, the award-winning, European-based platform provider,  will be using its BetAmerica brand to operate the Presque Isle Downs site.

Churchill Downs made its Pennsylvania sports betting intentions clear back in May when it reached a long-term strategic agreement with SBTech to partner up. The deal was brokered the same week that the Supreme Court ruled the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional.

SBTech CEO Richard Carter shared his thoughts in a May press release:

“We are thrilled to have Churchill Downs as our first US partner. Churchill is not only an iconic brand with the largest online horse race wagering business in the US, but it is also one of the fastest-growing gaming operators in the nation. The combination of Churchill’s leading presence in the US market, coupled with SBTech’s deep expertise in regulated sports betting markets globally, makes for an ideal partnership as we enter this monumental chapter in the US gaming industry.”

Carstanjen commented on the partnership in the same release, too:

“We are very excited to partner with SBTech, which we believe provides us with the industry leading platform to offer exciting, innovative integrated iGaming and sports betting products. We have the unique opportunity to leverage our knowledge and experience as this market emerges, and look forward to working with a global technology leader in this space as we expand our operations across the US.”

The game of sports betting connecting the dots continued into July when SBTech announced a separate agreement to supply “cutting-edge omnichannel solutions” to Golden Nugget casinos based in Biloxi and Atlantic City. 

Once approved for a license, it’ll be off to the races at Presque Isle Downs. Except this race will not involve the ponies.   

Without Launching Much Of Anything, PA Brought In $385M From Gambling Expansion

Pennsylvania brought in around $1 million a day from gambling expansion in the law’s first year of existence even though most verticals haven’t launched.

The pending launch of online sports betting and online casino games is generating attention in Pennsylvania. The exact date falls under the “coming soon to a casino near you” category.

The upfront licensing fees associated with Pennsylvania gambling expansion have injected more than $385 million into Pennsylvania coffers so far. The law went into effect in November of last year.

That figure exceeded state budget estimates, according to a press release from PlayPennsylvania.com. The figure is a combination of:

  • Upfront licensing fees for online casinos, sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar casinos
  • Mini-casino auction profits
  • Tax revenue from lottery expansion and daily fantasy sports 

Breaking down the combined numbers, Pennsylvania has netted more than $1 million a day since late 2017, according to analysis provided by PlayPennsylvania.com.

“The most notable aspect of the significant revenue that has been generated is that this is almost completely from fees, rather than tax revenue from gamblers,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “Clearly, there is enough interest in Pennsylvania’s enormous market so far to generate fees.”

The equation does not include revenue from online sports betting, slots and table games, which are expected to start launching during the first quarter of 2019.

Breaking down the gambling numbers

The revenue estimates tabulated by PlayPennsylvania.com consists of a combination of official statistics and estimates based on iLottery, Keno and virtual sports sales numbers

Using return-to-player rates of the lottery games, PlayPennsylvania estimates that through October, the state has generated more than $23 million in revenue and includes:

  • Online lotto games:, $19.6 million
  • Keno: $3.6 million
  • Virtual sports: $87,000

Here is a breakdown of other sources of revenue:

  • Mini-casino auction profits:, $128 million
  • Interactive gaming petitions:, $94 million
  • Casino licensing:, $78 million
  • Sports betting petitions:, $60 million
  • Fantasy sports tax revenue: $1.4 million 

For comparison purposes, Pennsylvania collected $799.8 million in statewide slot revenues during the fiscal year 2017-18. Pennsylvania estimated in February that it will generate more than $34 billion in general fund revenues for its 2018-19 fiscal year.

Online sports betting factor

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has approved sports betting licenses for:

All of the properties plan on offering online and retail sports betting. With the opening of Rivers and SugarHouse on Thursday, there are now three retail sportsbooks in the state. Revenue from November and Hollywood Casino should come out in the next few days.

“The addition of sports betting should help buoy a slowing Pennsylvania casino industry,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “If New Jersey is any indication, though, the more significant revenue generator will be online sports betting. A successful rollout there should generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state.”