Spotlight On PA’s First Online Gambling Site: HollywoodCasino.com

Pennsylvania finally has its first gambling site that offers regulated online slots and table games thanks to the launch of HollywoodCasino.com.

Hollywood sets the trends. From leading ladies and their flawless style to live action reboots, the stars light the screen and the path for what’s next.

Hollywood Casino lives up to its moniker. They have a penchant for setting the trend, plus a fearless fortitude to be first.

In November 2018, they opened Pennsylvania’s first retail sportsbook. Today, they took another giant leap into the next frontier of gaming for Pennsylvania. At 11 a.m., Hollywood Casino launched Pennsylvania’s first online casino.

Penn National Gaming, Hollywood’s parent company, partnered with IGT to roll out the site. HollywoodCasino.com will conduct a soft launch the next three days.

That appears to be a good thing as the initial launch had some users experienced trouble with registration and connecting with online support.

Games offered at HollywoodCasino.com

HollywoodCasino.com’s launch featured a heavy emphasis on slots. However, the slot titles do not currently offer any progressive slot jackpots. Here is what included so far:

  • 40 different slot titles
  • Game King video poker with nine different versions to choose from
  • Baccarat

Noticeably absent from the initial offerings are blackjack, craps, and roulette. Expect them to be added in the future but it definitely deflates the first-on-the-scene celebration.

Some slot titles include:

  • Wolf Run
  • Crown of Egypt
  • Siberian Storm
  • Wheel of Fortune: Triple Extreme Play
  • Golden Goddess
  • Cleopatra
  • Da Vinci Diamonds
  • Cats
  • Baywatch

How to sign up for HollywoodCasino.com

Registration for HollywoodCasino.com requires:

  • Username
  • Email
  • Password: Upper and lowercase letters or numbers. NO special symbols
  • Name
  • Birthdate
  • Street Address
  • Cell number
  • Last four digits of Social Security number

Troubleshooting ID verify

If additional ID verification is needed here are some things to know. (And if you are anything like me, it always is. Whoever is out there making the red flags go off on my identification, kindly delete my student loans.)

If the automatic check can’t verify identify during registration, Hollywood Casino requires you to confirm your identity and eligibility by submitting  ID documents via file upload. To complete this process you must submit two ID documents.

How to play at HollywoodCasino.com

Things to know to get you started playing at HollywoodCasino.com.

  • You must be at least 21 years old
  • You have to be physically located within Pennsylvania borders
  • Not on any self-exclusion lists
  • You cannot play online while you’re on the property of any Pennsylvania casino.
  • Location services must be enabled in order to play games for real money on the HollywoodCasino.com app.

Users can access their account, make deposits, and request withdraws while out of state. However, users can’t place any wagers unless they are physically located in the state.

HollywoodCasino.com and responsible gaming

HollywoodCasino.com allows you to set and manage limits on the amount of money you deposit, the amount you wager, and the time you spend logged into the site every day.

Limits can be managed by logging into the “My Account.” Once you reach any set limit, they prevent you from exceeding it until the time period you selected has expired.

Other options for responsible gaming include a “cool off” period that blocks users from logging in for set periods of time.

Deposit and withdraw methods for HollywoodCasino.com

 Deposit methods:

  • VIP Preferred: Deposit directly from your checking account
  • Credit/Debit
  • HollywoodCasino.com Play+: Prepaid card
  • PayNearMe: Daily max $500. Monthly max $10,000

 Withdrawal methods:

  • VIP Preferred: Two to three business days processing time
  • HollywoodCasino.com Play+: Funds transfer immediately after security review
  • Check: Two to three business days

Get rewarded for online gaming

The new program mychoice is Hollywood Casino’s rewards program. It is free to join and consists of five tiers.

  • Choice: 0 – 999 points
  • Advantage: 1,000 – 17,999
  • Preferred: 18,000 – 49,999
  • Elite: 50,000 – 199,999
  • Owners Club: 200,000 +

Members earn benefits such as free slot play, discounts for dining and accommodations, comps, bonus entries into promotions, and exclusive invitations to special events.

Here is how to link your account for online gameplay to earn rewards:

Bonuses

Hollywood Casino will load your account with $25 just for joining. No promo code needed for this bonus.

What happens during an online casino soft launch

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Director of Communication Doug Harbach offered some insight on what they look for during the soft launch.

“First, we look that the systems are operating as they were tested earlier during lab work. Then, we look at the functions that ensure money is properly collected and paid out correctly. We monitor if the systems are not in any way going offline. We are always looking at the system itself, visibly that is has the proper markings on the screen for gambling and logo of operator.”

 

Holllywood Online Casino Will Launch Alongside Parx On July 15

PA Gaming Control Board reps confirmed Hollywood Casino will be soft launching its PA online casino site on Monday, July 15.

Now we have a horse race: Hollywood Casino is jumping into the online casino race on July 15 along with Parx. That’s the first day allowed under Pennsylvania rules.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) spokesperson Doug Harbach confirmed the launch to PlayPennsylvania.com on Wednesday.

Hollywood to launch online casino the same day as Parx

Parx showed its hand earlier with a countdown clock on its home page ticking toward launch.

Now, both sites will soft-launch on Monday at 2 p.m. EST with live testing of their online casinos.

Hollywood partners include IGT, William Hill

Hollywood is something of a dark horse when it comes to the Pennsylvania online stakes.

While it is a horse track as well as a brick-and-mortar casino, it still does not have an online sportsbook app, even though it opened the first retail sportsbook in Pennsylvania. William Hill is developing its online sportsbook app.

Meanwhile, its interactive partner for the online casino launch is IGT, a major player in the online slot segment.

An online app will increase Hollywood’s reach

Hollywood’s location in a less densely populated area in Pennsylvania, a bit north of Harrisburg, means adding an online casino option should increase its market reach and grow revenues.

When the deal with IGT was announced in 2018, the companies said the alliance would provide “a full suite of digital gaming products, including the platform, and services” through HollywoodCasino.com.

Enrico Drago, an IGT senior vice president, promised:

Vast portfolio of proven digital solutions enables us to quickly address our customers’ needs across online gaming, sports betting and on-premise mobile gaming, IGT PlayDigital’s vast portfolio of proven digital solutions enables us to quickly address our customers’ needs across online gaming, sports betting and on-premise mobile gaming.

IGT is a global company with expertise in slots

IGT is in 100 countries and has 12,000 employees. The company is a significant player in the online slot games, which should align with Hollywood’s focus on slot entertainment.

Some of the most notable IGT slot titles are:

  • Wolf Run
  • Wheel of Fortune games
  • Cleopatra
  • Double Diamond
  • Golden Goddess
  • Elephant King

Penn National has grown enormously

Though it began as a small horse track, Penn National now operates 40 facilities in 18 jurisdictions. It has a focus on slots.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course has 2,450 slot machines and 56 table games and offers live racing and simulcasting.

Parx Promises At Least One Online Casino Launches July 15

Parx Casino is the first property to confirm it will be live and ready to go on the July 15 lauch date with Parx online casino.

Parx is ready to kick its online casino into gear.

At Parx’s online casino, users will be able to play online slots and casino table games for real money.  Pennsylvania’s highest grossing casino is readying for the launch with a countdown clock ticking down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to Monday, July 15 at 2 p.m. ET.

Consider the countdown them revving their engine in anticipation and joy. July 15 has been a long time coming for Pennsylvania online casinos. At least a couple sites are projected to finally launch more than a year and a half after a law authorizing them passed in the fall of 2017.

Games offered at Parx online Casino

  • Slots – Parx promises hundreds of online slots. An array of classic slots, video slots,  progressive jackpots, bonus rounds, and free spins.
  • Blackjack – A brick-and-mortar favorite from the comfort of your home. Parx says it will offer a variety of online blackjack games.
  • Roulette – All styles of roulette games will be available, but we recommend you stick to single-zero.
  • Video poker – A wide variety of video poker games to try your hand.
  • Live dealer – Players will be able to interact with real dealers in a variety of games that stream directly to your screen in real-time.
  • Craps  – All of craps action, none of the fighting for space at the table.
  • Baccarat – James Bond’s game of choice, now available to everyone

Apple still a potential problem

At Parx’s online casino, players will be able to make wagers from desktop or mobile devices anywhere in Pennsylvania. There was no mention on Parx’s online gaming landing page about whether it would be available on iOS devices. A June policy change on the Apple Store will now affect online gambling as well as sports betting apps.

Apple’s App Store’s recently announced policy states:

“HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce. This functionality is only appropriate for code that’s embedded in the binary and can be reviewed by Apple.”

Hey Siri, what does that mean for PA casino customers hoping to play? Can I play for real money on my iPhone?

She might not give a direct answer, as we don’t know if any casino will be ready for iOS come Monday. She did list an Android app to download. But I will since I’ve bitten by Apple and am poisoned by brand loyalty.

Don’t expect to be gambling on your iPhone next week.

Parx sports betting

Parx  online sportsbook launched at the end of June, four weeks after SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia launched PlaySugarHouse.com Pennsylvania the first legal online/mobile sports betting platform in the state.

Congress Proposes Amendment to Defund DOJ Wire Act Enforcement

Several lawmakers from across the aisle want to Congressionally block funding for Wire Act prosecution and enforcement, but are already hitting road blocks.

Members of Congress proposed an amendment to block funding for the Department of Justice to enforce its new interpretation of the Wire Act.

Online Poker Report first reported that Congress considered amending an appropriations bill to block funding needed to enforce the DOJ’s new Wire Act opinion. It appears that the amendment will not make it into the final language of the bill though.

Congress aims to protect states with legal online gambling

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) is the primary sponsor of the amendment. In addition, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) of the Rules Committee are co-sponsors.

Short and sweet, the proposal could not have been more direct. The full text follows:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enforce the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum entitled ‘Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling’ (issued on Nov. 2, 2018).

Specifically, the amendment is part of an appropriations bill on HR 3055.  And most importantly, HR 3055 apportions the DOJ’s salary.

For this reason, the DOJ would be like a dog without its bite should the amendment pass.  Therefore, states, like Pennsylvania, with regulated online gambling can breathe a sigh of relief as the DOJ would be unable to pursue Wire Act prosecution.

A bit of confusion

As noted regarding HR 3055, two similar amendments were filed. The sponsors earlier withdrew Item #122. Item #152 is added with the addition of Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) as a sponsor.

The Rules Committee met Tuesday at 5 p.m. to consider the bill. Then, they heard HR 3055 on Wednesday. Afterward, the bill passed to the Committee of the Whole.

However, the Committee did not call the amendment for a vote. As of now, there is a little confusion if the amendment will be heard.

DOJ’s looming appeal

After the DOJ issued its new Wire Act interpretation in 2018, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission quickly responded by filing suit.

Essentially, the DOJ took the new position that all forms of online gambling violate the Wire Act. Early this month, Judge Paul Barbadoro sided with the NH Lottery Commission.

More recently, the DOJ issued a memorandum delaying enforcement of the Wire Act until early 2020 or final resolution of the NH Lottery case. In doing so, we speculate that the DOJ is preparing to appeal Barbardoro’s ruling to the First Circuit Court.

Also pending is New Jersey’s Freedom of Information Act case. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal seeks to the release information pertaining to Sheldon Adelson on the DOJ’s new Wire Act opinion.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO, Sheldon Adelson, is a big opponent against online gambling. Previously, multiple sources uncovered Adelson’s links as the driving force behind the new opinion.

DOJ Delaying Enforcement Of New Wire Act Opinion Until 2020

The Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone for Wire Act violations until the pending court case challenging the new opinion is resolved or 2020.

The US Department of Justice is biding time until early 2020 to enforce its new opinion on the Wire Act.

On Wednesday, Online Poker Report obtained and published a memorandum written by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Specifically, the scope of the memo advises DOJ staff members and the Director of the FBI to delay enforcement. The delay is in place until the start of 2020 or 60 days after the final resolution of the New Hampshire Wire Act case.

A brief overview of the Wire Act

Recently, US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro issued a 60-plus page opinion. His opinion negated the DOJ’s new interpretation of the Wire Act.

Recall that the New Hampshire Lottery sued the DOJ after a new DOJ 2018 opinion stated that all forms of online gambling violate the Wire Act.

Previously, a 2011 opinion from the DOJ limited the scope of the Wire Act. The limitation applied only to sports betting occurring across states. The previous opinion paved the way for states such as Pennsylvania to legalize online gambling.

The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post exposed Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson as the driving force behind the DOJ’s 2018 opinion. As a result, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal filed suit against the DOJ to expose Adelson’s links.

Although Barbadoro’s opinion is considered a win for online gambling, the DOJ is not out of options. An appeal can be filed to the 1st Circuit Court.

DOJ’s power play: No safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act

Although the DOJ conceded to pushing back potential Wire Act enforcement, the memo pointedly states there is no “safe harbor” from violations. In doing so, the DOJ retains the power to prosecute those who violate the Wire Act in the past or present.

The memo makes this point crystal clear:

Providing this extension of the forbearance period is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act. All other provisions of the January 15, February 28, and April 8, 2019, memoranda remain in effect.

With that, the DOJ doubles down on its new Wire Act interpretation against all forms of online gambling.

Although the DOJ stated in the memo, “the Department is evaluating its options,” we can practically smell the appeal coming to Barbadoro’s opinion.

What about PA online gambling?

Previously, PGCB announced a July 15 start date Pennsylvania’s online casinos. With the Wire Act concern out of the way, that date has one less concern to worry about. Nonetheless, do not be surprised if many casinos are not ready to go by then.

Additionally, we don’t expect any further expansion of online gambling because PGCB took a cautious approach regarding the Wire Act.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: SugarHouse Transforming To Rivers Philadelphia

The popular Philadelphia casino SugarHouse is ditching the name and fully rebranding. Be ready to start calling it Rivers Philadelphia, effective this fall.

Will a casino by any other name be just as sweet?

SugarHouse Casino is betting on it.

At Wednesday’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting, representatives from SugarHouse’s parent company, Rush Street Gaming, presented plans to rebrand the property to Rivers Casino Philadelphia.

Upgrades on the way

A series of property upgrades later this year are the highlights of the rebrand.

They include:

  • A new state-of-the-art permanent sportsbook
  • A new signature restaurant
  • An online casino experience that complements the brick-and-mortar operations.

The physical transformation of the property will occur over the next several months, including signage, gaming pieces, Team Member uniforms, and more. Rivers Casino Philadelphia will debut in Philly later this fall.

This rebranding represents a $15 million reinvestment in the property. Local companies and contractors will complete all changes to the facility. Additionally, a $164 million expansion in 2016, will continue the property-wide transformation.

Four casinos under one name

Rush Street Gaming and its affiliates own and operate SugarHouse. The company currently has three other casinos in the U.S. operating under the Rivers Casino brand:

  • Rivers Pittsburgh
  • Rivers Des Plaines
  • Rivers Schenectady

Rebranding SugarHouse Casino will enable regional and national marketing to promote one Rivers Casino brand across multiple markets and channels.

There’s no change in ownership of the property.

SugarHouse’s 1,600 employees bring Rush Street’s total workforce to approximately 6,000 across four states. SugarHouse Team Members voted the casino a leading Philadelphia workplace for the 14th time in 2019. Rivers Casino Team Members have similarly lauded their employers many times.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia will remain committed to its Fishtown neighborhood and to the city. The Penn Treaty Special Services District will continue to receive a $1 million annual operating grant from the casino, even after the name change.

Sports betting and online casino advantage

A main reason behind the rebrand is the advent of online sports betting and online gaming. The goal is a seamless brand platform that will enhance customer experiences throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.

“Since receiving our casino license in 2006, gaming in Pennsylvania has evolved tremendously,” said Greg Carlin, CEO of SugarHouse Casino and Rush Street Gaming.

“Keeping pace with the changing landscape has been paramount to our success. Creating a unified brand is another example of how we’re anticipating and responding to the competitive market for gaming.”

PGCB acknowledged SugarHouse’s plans to rebrand during the board’s June 12 meeting.

SugarHouse says guests can expect a seamless transition, expanded players’ club benefits and a 360-degree, full-service gaming experience that includes land-based, mobile, and online.

PlaySugarHouse.com Pennsylvania will align with the Rivers brand later this year. The transition will also be seamless for online players. It is still unclear how this will pan out with the launch of the Rivers Pittsburgh’s real-money sports betting app later this summer.

Timeline of Rivers Casino Philadelphia rebrand

  • Now: Rebranding announcement
  • Early summer: Begin property transformation, including internal controls (signage, gaming items, etc.)
  • Midsummer: Launch iGaming
  • End of summer: Launch of expanded, permanent sportsbook
  • Fall 2019: Ceremonial Rivers Casino Philadelphia launch

Philadelphia-area casinos and sportsbooks

Sugarhouse Casino, Philadelphia’s first casino, opened on Delaware Avenue in 2010. But it’s not only one. Since opening in 2010 other casinos have joined the fray and, especially recently, upped the ante.

Parx Casino, about twenty miles from Philadelphia, opened in 2009 and is now the state’s highest grossing property.

Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia, formerly Harrah’s Chester, opened in 2007 with slots and hose racing. The casino added table games in 2010.

Valley Forge Casino Resort opened in 2012 and is twenty miles from downtown Philadelphia. In January, they announced the addition of 250 new slot machines as part of a complete renovation of the gaming floor.

The renovations “reflect the continued momentum and growth coming from Valley Forge Casino Resort which has invested over $40 million over the past year.”

The $600 million Live! Hotel & Casino is currently being built on the site of the former Holiday Inn north of Citizen’s Bank Park. The property should open in late 2020.

The South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook (a short walk from the Philadelphia sports complex) and Oaks Race & Sportsbook are operated by Greenwood Racing Inc., the parent company of  Parx Casino. Both properties received upgrades earlier this year when sports betting launched.

SugarHouse Casino revenue

In March, SugarHouse was the only Philadelphia-area casino that did not see a year-over increase in total gaming revenue. SugarHouse’s $27.5 million revenue in March was a (distant) second in the state and down four percent from over year.

According to a May 2019 report by the PGCB, SugarHouse’s gross slot machine revenue was $15,563,286.02, a small 0.09 percent gain compared to their 2018 numbers.

In April 2019, Rivers and SugarHouse sportsbooks were second and third, respectively, when it came to sports betting revenue.

What’s in an app name?

SugarHouse launched the state’s first online betting app, PlaySugarHouse.com Pennsylvania.

The western side of the state shouldn’t have to wait too long to join the online betting app action as well. The Rivers Pittsburgh sports betting app is reportedly a few weeks away from launching.

How the rebrand will affect the existing PlaySugarHouse apps in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania is still unclear.

Court Sides With Lottery On Wire Act, But iGaming Not Out Of The Woods Yet

The New Hampshire District Court sides with the NH Lottery regarding the Department of Justice’s troubling new opinion regarding the Wire Act.

On Monday, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission breathed a sigh of relief as US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro sided with gambling interests. Specifically, the 60-plus page opinion found in favor of online gambling, lotteries and casinos and against the Department of Justice’s new Wire Act interpretation.

Recall that New Hampshire previously sued the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) over a revised Wire Act opinion. The core of the revised opinion states that all forms of online gambling violate the Wire Act.

More on the Wire Act decision

On standing

In short, after New Hampshire filed suit, the DOJ responded via a motion to dismiss the case. More specifically, the DOJ claimed the plaintiffs (New Hampshire and the lottery vendors) have no standing to sue. Therefore, there is no right to relief.

Their argument against standing is that New Hampshire and the lottery vendors do not face an imminent threat of prosecution.

Barbadoro effortlessly dismissed the DOJ’s argument on standing.

First, they have openly engaged for many years in conduct that the 2018 OLC Opinion now brands as criminal, and they intend to continue their activities unless they are forced to stop because of a reasonable fear that prosecutions will otherwise ensue. Second, the risk of prosecution is substantial. After operating for years in reliance on OLC guidance that their conduct was not subject to the Wire Act, the plaintiffs have had to confront a sudden about-face by the Department of Justice. Even worse, they face a directive from the Deputy Attorney General to his prosecutors that they should begin enforcing the OLC’s new interpretation of the Act after the expiration of a specified grace period. Given these unusual circumstances, the plaintiffs have met their burden to establish their standing to sue.

Grammatical interpretation

As a reminder, the Wire Act written in 1961 is both outdated and poorly written.  Consequently, it allows for various interpretations. Both New Hampshire and the DOJ argue that the “plain language” of the Wire Act support their arguments.

Barbadoro decided “where, as here, a statute is ambiguous, a court must look at more than grammar to determine its meaning.” After a through examination, Barbadoro concluded to limit the Wire Act to sports gambling. In doing so, his decision “avoids significant coherence problems” which could result from the DOJ’s interpretation.

Limitations on the ruling

The Court took specific notice that the parties disagree on whether judgment should be limited to the parties or be a universal ruling. A universal ruling is applicable to anyone affected including Pennsylvania online lottery and online gambling. Of course, the DOJ wants the ruling to apply only to the parties in the case.

While the Court did agree with the DOJ on this particular argument, Barbadoro also noted that judgment binds the parties outside of New Hampshire. This is due to NeoPollard, New Hampshire’s lottery vendor, operating outside of New Hampshire.

How to extend the judgment

However, all is not lost. Previously, the state of Michigan filed an amicus brief. Their argument is to extend relief to non-parties on behalf of the Lottery Commission.

The National Law Review succinctly outlines Michigan’s argument.

The argument was predicated on the fact that New Hampshire, as a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, benefits financially from the large scale of multi-jurisdictional games such as Powerball. If another state, such as Michigan, shuttered its state lottery, then the overall revenues of Powerball would decline. If the revenues of Powerball decline, then the share of Powerball revenue that New Hampshire receives would decrease. Based on this Michigan argued that the Court should ensure that New Hampshire not suffer any adverse financial effect.

Sadly, New Hampshire did not use this argument. For this reason, Barbadoro stated, “Should the Lottery Commission wish to pursue such relief, however, I am willing to entertain its claim.”

New Hampshire Lottery Commission has 14 days to file the motion. This motion requires the fleshing out of adequate factual and legal arguments.

What now?

Although Barbadoro ruled in favor of New Hampshire, the DOJ can still appeal to the First Circuit Court.

Should the appeal occur, the First Circuit Court has to review the case de novo. This means the court reviews the case anew or independently as if no decision by Barbadoro was previously made.

As a result, the appeals process will take months, if not years to finalize.

PA online poker

So, who benefits most from the ruling on the Wire Act? The answer is Pennsylvania online poker players.

The DOJ’s Wire Act opinion threw Pennsylvania’s expansion of online poker compacting and multi-state lottery games right into violation of their interpretation. Fortunately, Barbadoro’s ruling clears the way for the expansion of online poker in PA should the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board decide to proceed.

The exciting potential of PA entering the online poker compact would immediately double the amount of online poker players across the four compacted states.

Wind Creek Officially On Its Way To Gambling In PA

PA Gaming Control recently approved the transfer of gaming license for Sands Bethlehem from Sands Corp to new owner, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) finally approved the change of Sands Bethlehem’s license to Poarch Creek Indians Gaming Authority (PCI Gaming).

PCI Gaming operates under the Wind Creek Hospitality Brand. The $1.3 billion sale of Sands Bethlehem also requires Wind Creek to pay a change-of-control fee of $3.75 million to PGCB’s coffers.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris projects the transition to occur very quickly. Specifically, the sale might conclude as early as this week. In addition, $15 million has been earmarked for rebranding expenditures. Dorris expects rebranding to be complete within 90 days.

Artist rendering of Wind Creek (Wind Creek/Contributed)

Bigger and bigger: more hotel rooms and meeting space

To begin with, Wind Creek presented an expansion plan to PGCB  for $90 million included in its acquisition funding.

Currently, amenities include:

  • 282 hotel rooms
  • Over 183,000 square footage of casino floor space
  • 3,000 slots and electronic table games
  • 200 table games
  • Multiple food and beverage vendors
  • A 150,000 square foot retail mall
  • 27,000 square feet of convention space

In two years, another 276 hotel rooms and 42,000 square feet of meeting space will be completed.

Wind Creek stated in its presentation that the current hotel space is 93% occupied. This means that potential hotel guests are turned away on a weekly basis. While that is good news, Sands Bethlehem did decline by $7 million in conventions last year due to its meager meeting space.

Get ready for a new wild and wet adventure

Wind Creek has ambitious plans for the vacant and desolate No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site. Specifically, the site will transform into a 300,000 square foot adventure and water park. Also, this expansion includes another expansion of 400 hotel rooms.

Most importantly, the acquisition financing includes $100 million towards the revitalization of the Machine Shop. However, this project’s budget is $250 million. As a result, Wind Creek is actively soliciting investors for the remainder $150 million.

Make way for the online casino

Conditional for the sale of Sands Bethlehem to Wind Creek, Sands executives applied for and gained approval from the PGCB for a PA interactive gaming license in October 2018.

Currently, Wind Creek is actively seeking an online casino platform. The expectation is to finalize a partnership and launch the online casino within three months, but that is probably a lofty goal given how much work is involved. If they did meet that deadline, this time frame would fall directly in line with Dorris’ rebranding transition timeline.

Keep in mind that many PA operators have been working at an online product for almost a year and are still at risk of potentially missing the July 15 launch date.

Sports betting still in the works

Wind Creek aims to add PA sports betting to their casino. Admittedly, the process needs to commence.

Sands did not apply for a sports betting license. The company knew they were selling the property and sports betting applications do not have a deadline.

Now Wind Creek can move forward on sports betting, but first, it needs to finalize a partner. Once they have one though, they can move forward on applying for a $10 million license.

Cleaning up the underage gambling issues

In April, Sands was forced to pay out $120,000 in underage gambling fines. Historically, underage gambling is a recurring issue at Sands Bethlehem.

As anticipated, PGCB questioned Wind Creek ensuring a hard line is in place against underage gambling. In addition to current measures, facial recognition to match government ID along with hiring more employees is expected in the near future.

PGCB Rolls Out Online Gambling Self-Exclusion Program

With online gambling starting to roll out, the PA Gaming Control Board released info about its new iGaming Self-Exclusion program for problem gamblers.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) recently released new measures for responsible gambling in the PA online casino space. Now that online gaming is imminent, the group has a process for the iGaming Self Exclusion Program.

Specifically, the self-exclusion program allows a player to request exclusion from PA online gambling sites, both sportsbook and casino. In addition, this includes prohibition from “collecting any winnings, recovering any losses or accepting complimentary gifts or services or any other thing of value at any licensed facility.”

How to request self-exclusion

The processes for online and brick and mortar self-exclusion are fairly similar. Though it is interesting to note that there are two separate lists, so if you want to be self-excluded from both, you need to go through this process twice.

In short, anyone may request self-exclusion. However, you cannot request self-exclusion for someone else.

First, complete the paperwork made available by the PGCB. Second, to submit your request, you must schedule an appointment at the PGCB Harrisburg Office or one of the regional offices.

To make an appointment, call 717-346-8300.

Equally important, you cannot mail or e-mail a self-exclusion request. You must apply in person in order to be photographed along with a valid government identification with signature and photograph.

Required information for self-exclusion

To begin the online self-exclusion process, have the following information ready:

  • Name, including aliases or nicknames
  • Date of birth
  • Address of current residence
  • Telephone number
  • Social security number (optional)
  • Government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport

Choose the duration for exclusion

PGCB allows you to choose how long to be excluded from gaming. Specifically, you have a choice of one year (12 months), five years or lifetime.

Accordingly, please note that whatever you choose is the minimum length of exclusion.

Please note, self-exclusions of 1 or 5 years remain even after the time period is up until you request removal. Submit the request for removal by calling 717-346-8300.

Equally important, if you choose the lifetime ban, you are unable to request removal.

What happens after signing up

Any licensed facility must refuse wagers and disallow gaming privileges.

Equally important, if you somehow manage to gamble while on the Self-Exclusion List, you will be barred from collecting any winnings or recovering losses.

Problems with gambling

Should you believe that you have a problem with gambling, call the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania Hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

For more information and any questions or concerns, visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov or e-mail [email protected]

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board 
Attn: Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling  
P.O. Box 69060 
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9060

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.