Philly Casino Wins Bid To Build Pittsburgh-Area Satellite Casino

The group behind a second Philadelphia casino set to open in 2020 has won a $40 million bid to build a satellite casino in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The group behind a second Philadelphia casino set to open in 2020 is now making plans to build not one, but two new casino properties. Stadium Casino, LLC‘s $40 million bid to build a satellite casino in Westmoreland County in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area was the highest of four received by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board this week.

The bid was a part of the second in a series of satellite casino project auctions. As a result, it won the auction. Stadium now has two business days to pay the $40,100,005 it bid. Additionally, it has another six months to submit an application for a Category 4 satellite casino slot machine license.

Category 4 slot machine licenses permit the operation of between 300 and 750 slot machines. License holders can also apply for permission to operate up to 30 table games for an additional fee of $2.5 million. Additionally, after the first year of operation, ten more table games can be added.

Penn National Gaming vs. Pennsylvania

In the state’s first auction held on Jan. 10, a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming that operates Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course was the high bidder. It’s $50 million bid is for a satellite casino in York County. York County is just south of the capital city of Harrisburg and north of the Mason-Dixon line.

However, Penn National Gaming is also suing the state to have the buffer zones around existing casinos where satellite casinos cannot be built changed to better protect its Hollywood Casino.

Stadium Casino, LLC is a joint venture between the Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment.

Greenwood currently operates Parx Casino just outside Philadelphia. Additionally, Cordish Companies’ US casino projects include two Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, Florida and the Maryland Live! Hotel & Casino in Hanover, Maryland.

Philadelphia’s second casino

The joint venture already holds a Category 2 license for a major casino project in Philadelphia. Plans were to open in the first quarter of 2018. However, a legal battle and question regarding casino ownership laws in the state forced delays.

Questions arose regarding whether Greenwood principal Watche “Bob” Manoukian’s ownership interest in Parx and the new Philadelphia casino project represented a breach of casino ownership laws in the state.

However, the state eventually gave Manoukian the thumbs up. Additionally, Philadelphia’s only other casino, SugarHouse Casino, dropped an appeal of the project’s gaming license after the new gambling law changed ownership standards.

Ultimately, the company received the gaming license granted to it by the state and a building permit.

Construction on the $600 million casino and entertainment complex will begin sometime this year. It will go up at the former Packer Avenue Holiday Inn property located in South Philadelphia’s sports stadium district.

The complex will include a 200-plus room hotel, five restaurants, nightclubs, and a parking garage. Its casino will feature 2,000 slot machines and 125 table games. It will open in 2020.

Opening beside the city’s sports stadiums should make it a true destination for fans of gambling and sports. Owners claim it will be the first comprehensive gaming, resort, entertainment, and sports destination in the US.

The Pittsburgh-area gaming market

Satduims’s satellite casino will obviously be much smaller in scale and scope. However, it does represent a move into the Pittsburgh-area gaming market.

Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s second-largest city. SugarHouse Casino owners Rush Street Gaming already have a stronghold on the intersection of sports and gambling there.

In fact, its Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is in the city’s North Shore neighborhood, just a short walk from Heinz Field. The 68,400-seat Heinz Field stadium is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers National Football League franchise.

Photo by Joshua Haviv / Shutterstock.com

Sands Reaches The Top As Pennsylvania Casino Revenues Rise 3.86 Percent

For the first time this year, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem became Pennsylvania’s top-grossing casino in September, overtaking perennial leader Parx.

For the first time this year, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem became Pennsylvania’s top-grossing casino in September.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released total gambling revenue figures for the month of September last week, showing Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem pulled in more than $47.5 million.

Parx Casino has held the revenue lead every month this year prior to September. However, the Philadelphia-area casino fell to second among the state’s 12 casino properties, posting $47.4 million in revenue throughout the month.

Parx was the top-grossing casino in the state in 2016. It claimed more than $551 million in annual gambling revenue. Sands was a close second, posting a little more than $535 million throughout the year.

While Parx held a strong lead in slots revenue in 2016, Sands earned almost $70 million more from table games, bridging the gap.

A tight race at the top

It has been close at the top through the first eight months of the year. However, Parx has been putting a small distance between itself and Sands every month until September. With just three more months until the end of they year, Parx would still have to be considered the favorite to remain Pennsylvania’s top-grossing casino in 2017.

The news was good across the board for Pennsylvania’s gambling industry in September. In fact, total gaming revenue was up more than $10 million, or 3.86 percent, compared to September 2016.

Total statewide gambling revenue hit $271 million in September compared to $260.9 million in the same month last year.

Just two PA casinos see declines

In fact, just two PA casinos saw revenues decline.

Mohegan Sun Pocono’s total gambling revenues were down 3.56 percent from $21.5 million in September 2016 to $20.7 million last month. Additionally, Presque Isle Downs and Casino saw its total gambling revenue drop 3.37 percent from $11.5 million in September of last year to $11.1 million last month.

The biggest gains were seen by Mount Airy Casino Resort. Its total gambling revenue jumped 8.69 percent from $15.9 million in September 2016 to $17.3 million last month. Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh also saw some impressive gains. Its total gambling revenue rose 8.02 percent from $26.1 million in September of last year to $28.2 million last month.

Statewide table game revenues were up nearly 10 percent from $68.7 million in September 2016 to $75.6 million last month. However, slot machines continue to be the biggest earners at PA casinos. In September 2017 alone, statewide total slot revenues hit more than $195 million.

More than $108 million in taxes collected

Pennsylvania collects a 16 percent tax on table game revenues and a 54 percent tax rate on slot machine revenues. The total tax gambling tax revenue collected by the state in September 2017 was $108,307,631.75.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are still considering legalizing online gambling in the state as a part of budget deliberations this year. The hope is online gambling can bring in an additional $200 million in tax revenue for the state.

Image credit: Andy Borysowski / Shutterstock.com

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.

Proposed Philadelphia Casino May Be Further Complicating PA Online Gambling Bill

A bill aimed at clearing a path for a second casino in Philadelphia could be complicating Pennsylvania online gambling legislation even further.

A second Philadelphia casino has become yet another issue surrounding casino expansion currently complicating things for Pennsylvania lawmakers.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved spending levels on a $32 billion budget. However, discussions regarding how the state will pay for it, including online gambling legislation, have stalled.

A comprehensive PA gambling expansion bill

At the crux of the issue is a comprehensive gambling expansion bill that would legalize, regulate and tax:

  • PA online casinos
  • PA online poker rooms
  • daily fantasy sports
  • video gaming terminals at liquor licensed establishments; and
  • tablet gaming a airports locations.

Proposed tax rates for online casinos and video gaming terminals have proved the biggest sticking points.

The PA Senate originally passed legislation including a 54 percent proposed tax rate on online casino games and 16 percent on online poker. Pennsylvania’s 12 land-based casinos currently pay a 54 percent tax on slot machine revenue and 16 percent on table games.

However, the PA House amended the bill to include a 16 percent tax rate across the board. Plus, the House added the plan to authorize video gaming terminals at licensed establishments.

A decision was expected this week. But while insiders report the tax rate issue is close to being resolved, no agreement on video gaming terminals has been reached.

A proposed second Philadelphia casino

In the meantime, a bill aimed at clearing a path for a second casino in Philadelphia, and a 13th inside state borders, could be complicating things even further.

A proposal to build Stadium Casino’s Live! Hotel and Casino was approved by state regulators in November 2014. Once it opened near the sports arenas in South Philadelphia, just off I-95, the property would have been the Philadelphia area’s second casino. SugarHouse Casino in the Fishtown neighborhood is the only Philadelphia casino currently in operation.

However, SugarHouse and others opposed the project, claiming investor Bob Manoukian’s interest in it was in contravention of the state’s one and one-third rule. The rule states a majority owner in one casino can’t own more than one-third of another. Manoukian currently owns approximately 85 percent of Parx Casino in Bensalem.

Further complications

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to sort out the ownership issue. But in the meantime, Rep. Scott Petri, the Republican chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, introduced a bill that would repeal the one and one-third rule.

In fact, last week Petri told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper his bill may be included as a measure in the comprehensive gambling expansion bill currently being considered by lawmakers, further complicating the entire issue.

In fact, adding another contentious issue may help push consideration of the entire gambling expansion package to the fall.

PA Gambling Revenues Fell Slightly In May With Online Gambling Relief Most Likely In Sight

An increase in table game revenues in Pennsylvania did not prevent a dip in gambling revenues in May, but PA online gambling could soon provide relief.

A more-than four percent increase in table game revenues in Pennsylvania last month could not prevent a decrease in total gambling revenues across the state.

According to numbers released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week, May 2017 table games revenues reached $74,464,759. This represented a close to 4.4 percent year-over-year increase over the $71,342,206 in table game revenues reported in May 2016.

Slot machine revenues in PA continue to decline

However, the board reported earlier this month that Pennsylvania slot machine revenues were down from $208,852,793 in May 2016 to $203,248,176 to last month. This represented a 2.68 percent year-over-year drop.

Plus, combining the two numbers shows Pennsylvania’s total gaming revenue was down 0.89 percent from May of last year. Statewide total gaming revenues hit $277,712,934 in May 2017, compared to $280,194,999 in May 2016.

Statewide total revenue decreases return

Pennsylvania saw five straight months of year-over-year declines in statewide total gaming revenues end in March of this year.

Slot machine revenues continued to decline, but an increase in table game revenues made up the difference. The same held true for April of this year, when table game revenues and total gaming revenues increased, even as slot revenues continued to slide.

Online gambling revenue relief

Of course, relief could be right around the corner as the PA Legislature is currently considering a comprehensive gambling expansion bill that could increase statewide total gaming revenues. The Pennsylvania Senate and House have each passed version of the legislation that would legalize, regulate and tax:

  • online casinos in PA
  • PA online poker rooms
  • daily fantasy sports
  • video gaming terminals at liquor licensed establishments; and
  • tablet gaming at specified airports across the state.

There are currently 10 standalone and racetrack casinos, plus two resort casinos in Pennsylvania.

The average number of slot machines operating daily at these properties last month was 26,092. The average number of table games of in operation daily was 1,236.

Total tax revenue from table games play during May was $12,003,743. However, Pennsylvania charges a 54 percent tax on slot machines, compared to 16 percent on table games. That means total tax revenue from slots was a much larger $107,671,693.

Proposed tax rates for online casino operations continue to be a sticking point for Pennsylvania’s comprehensive gambling expansion bill. The Senate originally passed legislation with a 54 percent proposed tax rate on online casino games.

However, the House amended the bill to include a proposed tax rate of 16 percent across the board on online gambling operations. The bill was passed by the House including this amendment and is currently back before the Senate.

Parx and Sands lead PA casino revenue

In the meantime, the gaming board’s numbers show Parx Casino leading the state in total gaming revenues with $48,318,937. This was up 2.63 percent compared to the same month last year.

Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem was a close second with $48,222,089 in total gaming revenues, up 1.56 percent from May of 2016.

Both properties have expressed concerns with the idea of state legalizing and regulating online gambling.

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

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

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

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

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

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

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

Stakes and games typically found at Harrah’s are:

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

Parx Casino

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

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

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

Stakes and games typically found at Parx are:

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

SugarHouse Casino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These Are The Hurdles That Could Trip Up PA Online Gambling Regulation

Pennsylvania appears to be on its way to offering legal online poker and casino games, but there are a few potential roadblocks to online gaming regulation.

With four online gaming bills introduced by Pennsylvania legislators in 2015 (and a fifth due shortly), proponents of online poker in the state have cause for a healthy sense of optimism.

But before setting up shop in Pennsylvania, virtual casinos must navigate a few more hurdles.

The Adelson factor

One major stumbling block faced by PokerStars and other platforms hoping to break into the Pennsylvania market is the staunch opposition of Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson.

The resort mogul, who has described himself as “morally opposed” to online gaming, is a prolific contributor to political campaigns and lobbying efforts, and a powerful force in both state and federal policymaking.

With Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem commanding a strong market position among Pennsylvania casinos, the billionaire will continue to play a central role in any talks surrounding proposed legislation. Adelson’s Pennsylvania campaign has already enlisted prominent lobbyist Blanche Lincoln, who last month criticized online gaming in a PennLive op-ed.

“The risk to our families, Pennsylvania jobs and our communities is just not worth the reward,” wrote the former Arkansas senator, adding the venture has been a “proven, consistent fiscal loser” in Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.

Speaking before Pennsylvania’s Gaming Oversight Committee in April, Sands executive Andy Abboud reiterated the company’s opposition to the proposed legislation.

“Our investment has had profound effect on Bethlehem,” Abboud said. “None of this investment would have occurred if Pennsylvania had Internet gambling. None of these good jobs would have been created.”

Abboud argued online gaming would undermine the state’s efforts to keep minors from participating.

“There is no way to prevent a player from logging on and handing their iPad to a minor,” he said.

Bridging the tax gap

Also standing between PokerStars and the Pennsylvania marketplace is the question of proposed tax rates. In HB 649, the last bill to be formally introduced, virtual casinos would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent, significantly lower than the rates at which live casinos are taxed.

But some lawmakers fear that such a low figure would cause casinos to divest from brick and mortar establishments, lowering overhead costs to cash in on higher Internet profit margins, in turn costing the state much-needed tax dollars.

In a memorandum last week, Senator Sean Wiley announced plans to draft a new online gaming bill – which would be the fifth such bill of the year for Pennsylvania – which would instead tax virtual casinos at a rate of 36 percent.

Wiley’s bill would be contingent on a proposed study “to determine the impact online gaming would have on existing brick and mortar casinos,” as the memorandum read.

Where exactly does Parx stand on PA online gambling issue?

Further complicating matters for virtual casinos is an amendment recently proposed by Parx, which would require on-site casino registration for online players. Parx Senior Vice President of Gaming Development Don Ryan said the tactic would “strengthen the relationship” between the casino and its clientele.

While the widely-criticized demand is unlikely to find its way into a finalized bill, it reflects the generally tepid approach of Parx and its boss Bob Green toward online gaming in Pennsylvania.

“The first priority must be to protect the bricks and mortar casino industry,” Green told the Pennsylvania gaming board last year. Green has said that New Jersey’s legalization of online gaming caused a decline in Parx poker room receipts.

But Parx has nonetheless prepared for the possibility of online gaming in Pennsylvania, announcing a partnership last year with online platform GameAccount Network.