New Fox Sports Partnership Will Bring Fox Bet to PA

A massive new deal between The Stars Group and Fox Sports will bring a new brand, Fox Bet, to states with sports betting, including Pennsylvania.

A historic sports media and betting partnership will soon establish its presence in Pennsylvania.

Last week, Fox Sports and The Stars Group Inc. announced their plans to launch Fox Bet. It is a sports wagering partnership that will bring a wide variety of gaming branded under the Fox Sports name.

According to Legal Sports Report, the Fox corporation will pay $236 million for a stake of just less than 5% in The Stars Group.

The Fox Bet partnership will launch this fall

The Fox Bet partnership between Fox Sports and The Stars Group is the first significant venture in America to utilize the reach of a major media outlet alongside a real-money gaming enterprise.

According to the news release, contests will launch this fall and feature both free-play games and traditional sports betting.

The free contests will award prizes for predicting the winners of sports games. The Fox Bet product will feature a wide variety of betting options in states with legalized sports gambling.

Mount Airy Casino will feature Fox Bet branding

In Pennsylvania, the Fox Bet brand will be used with  Mount Airy Casino’s sportsbook. According to Play Pennsylvania, Robin Chhabra, CEO of Fox Bet, said the free-play games should launch at the beginning of the 2019 NFL season. Fox Bet will also offer a real-money betting app in states with regulated online betting.

In New Jersey, the Fox Bet brand will replace the BetStars brand before football season starts. It will be interesting to see if the change in branding affects future earnings.

The FanDuel and DraftKings branded betting apps have often been the leaders in online betting revenue in New Jersey.

Pennsylvania online betting launch is imminent. However, Mount Airy is only just beginning the sports betting application process. With that in mind, getting Fox Bet PA up and launched by football seems like a longshot.

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Fox Bet will likely expand to other states

Per Legal Sports Report, the FOX Bet brand will likely expand to include many other states as well. Last November, The Stars Group announced a 20-year agreement with Eldorado Resorts that could provide betting access to 13 states pending the legalization of sports betting in all those states.

In West Virginia, where sports betting is already legal, the Eldorado group owns the Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland.

FOX Bet represents a victory for the acceptance of sports betting

As legalized sports betting continues to expand across the country, the FOX Bet announcement signals a major victory for the public perception of wagering.

One of the biggest entities in sports media is jumping headfirst into the gaming industry. It’s possible that others could follow. Legal Sports Report mentioned that NBC Sports, CBS Sports and Comcast have each taken exploratory steps to get involved in the industry.

Betting could be featured on TV broadcasts

From a big picture standpoint, the synergy of betting lines and wagering combined with media coverage and televised sports should continue to advance the public’s acceptance of sports gambling.

And all that excitement will make its way to Pennsylvania soon.

“Fox Sports is already synonymous with the best live sports events in the country,” Fox Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks said in the press release.

“Now we are expanding the way we immerse fans in the sports culture they love. Digital sports wagering represents a growing market opportunity that allows us to diversify our revenue streams, connect directly with consumers and expand the reach of the FOX Sports brand.”

PokerStars Officially A Part Of The PA Online Poker Galaxy

PokerStars is set to launch in Pennsylvania in early 2019 after getting approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week.

PokerStars is set to launch in Pennsylvania in early 2019 after getting the thumbs up from PA regulators last week.

At its latest meeting Nov. 28, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the global online poker giant’s PA interactive gaming petition. This opens the door for PokerStars to launch an online poker and PA online casino site in the Commonwealth in the first quarter of 2019.

PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group inked a deal to operate in PA under Mount Airy Casino Resort‘s license this past August. At the time, both sides said the plan included the launch of a full suite of online gambling products, plus sports betting under The Stars Group’s BetStars brand. However, neither side has applied for a PA sports betting license as of yet.

PokerStars in the US

Up until now, New Jersey lawmakers have been alone in allowing PokerStars to operate in the US. In fact, the US Department of Justice closed the US market to PokerStars in 2011. At the time, the DOJ charged its principals with a number of money laundering and bank fraud offenses.

PokerStars has since changed ownership and settled the case. It returned to the US in 2016, launching PokerStars NJ in the fenced-in New Jersey market.

There, PokerStars NJ operates under the Resorts Casino Hotel NJ online gambling license. Resorts Casino Hotel is managed by the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which also owns and operates Mohegan Sun Pocono in PA.

Mohegan Sun Pocono

At its Nov. 28 meeting, the PGCB also approved Mohegan Sun Pocono’s interactive gaming petition. It is moving forward on slots and table games, but withdrew the online poker portion of its application.

Mohegan Sun Pocono is now moving ahead with an online casino operation that shouldshe  launch in early 2019.

Now that PokerStars is set to launch in a second US state, its hopes for further expansion across the US are two-fold.

First of all, PokerStars will be eagerly anticipating PA lawmakers signing the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) agreement.

PA joining MSIGA will allow PokerStars to share player pools between its NJ and PA sites. However, PokerStars will launch in a fenced-in PA market and all indications are it will be at least a year before PA lawmakers sign on to MSIGA.

PokerStars and Eldorado

Plus, on Nov. 26, The Stars Group inked an agreement with US casino operator Eldorado Resorts, Inc. The deal gives The Stars Group the option to operate online sports betting and online gambling with Eldorado casino properties in 11 different states.

The 11 states covered in the agreement are:

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia

However, it’s unclear which state the company will go to next.

Of these 11 states, only Nevada has any kind of online gambling legislation on the books.

However, Nevada’s online gambling laws prevent PokerStars from entering its online poker market. The law includes “bad-actor” language instituting a lifetime ban on operators who accepted US customers after Congress passed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. PokerStars is among these operators.

Mississippi and West Virginia have launched legal sports betting. If either state approves online and mobile operations, they could be next for The Stars Group after PA.

On the online gambling front, Illinois is the most likely from this list to pass legislation in the near future. Although, it remains unclear if Illinois lawmakers will follow Nevada’s lead on ‘bad actor’ language, or be open to PokerStars like NJ and PA.

Mount Airy And PokerStars Enter Into Committed PA Gambling Partnership

Mount Airy may be a small Pennsylvania casino, but it landed a big-time partner for online casino and sports betting in PokerStars owner The Stars Group.

Mount Airy Casino Resort is making moves.

The casino that managed to get a law-protected buffer from satellite casinos as well as satellite casino — Mount Airy Pittsburgh — has now announced it will partner with The Stars Group to offer online sports betting and an online casino, pending licensing approvals from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

“Offering internet sports wagering and gaming and partnering with The Stars Group is the obvious next step for us to continue diversifying our casino offerings,” Mount Airy Vice President of Marketing and Gaming Operations Vincent Jordan said in a press release. “Introducing internet gaming through The Stars Group will provide compelling opportunities for our customers, particularly our younger customers, who are ready to experience the next gaming challenge.”

According to multiple reports, PokerStars, one of The Stars Group’s companies, will run Mount Airy’s online casino, online sports betting, and online poker.

Details of potenital Mount Airy online offerings

The press release from Mount Airy and The Stars Group did not go into detail about what their online platform would look like.

However, they did provide a somewhat basic framework of what could be ahead:

  • Single account
  • Common wallet between casino, sports betting and poker platforms
  • Multiple deposit and withdrawal options
  • “Seamless offering of betting and gaming options”

The Stars Group’s reputation certainly warrants that their product will be excellent, as their multiple brands include respected names like PokerStars, Full Tilt and BetStars.

The group’s announcement earlier this week is the second time this month they’ve made news. On Aug. 1, they announced that BetStars won approval for a sports betting license through Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.

Mount Airy second in PA to announce online gambling, sports betting

In mid-July, Parx Casino announced its partnership with online operator GAN, a well-known company whose relationship with Parx goes all the way back to 2015.

The partnership broke what was a somewhat awkward silence during a period of time when the online gambling community wondered when the PGCB would get applications for online sports betting.

It certainly made sense that Parx, the perennial revenue champion in the state, led the way with the first online sports-betting and online casino partnership; the first in the history of the state, to be exact.

That it took some time for casinos to petition for sports betting and online casino licenses led many to wonder if the state’s tax rate for sports betting — 36 percent — was scaring off casinos.

While the rate is more than four times as high as neighboring New Jersey, it did not deter Parx and Mount Airy. High taxes or not, online gambling presents a revenue opportunity, an opportunity that at least two casinos are happy to embrace.

PokerStars Is Ready For A Piece Of The Pennsylvania Online Poker Pie

During an earnings call among execs from PokerStars’ parent company, Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said the company is ready to operate in Pennsylvania.

PokerStars is an online gambling titan in New Jersey. Now, it’s setting its sights on Pennsylvania online gambling.

Earlier this month, Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that PokerStars is ready to offer online gambling in PA.

“We are poised to take advantage of the positive momentum in the growth of online gaming globally and the continued march towards regulation, including in the United States where we aim to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its door to online poker and casino,” Ashkenazi said.

How PokerStars will fit into the legal PA online poker landscape

The Pennsylvania gambling expansion bill passed at the end of October legalized online gambling, an umbrella term that includes PA online poker, slots, and table games.

Each type of online gambling will require a license, which means the law opened up a total of 36 permits for the state’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos.

Within the first 90 days of the permits becoming available, casinos can purchase all three licenses for $10 million. Once the 90 days have passed, the price will go up to $4 million per license.

Should PokerStars operate in the state, it will have to pay a $1 million fee to do so.

What the tax structure looks like for PA iGaming

Projections show the average tax rates for Pennsylvania’s online gambling products will be 42 percent. That breaks down to 67.5 percent for slots, 22.5 percent of table games, and 10 percent for poker.

However, that tax rate isn’t the only fee PA casinos will pay. According to estimates, once taxes, administrative needs, regulatory fees, advertising, marketing, and payment processing are taken care of, casinos will be left with approximately five percent of the money generated through their online gambling sites.

As for the state, Harrisburg should see $400 million from Pennsylvania online gambling in the first five years. That number includes $120 million from the licensing fees mentioned earlier, revenue tax, and fees associated with casinos and operators renewing their licensing fees. The projections are that Pennsylvania’s online gambling market will grow from $154 million in Year 1 to $275 million in Year 5.

These numbers take into account Pennsylvania joining a player pool with the other states currently offering legal online poker: Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.

Steve Wynn: I’m For Sure Not Getting Into The Online Gambling Business

In an appearance on Nevada talk show Ralston Live, Steve Wynn said he still has no interest in legal online gambling, despite a past PokerStars partnership.

Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn recently appeared on Ralston Live, a Nevada TV show hosted by veteran journalist Jon Ralston. The two covered a number of topics, including a brief, potentially exciting, segment on online gambling.

Wynn, who unlike Sheldon Adelson is careful to couch his comments on the topic, told Ralston he agrees with Sheldon [Adelson] that online gambling is bad for the gaming industry. However, Wynn’s concerns remain rooted in what he believes are poor financial expectations, as well as courting potential negative public perception should something go wrong.

“I believe Internet gaming is not going to happen in any way that is meaningful to Las Vegas,” Wynn stated – an indication he continues to see the industry as not worth the hassle from a fiscal standpoint.

He also said, “We’ll get blamed if anything goes wrong.”

When asked if he was going to get involved in online gaming by Ralston, Wynn quickly replied, “I’m not going to get into it…for sure.”

The reason why Wynn no longer has an interest in online expansion (he once did, but more on that below) may have to do with the rationale behind an unprompted comment he made concerning potential federal legislation during the interview:

“I don’t think it has any chance of getting through the House of Representatives and even if it did it would be at the behest, at the encouragement of the state lottery boards, who want to go in that business.”

Precisely what “it” is, is unclear.

Based on the context, it doesn’t appear Wynn was talking about RAWA, but then again maybe he was, as there are many ways to parse this nonspecific statement.

  1. Is Wynn speaking of RAWA and a potential carveout for state lotteries in the Sheldon Adelson-backed piece of legislation?
  2. Is Wynn speaking of Joe Barton’s proposed online poker legalization bill resurfacing?
  3. Is Wynn referencing an as yet unknown proposal to legalize online gambling at the federal level spearheaded by state lottery boards?

However his comment is dissected, it appears Steve Wynn may very well believe the future of online gaming in the U.S. will not be in the hands of the brick and mortar casino industry, and will instead be driven by state lottery boards, much as it is in Delaware, with brick and mortar casinos in the passenger seat.

This could explain his current opposition to online gaming.

In the end, the comment could mean little, or it could signify a dynamic change is about to take place regarding online gaming talk at the federal level.

Wynn’s evolved online gambling position

What makes Wynn’s current feelings about online gaming perplexing is his seemingly inherent fear of the unknown, something the gaming mogul isn’t well known for.

As Wynn himself stated to Ralston, “Most of the money has been made by the best, the newest, and the most competitive properties, and I suspect it will stay that way.”

Online gaming would seem to be precisely the type of cutting edge revenue stream that Steve Wynn would want to get out in front of.

In fact, he has in the past.

Wynn and PokerStars pre-Black Friday

In 2011 Nevada was making strides towards legalizing online gambling, and talk of a federal bill was all the rage.

In this environment several casinos started pairing up with online gaming operators. One of those partnerships was Wynn Resorts and PokerStars, which was announced in late March of 2011.

At the time of the deal Wynn was pro-regulation, telling Forbes:

“We are convinced that the lack of regulation of Internet gaming within the US must change. We must recognize that this activity is occurring and that law enforcement does not have the tools to stop it.”

The deal was nixed just a few weeks later following the Department of Justice crackdown on offshore online poker operators in what became known as Black Friday.

Wynn Resorts issued the following press release the very same day the indictments came down, on April 15, 2011:

“LAS VEGAS, April 15, 2011—Wynn Resorts, Limited announced today that it terminated its alliance with PokerStars, the online poker company. The decision was reached as a result of the indictment unsealed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

Wynn looks to regulated markets

The untimely end of Wynn’s deal with PokerStars was not the casino mogul’s last attempt at getting involved in online gaming in the U.S.

In 2012 Wynn Resorts applied for an online poker license in Nevada, and following the passage of an online gambling bill in New Jersey, the company applied for a license there in 2013.

Wynn Resorts allied with 888 Holdings as its online gaming platform provider in both states. And since the company doesn’t operate a land-based casino in New Jersey, it also struck a deal with longtime competitor Caesars Entertainment to house its online gaming servers.

In both cases Wynn was approved for licensure, but this coincided with Steve Wynn’s change of heart on the issue, and the licenses were never acted upon.

Image by WynnLasVegas / CC BY-SA 3.0

Dust Off The Lucky Mouse: Online Gambling Drawing Closer In PA

Online gambling regulation is a hot topic in Pennsylvania, with three bills to legalize internet poker and casino games floating around in the state.

The Pennsylvania House will have three online gaming bills to choose from following the introduction of an online gaming bill by Representative Tina Davis. The Pennsylvania House of Representative Gaming Oversight Committee will also host two online gambling hearings in the coming weeks, one on April 16 and a second one on May 6.

Davis is a known commodity on this issue as she was an early adopter of legalizing online gaming in PA. Davis first took up the cause back in 2013, but despite her history on this issue, the bill that is likely to be acted upon is the one introduced by Gaming Oversight Chairman John Payne.

Representative Payne and HB 649

Payne’s bill (HB 649) is good reflection of the current landscape, as it doesn’t contain bad actor language and expressly allows for interstate compacts. Additionally, as the GO Committee Chair, and with the support of GO Committee Democratic Co-Chair Nick Kotik, the bill has top-down support from both sides of the aisle.

In addition to the details noted above, Payne’s bill calls for the following:

  • Online gaming sites to be run by brick and mortar casinos licensed in Pennsylvania.
  • $5 million licensing fee for operators and $1 million for “significant” vendors.
  • A 14 percent tax on gross gaming revenue.

While similar in nature, the other two bills that have been introduced have significant flaws.

Representative Davis and HB 920

Davis’s bill is a carbon copy of her 2013 bill and is simply too short on details to be a contender, especially when you consider the crux of Davis’s bill (HB 920) is the same as the more detailed Payne bill.

This shouldn’t be an issue, as Davis, who is also a member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, cosponsored Representative Payne’s bill.

Put this all together and it seems highly unlikely Davis’s bill will be the one that moves forward.

Representative Miccarelli and HB 695

In contrast, Representative Nick Miccarelli’s bill (HB 695) calls for a starkly different path forward for PA online gaming.

Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t really reflect the online gaming landscape of 2015. The bill would legalize online poker only and contains strict bad actor language that would prohibit PokerStars from applying for a license.

Like Davis, Miccarelli is also a cosponsor of Payne’s HB 649.

Last year this would have been a perfectly reasonable bill (Caesars was lobbying for just such a bill in 2014), but the consensus opinion in the industry in 2015 is online poker by itself will not produce enough revenue for the state to bother regulating, and with the new alliance between Caesars and PokerStars, the calls for strict bad actor language have diminished.

Miccarelli’s bill is a legitimate alternative to the legislation introduced by Representative Payne, but it seems unlikely to gain any traction due to its restrictive nature.

April 16 hearing

On April 16 the House Gaming Oversight Committee will, for the first time in 2015, host a hearing focused completely on online gambling.

The hearing is part of a host of hearings (dealing with online gambling, skill versus chance, and the 2014 small games of chance bill) scheduled by GO Chairman Payne in what he calls an effort to keep Pennsylvania’s gaming industry healthy and competitive.

Online gaming has already been discussed this session, as a pair of informal hearings on gaming held at Harrah’s Philadelphia and Sugarhouse Casino on March 18 turned into impromptu online gaming hearings in their own right. You can watch one of the hearings here.

A second hearing, dubbed an informational hearing on online gaming (the hearing also tried to define games of skill versus games of chance) was held on April 1. You can also watch that hearing here.

According to the legislative calendar, the April 16 hearing will also be broadcast.

May 6 hearing added

Yet another online gaming hearing has been added to the legislative calendar on May 6. It’s unclear at this time if the hearing will be broadcast at this time.

The series of hearings seems to be a strong indicator of Pennsylvania’s interest in online gaming expansion.

Payne’s plan

Representative Payne told that his goal is to gather all the facts and then present them to the legislature:

“My job is to introduce legislation in the Gaming Committee that we can present to our leadership team in May and say ‘If we’re serious about this, and we do Internet gaming it would generate this much revenue; fantasy sports this much; fix the small games bill it would do this much; something in private clubs it would do this much.’”

These hearings could culminate with one of the above mentioned online gambling bills passing the GO Committee and possibly being called to the floor for a vote. Another path forward might be for the bill to be swallowed into the state’s budget, as it has tax implications.

It would seem that with his online gaming bill and the slew of hearings he has called, Payne’s plan to keep Pennsylvania gaming healthy and competitive is on the right track.