A Close Look at Pennsylvania’s Path to Legal Online Gambling

Pennsylvania Urges Casino Operators to Comply with Wire ActPennsylvania residents are counting the days until the official launch of legal online gambling. The Keystone State was the fourth in line to pass legislation and introduce regulated online gambling practices to its residents. The marketplace has gone through quite the journey in terms of legalization, definition, and implementation of the proper provisions.

All in all, the process is finally coming to a close with the official launch of online casino establishments on July 15th. With this in mind, let’s take a moment to reminisce on the years-long experience.

News Highlights

  • Pennsylvania passed a law on legal online gambling back in October 2017.
  • Existing land-based operators make up the predominant part of the industry.
  • The Wire Act re-interpretation matter presented a crucial delay in the whole process.

Official Online Gambling Launch Date for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania officials have defined July 15th as the best date to launch the fruit of their two-year long efforts. Only the sportsbook releases have managed to come slightly beforehand, with Parx Casino officially releasing a sports betting platform.

Nevertheless, online slots and casino games official launch are expected mid-July. This has come after a lengthy period of delays, disputes, and resolutions from the first time the practice was passed, back on October 26, 2017. After Governor Tom Wolf signed the H 271 bill into law, the process of establishing licenses, making tax policies, and implementing regulations came about.

Pennsylvania Online Gambling Licenses & Licensees

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is the official authoritative body responsible for regulating the industry and managing all parties in a cohesive manner. As the first order of business since the practice was officially legalized in the letter of the law, the Board issued three different types of licenses, also known as Interactive Gambling Certificates (IGC’s). These include online slots, table games, and poker for each of the 13 existing land-based establishments, amounting to 39 in total.

While these cover the major segments of the industry, in an attempt to offer a more comprehensive solution, the online gambling market expanded to permit all the following practices:

  • Online poker
  • Online casino table games
  • Online slots
  • Online sports betting
  • Daily fantasy sports
  • Video Gambling Terminals (VGTs)
  • Mini-casinos
  • Tablet gaming
  • Alterations to Category 3 casinos
  • Online lottery

The Popularity of Sports Betting

The sports betting segment of the industry came about precisely after the Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 which marked PASPA as unconstitutional. Operators quickly jumped at the opportunity, first with land-based shops and venues, and later expanding to online sites and mobile or tablet apps.

Online Casino Launch Dates

As for the pending launch of the respective online gambling products, make sure to check out the following table and gain further insight into each of the operators’ expected offering:

CasinoProjected LaunchOnline Gaming ProductsOnline Partners
Parx CasinoJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slotsGAN
Mount AiryJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slots888/ Poker Stars
Stadium CasinoN/AOnline table games, slotsGAN
Sands BethlehemJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slotsN/A
SugarHouse July 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slotsRush Street Interactive / Kambi
Harrah’s PhiladelphiaJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slots888 Casino
Valley Forge CasinoJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slotsIGT/GAN
Hollywood Casino at Penn NationalJuly 15, 2019Online poker, table games, slotsIGT
MGM ResortsN/ASlots, games, pokerbwin.party
Mohegan Sun PoconoN/AOnline table games, slotsKindred
Presque Isle Downs and CasinoJuly 15, 2019Online table games, online slotsGolden Nugget
Golden Nugget NJN/AOnline table games, online slotsNYX

Delays and Turbulences Abound

The legalization of online casino gambling in the state of Pennsylvania could be said to face some of the greatest tumults. This is somewhat understandable, considering it was only the fourth state to take up this endeavor since Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware altogether made the leap in 2013. With so much going on both a state and nation-wide level, it is an accomplishment all in itself that they pushed through it all.

>New Online Gambling Tax Policy

Pennsylvania has already gained a reputation for charging their land-based slots operators more heavily than other states, and they seem to be looking to continue the tradition. The new tax policy applicable to online gambling has set the following steep rates for respective services:

  • Online table games and poker: 14% + 2% local share = 16%
  • Online slots: 52% + 2% local share = 54%
  • Online sports betting: 34% + 2% local share = 36%
  • Daily Fantasy sports: 15%

The Never-Ending Wire Act

Just as operators were getting ready for a head start, the reinterpretation of the Wire Act came late 2018 from the DOJ office. Under such circumstances, restrictions on interstate online gambling pools, server locations, and payment processing providers would be banned for gambling operators in general. This had been previously applied only to sportsbooks.

Despite failing, the reinterpretation drastically shook the online gambling industry as it was. With Pennsylvania operators’ representatives in the frontlines, it significantly affected the launch delay.

Apple Issues with Online Gambling Apps

A slight issue also arose with the Apple App Store. First with the sportsbook apps and now with the online casino and poker ones. Mobile access is permitted through dedicated apps. While Android users will be able to download theirs straight from the mobile website access point, iOS users are expected to overcome the delay soon enough.

Sheldon Adelson, the Casino Tycoon

Sheldon Adelson, a land-based gambling magnate, and CEO at both the Venetian and the Sands Hotel Resort has been suspected of having some influence over the Wire Act situation. His interest in sabotaging legal online gambling to prevent loss of revenue in his brick-and-mortar venues is most evident.

This prompted significant rumors among other parties in the industry. While such presumed intentions were not addressed at Pennsylvania precisely, the overall impact of the Wire Act proceedings definitely derailed the progress.

All Eyes on Pennsylvania Legal Online Gambling

It’s been a long and winding road for legal online gambling in Pennsylvania. Despite many obstacles and delays, the state will reach the finish line next week when they officially launch their legal online gambling platforms. As of now, Parx Casino has confirmed the launch of their online casino platform, updating its website with a timer counting down to Monday at 2 p.m.

About the Author
Shelly Schiff

Shelly Schiff - Collaborator

Especially enjoys writing about casino and bingo, but she also has experience creating content about crypto and partnerships.