Pennsylvania iGaming Licensing Process by Mid-AprilMarch 12, 2018 2:34 pm
Five months after passing online gambling legislation, Pennsylvania is readying to launch its iGambling application process next month. All being well, online casino and poker sites should subsequently be available for play before the end of the year, and elaborating further on the licensing schedule, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Executive Director Kevin O’Toole (photo) explained:
“And that will probably be mid-April. So that first 90-day period will be mid-April and will go through mid-July.”
First 90-Day Period
During the 90-day period mentioned, casinos already licensed in Pennsylvania will be able to apply for a $10 million license allowing them to offer online slots, online table games, and online peer-to-peer games in state. If any of the casinos prefer to pick and choose their gaming options, though, they will have to wait until the 91st day of the application period to do so, after which each individual license will cost them $4 million.
Once received, the PGCB will subsequently review all applications within 90 days, meaning the regulator will most likely be ready to award its first licenses in the fall, with the first site ready to launch near the year’s end.
Applications From Non-State Entities
While the initial 90-day period is designed to enable Pennsylvania’s current casino companies to claim their share of the market, after 120 days non-Pennsylvania entities will then be permitted to join the application process. This should take place in August, with just the individual $4 million licenses available to this group of operators.
Multiple Skins Issue
One outstanding issue currently clouding the broader licensing and partnership picture concerns whether a multi-skin or one site per casino approach is taken. This situation becomes even more fundamental when one considers that just 12 iGaming licenses will be offered in total.
Presently, just two or three Pennsylvania casino operators are advocating for a strict one skin per license rule, including the likes of Penn National and Parx Casino. On the opposite side, the CEO of 888 casinos USA, Itai Freiberger, has been pushing for a multi-skin system like the one used in neighboring New Jersey, but right now it is not at all clear which model will be adopted, with the PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach explaining that the issue is being weighed very carefully, with no determination having yet taken place at this juncture.
As a result, this lack of clarity is likely to have a significant impact on the upcoming licensing application process, as some of Pennsylvania’s smaller casinos may decide to pass on an expensive license without first being allowed to offer multiple skins. Similarly, other non-state operators may be stalling finalizing partnership deals with Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos until they first obtain clarity on precisely what approach the PGCB will decide for the market.
Importance of 888 Holdings
The arguments presented by 888 Holdings concerning the issue are likely to have a strong impact on the eventual decision taken by the PGCB as the operators enjoys a privileged position in the USA’s currently regulated online gambling markets. As Freiberger recently pointed out to the PGCB before presenting his company’s pro multiple skins argument:
“888 is presently the only operator licensed to provide its services in all three regulated US jurisdictions, and operates the only US inter-state poker network.”
According to Freiberger, permitting multiple skins will result in many benefits to Pennsylvania’s casinos and its customers, including helping casinos to expand their businesses, as well as making it possible to appeal to a wider range of different demographic zones. 888 has also been offering the Pennsylvania regulator plenty of advise on other important points to consider when setting up its online gambling industry, including the need to have qualified staff with expertise in the fields of marketing and fraud prevention.