On Thursday, February 28, Pennsylvania’s leading land-based casino, Parx Casino, sat down with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the state’s iGaming and gambling regulator.
It was a simple technicality, but with a few wrinkles. The Kambi-powered Parx Casino is re-applying for another five-year license, but the process was slightly altered because of the arriving of online gambling, passed with a new Gambling Act in 2017.
As a result, Greenwood Racing Inc.’s CEO Anthony Ricci had to elaborate on how soon Parx was planning to introduce online casinos and if at all. Representing the parent company of the gaming brand, Mr. Ricci explained that he had initially hoped Parx to launch its operation by mid-2019.
This timeline may now be altered, after PGCB Director Kevin O’Toole explained, during the same meeting, that Pennsylvania’s early iGaming launch will have to be deferred until June, and very possibly July.
The Wire Act Throws a Spanner in the Works
The PGCB has been requesting license-holders to submit a re-evaluation report explaining how businesses would handle the latest changes in regulation pertaining to the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel Wire Act Opinion.
The reversal of the Wire Act signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has upset the plans of most casinos in Pennsylvania. Originally, brands were hoping to use servers based in New Jersey, thus saving up on some of the costs, but these plans have changed.
According to the Wire Act, exchanges of data between states for the purposes of online gambling is not admissible. Nevertheless, Mr. Ricci remained confident in Parx’s way of handling the matter.
“We don’t see any reason why we can’t proceed,” said Mr. Ricci. He also clarified that should the DoJ’s Opinion become overly-restrictive, an unlikely scenario, Parx would simply require customers to deposit in-person at a casino.
Golden Nugget and MGM Pose a Risk to Parx
A point that Mr. Ricci addressed during his hearing was the involvement of stand-alone online casinos in Pennsylvania. He pointed out that such properties could re-focus their efforts solely on advertising and marketing whereas brick-and-mortar properties had to keep the lights on.
Lawmakers have found a partial solution by collecting renewal fees that are higher from such online operators whereas land-based operators don’t have to worry about their license renewals for a while.
Still, Mr. Ricci believes that the balance favors the online establishment. He’s most likely right. In New Jersey, DraftKings managed to beat all other sportsbooks, with the bulk of proceedings coming from the online app.
MGM and Golden Nugget, two Atlanta-based casinos, have stated their readiness to introduce iGaming products to the state, becoming direct competitors to the land-based Parx Casino.
Mr. Ricci didn’t seem happy about the DoJ’s decision, though, even if Parx Casino’s businesses is mostly in-person and land-based, signalling that Pennsylvania’s operators stand together, at least for the time being.