CHESTER >> Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack was among three casinos in the state to be granted an online gaming license this week, while a fourth has finally taken up the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s offer to apply for a sports betting license.
The PGCB awarded Interactive Gaming Certificates, or “IGaming” Certificates, to Chester Downs and Marina LLC, operator of Harrah’s Philadelphia, as well as Parx Casino operator Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. and Mount Airy #1 LLC, operator of the Mount Airy Resort Casino.
Harrah’s representatives did not respond to calls for comment.
“Once it’s up and running, anyone can establish an account online,” said PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach. “They can do it in the casino, but they can also establish an account online and they can participate in any casino game – table games, slots and even peer-to-peer poker.”
Harbach added that the service will only be available to those 21 years or older and within state boundaries. Online gaming would allow someone from Delaware County to play the online table games offered by Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie without making the six-hour drive, he said.
The PGCB has received applications for the certificates from 11 of Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos and Harbach anticipates approving each at upcoming board meetings. Applicants can seek approval for non-peer-to-peer table games, non-peer-to-peer slots, or peer-to-peer poker for $4 million apiece, or pay $10 million for all three licenses.
With the applications on file, Harbach said the state could reap $110 just in licensing fees. He was not sure what the expected take from online gambling could be year-over-year, but expects it will ramp up as operations come online. The state has implemented a 54-percent tax on gross online revenues for slots and 16 percent on table games, he said.
Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Mississippi already offer sports betting and West Virginia is expected to enter the game Sept. 1. Casino revenues in Pennsylvania are down 9 percent from this same time last year, according to PCLB figures for July. Harrah’s took in more than $4.2 million last month, a 30-percent drop from July 2017, when it had about $ 6 million in revenues. It was also the first time revenues at the Chester location dropped below $5 million in a month since November, according to PGCB records.
Meanwhile, only Penn National Gaming in Wyomissing has applied to offer sports betting after the PGCB approved its third set of regulations Wednesday.
“These were basically operations provisions; how the games would operate, what’s permitted, what’s not permitted,” said Harbach. “That’s likely still a couple months off from being able to roll that out, depending on when we get any petitions in from casinos requesting approval for it.”
Penn filed a 107-page application with the board Friday, but a spokesman said it was unlikely to get approval before October, according to the Associated Press.
Those licenses also carry a $10 million fee, as well as a relatively high 34-percent tax rate. In contrast, Nevada has a 6.75 percent tax rate, while West Virginia has set the state’s take at 10 percent. New Jersey has established a tiered tax system of 8.5 percent for in-house betting, 13 percent for online wagering run by casinos and 14.25 percent for online betting run by racetracks.
Pennsylvania casino operators have been able to apply for licenses since the first regulations were approved at the end of May following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened up sports betting to all states.
Harbach noted he had seen reports of casinos signaling that they would be making the move to offer sports betting and setting up partnerships with technology companies to develop platforms.
“I know that (casinos) have expressed some trepidation because it’s a high tax rate and licensing fee, but I also think they are also just working on some other initiatives including IGaming first, and just waiting for us to get a full set of regulations out on this to see what is the playing field,” said Harbach. “I think it’s just a matter of time until we start seeing those (applications).”