Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has announced it will begin accepting applications for online gambling licenses from April 2.

Countdown Begins to Pennsylvania online gambling market

Thirteen online gambling licenses are available, one for each operator in the market, but Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem is likely to pass on the offer. Could a Pennsylvania online gambling market be up and running by the end of the year? (Image: PGCB)

Pennsylvania became the fourth US State to legalize online gambling when lawmakers passed H 271 in October last year. The bill also clears the path for the regulation of daily fantasy sports and sports betting, should New Jersey’s Supreme Court appeal prove successful, as well as the establishment of small ‘satellite’ casinos around the state, video gaming terminals at truck stops, tablet gaming at airports and online lottery ticket sales.

While the bidding process has already begun for satellite casinos licenses, until now there has been little public announcement on the progress of the state’s online gambling regulations, making it difficult to posit a time frame.

Pennsylvania Online Gaming Countdown Begins

In 2013, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement began accepting applications from prospective online gambling licensees, also in April of that year. The first sites had their soft launch just over seven months later, on November 25, launching for real shortly afterwards.

Using the New Jersey process as a guide, then, it’s certainly possible that Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market could be up and running late this year, although there is no suggestion that state officials are in a rush.

The preliminary application process is open just to Pennsylvania’s existing gambling licensees, which will be required to partner with third-party online gambling software providers.

Providers will have to apply for licensing separately and, as completely new licensees, their will require greater PGCB due diligence. A note on the PGCB website says “the date for acceptance of Interactive Gaming Platform Provider applications will be posted at a future time.”

Who’s In?

It will be interesting to see which of Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos opt to apply for licenses. Thirteen online gambling licenses have been created, one for each of the state’s (soon to be) 13 casinos, but its biggest, Sands Bethlehem, is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s LVS, which is virulently anti-online gambling.

During legislative hearings in Harrisburg, Parx Casino initially sat on the fence before coming out against online gaming in 2017, claiming it would “cannibalize” the land-based market. However, now that regulation is happening, it’s likely forget its misgivings and join the party.

The license fee to operate online slots, table games and poker is set at $10 million, with a whopping 54 percent tax on online slots and a more palatable 16 percent on poker.