Pennsylvania Online Gambling Market to Launch Before Year’s End

Posted on: March 12, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: March 12, 2018, 11:16h.

Pennsylvania is on schedule to launch its online gambling market before the end of the year. That’s the latest from the executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), Kevin O’Toole, who told the House budget hearing that applications for licensing would begin next month, as expected.

888 CEO Itai Frieberger
888 CEO Itai Frieberger has called for the Gaming Control Board to permit land-based licensees to adopt multiple skins for the health of the Pennsylvania online gambling market. Parx Casino wants one skin per licensee. (Image: 888 Holdings)

The state began accepting applications for daily fantasy sports licenses last week.

Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online gambling when lawmakers passed H 271 in October last year, but until now the regulator has not provided a timeframe for its launch.

O’Toole told the budget hearing that his organization was in the process of drawing up a set of temporary regulations for the forthcoming market, but didn’t elaborate further.

Some of the finer points of these regulations remain a mystery. What we do know is that 13 licenses will be issued in total – one for each of the state’s casinos – which will be divided into sub-licenses for each online gambling product: slots, table games, and poker. Each product license will cost $4 million, or $10 million for all three.

Thin Skins

But it’s still unclear how many skins will be allowed per license, for example, and it’s an issue that is dividing stakeholders. Skins are essentially the front end of the gaming platform that allow multiple, differently branded sites to use the same gaming software.

Parx Casino, which will be participating in the future market through a partnership with GAN, wrote to the PGCB last month to request that skins are limited to one per individual license and that all branding should reflect that of the land-based casino, rather than its third-party technology partner.

Parx attorneys said that a scenario where a land-based licensee can have unlimited skins with unlimited software providers would create a “sublicensing regime that essentially transfers licensing authority from the PGCB to the Certificate Holder.”

888 Hits Back

In response to the Parx letter, 888 CEO Itai Frieberger wrote to the regulator to emphasize that multiple skins are crucial to a healthy market.

“Since multiple brands will be associated with a single licensee (as opposed to allowing the online operators with those brands to make an independent offering to players in the state), a diversified offering backed by additional marketing spend and associated with reputable brands will increase overall profit for licensees and the overall size of the internet gaming market,” said Freiberger.

888 is the only provider active in all three regulated US jurisdictions (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware), and operates the only US inter-state poker network.