Looking to get their online gaming industry up and running before the end of 2018, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has officially granted approval to three casinos for online gaming operations.

Who Will Be First to Open?

In July, nine casinos in the 13-casino operation in the state of Pennsylvania applied for licenses for online poker, table games, slots and a separate license for sports betting. After review of these applications, the PGCB granted full licenses to three casinos – Mount Airy Resorts Casino, Chester Downs and Marina LLC, and Greenwood Gambling & Entertainment – for operations inside the state. Each of these operators are eligible to open their operations at any point.

These casinos are taking their time, however. Mount Airy Resorts Casino has partnered with PokerStars for their online casino, poker and sports betting operations. The Stars Group, the ownership behind PokerStars, has stated in earnings calls that the partnership with Mount Airy will not be fully ready for operation until after the start of 2019.

The other new operations? They have not indicated any partnerships with software providers that would give any indication as to when they would begin operations. It is also likely that they may go with a new entity in the game as a couple of other operators have already been spoken for.

Harrah’s Chester, owned by Caesars Entertainment, is supposedly going to be dealing with 888 Holdings, as they have done with their operations in New Jersey and Nevada (888 Holdings has a separate deal with Delaware to provide their online gaming operations). This has allowed WSOP.com to be able to work the compact between the three states – which Pennsylvania is expected to join – as they are the only operation that is IN all three states. If Pennsylvania does join the compact, WSOP.com would have a dominant edge.

Other segments of the Pennsylvania online gaming industry aren’t so clear. Parx Casino has partnered with GAN, who handles the online casino gaming for Ocean Resort Casino in New Jersey, for online casino gaming and sports betting, but they have yet to join with an online poker. One of the top online poker outlets in the business, partypoker, hasn’t announced any action in Pennsylvania, but they are expected to partner with Boyd Gaming’s outlet in the Granite State, Valley Forge Casino Resort, once they are licensed. Boyd Gaming and partypoker already have an agreement in New Jersey with the Borgata.

Why the Delay?

Although they have ponied up $10 million for the license, these casinos have a bottom line to look at. The taxation on online poker isn’t serious, so many of these casinos may be willing to dive into them. The casino gaming taxes, however, are severe – 54% – and the sports betting taxation is high also.

So why did they get the license? Much like a business that buys up other similar online domain names protect their assets, the casinos are looking at protecting their options by keeping the license out of someone else’s hands. Thus, there could be the case of many outlets buying the license with no intention of using it or using it on a highly limited basis.

Still Plenty of Action Left

There are still six casinos that have outstanding license applications awaiting the PGCB. Those applications will have to wait until September at the earliest, however, when the Board will meet again. By that point, there may be some other players in the game. There are also licenses left over for the non-casino entities to buy up, but there is general silence by any parties as to whether they are interested in the Pennsylvania market or not.

These actions won’t speed up the process any, however. Even for the three casinos that have been granted licenses, they aren’t in any rush to get their product to the market. There is hope that someone will come online with poker at the minimum, but in all likelihood,  there won’t be any movement on the Pennsylvania online gaming industry until after the start of 2019.

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