On July 15, 2019, Pennsylvania’s first-ever legal real-money online casino sites went live in the state. While this was exciting news for bettors in the Keystone State, there are currently only a handful of sites available. This doesn’t compare to New Jersey, the largest US market for regulated gambling, where more than 20 real-money casino sites are in operation. While the launch of online gambling in Pennsylvania ushered in a new era of gaming in the state, it is still too early to make a direct comparison with New Jersey.
|State||Online Sports Betting Launch Date||Online Casino Launch Date|
|New Jersey||August 2018||August 2013|
|Pennsylvania||May 2019||July 2019|
Online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania:
Online casinos in Pennsylvania:
· SugarHouse online casino
· Hollywood online casino
· Parx online casino
Pennsylvania certainly has a long way to go before it stands toe to toe with the Garden State’s online gambling industry. However, given Pennsylvania’s large population, and the success of the state’s land-based gambling industry, expectations are high. If Pennsylvania hopes to replicate, and eventually overtake, New Jersey’s gambling market, the state must do the following:
Create synergy between online sports betting and casino
Since the launch of its first online casino in 2013, New Jersey has generated massive annual revenues from online casino sites. Add online sports betting into the mix, and revenue has increased dramatically. New Jersey was one of the first states to capitalize on the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and is now home to 13 legal betting sites.
The vast majority of New Jersey’s betting sites have been integrated with their operator’s existing online casino platform. Operators such as 888, Hard Rock, SugarHouse, MGM and Golden Nugget allow users to switch seamlessly between online sports betting and casino. Online casinos that have operated in New Jersey for several years are now seeing a spike in players numbers thanks to the integration of sports betting.
Allowing Pennsylvania operators to integrate their sportsbook and online casinos could help maximize revenue. Integration will make it easier for users to switch between verticals, and for operators to widen audience reach.
Encourage competition between operators
For the Keystone State to eclipse the New Jersey online gambling market, it will need more operators. With just three operators in the state right now, there isn’t currently much choice for customers.
Several land-based operators in Pennsylvania have indicated that they will launch an online casino site, which forces operators to compete with one another. The state regulator has made it possible for all Pennsylvania casinos, as well as online-only operators from outside the state, can apply for an online casino license which in itself fosters competition.
This approach paid off for New Jersey, where online casinos must work hard to stand out in the market. This means constantly reviewing promotions, marketing efforts, player safety measures, catalog of games and customer support to offer the best on the market.
Online payment processing
Since the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in 2006, several US banks have been apprehensive about processing gambling transactions. Initially introduced as a means of forcing the offshore and illegal gambling market out of the US, the law prevented the use of certain payment methods, such as credit cards, for unlawful internet gambling. This meant US banks could no longer process transactions for unlicensed and unregulated gambling operators.
Fast forward to 2019 and several major banks still set restrictions on gambling-related transactions- even though numerous states have legalized, or are in the process of legalizing online gambling.
The stigma around gambling, and the previous negative experiences that came with the offshore poker boom of the early 2000s may explain some of these restrictions. However, the government’s 2018 reinterpretation of the Wire Act clouded the legality of online gambling further, creating even more uncertainty among banks.
Having said this, gambling-related payment processing is improving. As more states expand their gambling markets, especially larger states like Pennsylvania, banks are easing their restrictions on gambling-related transactions.
Online gambling sites in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania accept a range of different banking methods:
|Banking Method||New Jersey||Pennsylvania|
|ACH/e-Check/ online banking||Yes||Yes|
|Prepaid Cards (Play+, etc)||Yes||Yes|
|Cash at casino cage||Yes||Yes|
Wider selection of online casino games
While Pennsylvanians can now play slots, blackjack and other casino games online for real money, the sites in the state launched with a very limited selection of games.
There are currently three operational online casinos in Pennsylvania, which each went live with a couple of dozen games. New Jersey’s online casino market launched in a similar fashion, with NJ casinos offering only a handful of games in comparison to what they offer now. For instance, Golden Nugget launched in 2013 with about 40 games but, six years later, it has the largest library of games in the state with over 600 titles.
Over time, Pennsylvania’s operators are likely to add more titles to their online casinos, which is essential if an operator wants to stand out amongst the competition. If each casino offers a wider variety of games, they can encourage brand loyalty, as players see less need to visit another site to play their favorite games.
We’ve already seen the positive effects of a large selection of casino games in New Jersey. For example, Golden Nugget’s online casino boasts the largest selection of games and, as a result, this site is the state’s most popular amongst customers, consistently posting the highest revenue figures. Pennsylvania’s online casinos could see similar success if they can expand their games selection.
The Pennsylvania market is still in its infancy but, with some alterations, it has the potential to become North America’s next online gambling powerhouse. Of course, there are still some key changes to be made, such as linking sports betting and online casinos, increasing brand competition and the expansion of games libraries at online casinos.However, with the state’s experienced land-based sector, and large population, Pennsylvania is perfectly poised to capitalize on the spread of legal online gambling in the US.