Pennsylvania became just the third state to offer online slots and casino table games for real money to people within its borders on Monday, but online poker players in the state were disappointed to discover that no online poker providers were cleared to launch.
When asked if we are likely to see online poker in PA this month, or if the timeline is longer for the first virtual poker rooms to go live in the state, PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach told pokerfuse, “we cannot predict a timeline on that right now.”
The dates for the launch of online casino games were first revealed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in a letter to Interactive Gaming Certificate Holders and Operators in April.
In addition to urging online gaming stakeholders to “continue to work to promptly submit all required equipment, software, internal controls and related plans for their operations,” the letter stated that the commencement of the initial go-live period during the week of July 15 would be coordinated “in order to provide similar market access, to the extent possible.” Executive Director Kevin O’Toole went on to state that a successfully coordinated launch would be possible if game platforms and game content were submitted in a timely fashion.
Two online casinos (Hollywood Casino and Parx Casino) went live on the first day of the soft launch with SugarHouse slated to kick off its interactive gaming in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Three casinos going live with slots and table games creates at least a partially coordinated launch in those verticals.
“Our plan was a coordinated launch for those operators who were prepared to proceed with live testing. That did not mean all operators were to begin that week,” Harbach commented. “At that juncture, we did not know how far approved operators would progress toward being ready and as we hit the week of 7/15, three were ready.”
In line with previous statements by the PGCB, Harbach went on to tell pokerfuse that the first online poker operator that is ready to launch will be allowed to do so without having to wait for another operator in the same vertical.
“Poker will be rolled out when operators are prepared to do so,” Harbach stated, presenting the opportunity for an online poker provider and its land-based casino partner to gain a first-mover advantage over the competition.
While not a guaranteed long-term benefit, the first online poker operator to go live in Pennsylvania could establish itself as the front-runner in the market. It is also possible that such a benefit could bleed over into the New Jersey market once the two states begin sharing player pools.
Hollywood Casino First to Launch in Pennsylvania
Hollywood Casino became the first operator to go live during the soft launch testing period in PA by offering slots, video poker and Baccarat.
On Tuesday, the second day of testing, Hollywood Casino added roulette to its offering. Presumably, other table games such as blackjack will be added as approval is received. The operator also plans to offer Live Dealer versions of its most popular casino games.
As part of its soft launch, Hollywood is offering new players a welcome package that includes a $25 Welcome Bonus. The bonus credits cannot be withdrawn and must be wagered at least once; however, any winnings generated from the bonus credits are eligible for withdrawal.
Hollywood is also running a refer a friend promotion that gets both players an extra $25 bonus when the referred friend deposits and wagers a minimum of $50.
Parx Online Casino Also Goes Live on the First Day
Soon after Hollywood became the first regulated online casino to offer real money slots in PA, Parx launched its product offering which included blackjack and roulette, two games that Hollywood did not have at launch.
Parx also offered slots, video poker and Baccarat during its initial offering on Monday, and the site also plans to offer Live Dealer games when available.
As part of its Welcome Package to new players, Parx is offering a First Deposit match bonus up to $500. Players can take advantage of this promotion by using the code PARX500. There is a 20x wagering requirement attached to this generous bonus, meaning players will have to place wagers equal to 20 times their deposit within 30 days to unlock the bonus money for withdrawal.
Credit for playthrough wagers vary by game. Every dollar of slot play counts 100% towards the playthrough requirements, while play at the roulette tables only counts for 50% and all other games including Video Poker count for just 10%.
SugarHouse Casino Also Scheduled to Launch in the Opening Week
The third online casino to go live in Pennsylvania will be launched by the Rush Street Gaming-owned SugarHouse Casino.
Bringing its online gaming experience from neighboring New Jersey, SugarHouse’s online gaming arm is expected to go live on Wednesday with a robust selection of slots and table games. Rush Street Gaming already operates online sports betting in Pennsylvania under its BetRivers brand.