Posted on: March 23, 2023, 11:41h.
Last updated on: March 23, 2023, 12:21h.
Bally’s doesn’t own or operate a brick-and-mortar casino in Pennsylvania. But state gaming regulators on Wednesday nonetheless signed off on the Rhode Island-based gaming operator’s applications to run online casino games in the commonwealth.
Pennsylvania is home to 17 land-based casinos. In December, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced it would open up its iGaming market to gaming entities that don’t have a physical footprint in the state.
Bally’s is planning to build a Category 4 casino in State College near Penn State University. In anticipation of that happening, Bally’s decided to seek online gaming privileges while its legal case for State College continues to play out.
The PGCB said late last year that it has 12 iGaming licenses available for purchase. Three of the permits are for online slots, three are for house-banked tabled games, and six concessions are for interactive poker. Each vertical comes with a $4 million licensing fee.
During the PGCB’s monthly meeting, state gaming regulators voted in favor of approving Bally’s bid for online slots and house-banked table games. With the state’s blessing, Bally’s must pay the state $8 million for the online privileges.
Bally’s didn’t specify a timeline as to when the company might debut its internet casino operations.
Bally’s, state officials revealed, has been the only buyer for the PGCB’s iGaming opportunities since the bidding opened at the end of 2022. Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar gaming licensees had to pay only $1 million for the three online gaming verticals.
State College Latest
The PGCB in January unanimously approved Bally’s Category 4 casino application. The company wants to transform the former Macy’s department store at the Nittany Mall into a casino with up to 750 slot machines, 30 table games, and a sportsbook.
The Cordish Companies is legally contesting the Bally’s project because the company didn’t qualify to compete for a Category 4 license. The mini-casinos were originally reserved for slot licensees, but after interest waned, the PGCB opened up the bidding to key investors in those slot concessions.
Pennsylvania businessman Ira Lubert, who holds a 3% ownership position in Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, subsequently won the PGCB’s Category 4 auction round held in September 2020.
Cordish, outbid by Lubert’s $10 million offer, claims the businessman orchestrated an illicit bidding scheme with outside investors who weren’t supposedly allowed to bid under PGCB rules. Soon after tendering his $10 million bid, Lubert announced he partnered with Bally’s on the $123 million Nittany Mall casino project.
Cordish is appealing the PGCB’s decision to issue Bally’s a Category 4 license. The case could drag on for months, if not years, which could be why Bally’s is moving forward with iGaming in the interim at a significantly higher cost than it would need to pay as a land-based applicant.
Online Regulatory Infractions
The PGCB on Wednesday also signed off on $60K in fines related to iGaming.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course was fined $45K for allowing five individuals enrolled in the state’s iGaming Self-Exclusion program to gamble online with its iGaming partner. Regulators said the individuals were wrongly granted access to Penn Entertainment’s online Barstool Sportsbook.
Mohegan Pennsylvania and its iGaming partner, Unibet, were fined $7,500 for failing to properly suspend an iGaming account for an individual who had initiated a 90-day “cooling off” period.
And finally, Evolution, a business-to-business third-party iGaming provider that supplies remote live dealers for online table games, was fined $7,500 for not properly registering a new employee with the PGCB.