Pennsylvania Sets Online Gaming Application Dates
The wait for online poker in Pennsylvania continues, though some tentative dates are finally being set.
It took several years for Pennsylvania to debate and discuss an online gambling bill. Legislators went back and forth on tax rates and licensing fees. Bills died and new bills were introduced. Supporters were hopeful, then discouraged, then encouraged, then frustrated, and then elated when a bill finally passed in the fall of 2017.
When Governor Tom Wolf signed the legislation on October 30, 2017, online poker players were excited to find out when they could start playing online again, this time from regulated sites that would be protected from scandals and disappearing operators. So, they waited through the holidays and then through the start of the new year and then through the final months of winter.
There is more waiting to do, but there is more information being put forth than before, and some timelines are finally beginning to take shape.
All Eyes on PGCB
Any movement for online poker and casino games is under the control of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). It is tasked with nailing down the specifics of the regulations, vetting all applications for licenses, and monitoring the progress of the entire process.
The PGCB had to wait 60 days after the bill was signed before moving forward. One month after that, the PGCB issued a statement about interactive gaming licenses, in particular that manufacturers and suppliers seeking licenses could view the application to get it ready for April 2, the first day of open submissions. Platform providers, however, had to wait for a submission date to be announced later.
During the second week of March, PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole told lawmakers that temporary regulations were in the drafting process, and the application process would begin in April. “And that will probably be mid-April,” he said. “So that first 90-day period will be mid-April and will go through mid-July.”
Specifics Requested and Received
Days later, another press release appeared on the PGCB website, but that one contained exact dates.
Interactive gaming certificates can be submitted to the Board beginning on April 16, 2018. They can apply for licensing in peer-to-peer games (online poker), non-peer-to-peer games where players compete against dealers (other table games like blackjack), and non-peer-to-peer games that simulate slot machines.
The timeline is as follows:
–Existing land-based Pennsylvania casinos can petition to offer all three sets of games for a $10 million fee. That window is open for 90 days, from April 16 through mid-July.
–Existing land-based Pennsylvania casinos can petition to offer singular categories for a $4 million fee per category. That window is open for a subsequent 30-day period, from mid-July to mid-August.
–At the end of the 120 days, other qualified entities can petition the board for a license after undergoing an investigation to determine suitability.
Each category of games will be open to awarding 13 licenses, ending with a maximum number of 39 licenses.
Take Your Time, Do It Right
The “Enterprise Entity Application and Disclosure Information Form” is 58 pages and must be completed to begin the licensing application process. And that does not include any additional forms and paperwork to be submitted as evidence and backup documentation.
Since the regulated online gaming industry in the United States is still in its infancy, each state that undertakes the process of legalizing and regulating the games essentially starts from scratch. While Pennsylvania gaming executives can and likely have met with their counterparts at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to take notes, the PGCB doesn’t want to rush anything.
(The PGCB will not be accused of rushing anything.)
Approved licenses will then lead to the process of the casinos working with their online content provider partners to establish the servers, design the sites, and take care of all of the details that precede the launching of a gambling website. Even those who are already operating in other states must start from the beginning with new land-based partners, a process that is likely to take several months. That puts the launch of any new sites into the fall or even winter months – October or November would be a safe bet.
Online poker players must continue to wait. The premium hand is on its way, but it’s going to be a while.