Pennsylvania Announces Online Gambling Applications
Patience is a virtue. It is also a requirement for those anticipating the launch of online poker in the new Pennsylvania market.
It took years for Pennsylvania lawmakers to agree on details of gambling expansion for its state, to settle on a bill, and pass it. That finally happened in 2017. Online poker and casino games were a part of the deal, and Governor Tom Wolf signed that bill into law on October 30, 2017.
This week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that online gambling license applications will be accepted beginning April 2, 2018.
Why the delays?
Hurry Up and Wait
The political process is a tiresome and frustrating one, but once the bill was passed and signed, many hoped things would speed up to start bringing in online gambling revenue as soon as possible. Nothing is truly that simple, however.
After Wolf signed the bill, there was a 60-day waiting period for it to take effect. Then late December brought the holidays and the start to the new year, with people eventually wandering back into work in the first week or so of January.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) then had to develop regulations, likely meeting with New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) officials in the process to copy a few notes from their playbook. It was reported that officials from both regulatory agencies were looking forward to meeting.
One month into the new year, on February 6, the PGCB issued the first press release about interactive gaming licenses. Applications for manufacturers and suppliers who wish to be licensed for interactive gaming and video gaming terminals were allowed to view the applications and begin preparing them in anticipation of the submission date of April 2.
— Robert DellaFave (@RobertDellaFave) February 7, 2018
Meanwhile, online poker and casino operators must still wait, as the PGCB wrote, “The acceptance date of applications for iGaming Operators (Platform Providers) will be announced at a future date.” However, the application is the same for operators, so they can presumably begin completing the forms as well.
Somebody Loves Long Forms
The “Enterprise Entity Application and Disclosure Information Form” for online gaming manufacturers, suppliers, and operators is 58 pages in length. It’s not something that can be completed on the way to the PGCB office. There are other accompanying forms as well, such as personal history disclosures for principals and key employees and investor notice of ownership paperwork.
Once the applications and materials are submitted – on or after April 2 – applicants will need to submit to fingerprinting and background investigations. The licensing period will then be open for a minimum of 120 days, after which the final licenses will be reviewed and possibly approved.
If this timeline remains in place, the licensing period will not close until the end of July. Several months will likely then be required for all operators and others to coordinate, work out the kinks, and test the technology. While it looks as if Pennsylvania will still launch its online poker and casino sites in 2018, it may be much closer to the last months of the year than first anticipated.
On the Side of Experience
While Pennsylvania is new to the online gambling scene, neighboring New Jersey is not. As mentioned, regulators have already admitted to wanting to talk to each other. The PGCB will undoubtedly consult with the DGE with regard to topics like geolocation and player identification procedures, which could help speed that process.
In addition, some of the operators likely to apply for online poker and gaming licenses will have experience as well. WSOP/888 currently operates in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, and they are already sharing online poker liquidity between Nevada and Delaware and preparing to add New Jersey into the mix. Others like PartyPoker and PokerStars have gone through the process of licensing and establishing a presence in New Jersey, and they will bring that experience to Pennsylvania. What took months in New Jersey will likely take a sliver of that time in Pennsylvania.
Experience will certainly shorten the timeline of launching online poker and gambling. On the other hand, there are processes and procedures that cannot be omitted, and PGCB will be wary of shortcuts.
Poker players and other gambling fans have no choice but to wait for the better part of 2018 for their games to be available online. But it may just be worth the wait.
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