Pennsylvanians will be getting Bally’s Interactive as one of the regulated online casinos on which to play slots and table games by smartphone or computer, although it’s unclear how soon that will occur.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at its monthly meeting Wednesday approved the Bally’s petition to enter the state as a “qualified gaming entity,” meaning it can launch iCasino operations without connection to an existing brick-and-mortar casino in the state.
Bally’s was the only company to apply during the gaming board’s recent open period for submission of qualified gaming entity petitions by those lacking any current Pennsylvania operations. It must pay the state $8 million for the right to provide online slots and table games.
Bally’s already has iCasino operations in New Jersey and Ontario, and its Bally Bet sports betting app is live in those jurisdictions and five other states.
Unlike most iCasino platforms in Pennsylvania, however, Bally’s will not be able to include sports betting as a shared option. There is no provision in Pennsylvania law for an operator to provide online sports betting unless it has a brick-and-mortar casino in the state or partners with one to obtain a license.
Bally’s in the past expressed hopes of providing both online and retail sports betting in Pennsylvania through its partnership with businessman Ira Lubert in his plans to develop a mini-casino in the State College area.
While Lubert was recently approved for a casino license by the gaming board, the agency’s decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court by a competitor, the Cordish Companies. No license can officially be awarded until the court case is settled, and thus no sports betting operations can begin by Bally’s.
As to when the online Bally’s Casino might appear, a gaming board spokesman referred questions about the timing to Bally’s, which did not immediately respond to a query from US Bets.
Three fines add up to $60,000
The Pennsylvania regulator also handed down three fines Wednesday that relate to online gaming violations by different operators in the state.
The penalties add up to $60,000 that will be paid through consent agreements with PENN Entertainment subsidiaries involved in its online Hollywood Casino and Barstool Sportsbook operations; Mohegan Pennsylvania in its iGaming partnership with Unibet; and Evolution US LLC, which contracts with online operators to provide live-dealer blackjack and other table games from a studio.
The stiffest fine, $45,000, applied to PENN’s Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, as licensee for the online Hollywood Casino and Barstool Sportsbook. The violation involved five individuals who had placed themselves on the state’s iGaming self-exclusion list but were still able to place thousands of dollars in wagers for a period of months in mid-2021.
A company representative explained to the gaming board that the individuals had signed up for both temporary suspensions with Barstool itself and longer-lasting placement on the state’s self-exclusion list. Due to “a bug in the system” that has since been remedied, the accounts were mistakenly reopened once the temporary Barstool suspension ended, ignoring the fact that they were on the state exclusion list.
Mohegan Pennsylvania and Unibet, its sportsbook partner, were fined $7,500 due to a similar situation involving one customer. The bettor had requested use of the online site’s 90-day “cool off” period to be blocked from betting, but she was nonetheless able to continue placing wagers over a period of 21 days. She was a major bettor, having deposited tens of thousands of dollars and able to place bets that exceeded a total of $1.4 million during the 21 days.
Evolution was also fined $7,500, as in November 2021 a new employee who was unlicensed to deal table games for it filled in temporarily for a blackjack dealer. The untrained individual made numerous mistakes in a short stint of dealing before a supervisor stepped in to stop him.
Mom speaks about leaving child in car
While the Pennsylvania board has stood out among regulators as one acting on the problem of casino patrons who leave children unattended in vehicles — regularly adding one or more such parents each month to its involuntary exclusion list barring them from future casino visits — it has rarely heard from any of them directly.
That changed Wednesday.
Anna Truskin, who described herself as a mother of four who someday would like to return to work as a schoolteacher, testified on her own behalf — at times in tears — as the board reviewed a staff proposal to add her to the exclusion list. The board’s website publishes the violators’ names, photos, and conduct.
Truskin did not deny that she left her 14-month-old son alone in a car for a few minutes on June 29, 2021, so she could enter Valley Forge Casino Resort. She said she is not a casino gambler, but explained she was on her way to a medical appointment for her son nearby and wanted to take advantage of a promotional offer for the online FanDuel Sportsbook that required making a deposit at its retail sportsbook at the casino.
Truskin said she was able to use remote control to maintain a proper temperature in the car while keeping it locked for her child’s safety for a brief time, but she knew she “made a terrible error in judgment that day.”
Saying she still suffers from anxiety and embarrassment, Truskin said, “I’m worried about how this mistake in my personal life will affect me professionally,” once her children are older and she seeks another teaching job.
Like other adults caught by casino security staff in such situations, she received notice she faced placement on the involuntary exclusion list. Unlike with others, a sympathetic hearing officer for the agency recommended that while she should go on the list, her penalty should carry a note enabling her to file for removal after one year.
Truskin said she accepted that ruling. However, the board’s Office of Enforcement Counsel objected to the provision spelling out her potential removal. The seven-member gaming board voted to support that objection and place her on the list with no notation about removal, as Chairwoman Denise Smyler stressed the seriousness of the issue for the board.
“Even leaving a child for one minute can lead to disaster,” Smyler said, while recognizing Truskin’s “expression of remorse.” Smyler explained that even without a special provision as part of the order, Truskin will be entitled to petition for removal from the involuntary list after one year, as others are also permitted to do.
Photo courtesy of Bally’s