Pennsylvania Online Casinos — Launch Date, Overview Of Sites And What To Expect

Bill Grinstead

It’s been a long wait, but soon you’ll have access to thousands of legal, real-money online casino games spread out across a multitude of Pennsylvania online gaming sites.

While the rollout of PA online casinos have been hit with delay after delay, it seems that finally, the state has gotten its act together. According to gaming control officials, online casinos (and poker sites) will get the green light to launch on July 15, 2019.

Internet gambling was made possible in PA by an expanded gambling bill passed by lawmakers in October 2017, which, apart from legalizing online casinos, also opens up a host of other iGaming options, like iLotto, daily fantasy sports, sports betting and Internet poker.

On this page, we’ll give you a preview of all Pennsylvania online casino sites, show you how to deposit and withdraw funds, how to take advantage of bonuses, explain who is allowed to play and much more.

Preparing for the launch of PA online casinos

Compared with New Jersey, which went live with its online gambling industry just nine months after legalizing it, PA has moved at a snail’s pace.

By the time the July 15 go-live date rolls around, one year and nine months will have passed since Gov. Tom Wolf put his signature on the state’s iGaming legislation.

That said, it looks like we are almost to the finish line. And since they’ve had so much time to prepare, it’s likely that we’ll see nearly all of the state’s online casino operators launching their offerings at nearly the exact same time. Indeed, some PA casinos, like Parx Casino, teamed up with online gambling partners several years ago, and should be more than ready to open their virtual doors to the public on Day 1.

New Jersey took a similar “shotgun” approach in 2013, with seven casinos debuting simultaneously, and over a dozen more cropping up in the aftermath.

Who can play, and from where

  • Age limit: Only gamblers over the age of 21 may place bets at a PA online casino
  • Physical boundaries: Players must be within the boundaries of the state in order to play for real money. But that doesn’t mean iGaming is only open to PA residents. In fact, it will be perfectly legal to play even if you’re just passing through the state. You could even, for example, drive just across the border to make a few slot spins, then go right back home with no issue. Your location will be verified by sophisticated geolocation software either on your phone or through an extension downloaded to your desktop or laptop.
  • Other restrictions: Strangely, regulators decreed that players cannot make online bets when physically inside one of the state’s casinos. So if you get the urge to play a hand of virtual blackjack or video poker from inside SugarHouse Casino, for example, you’ll be out of luck. Geolocation software will fence off these locations, making betting impossible.

Registering for a PA online gambling site

Assuming you meet the age requirement, you can sign up a PA online casino account from nearly anywhere in the world. Of course to bet real money, you’ll need to be inside the Commonwealth.

The sign-up process is pretty simple and straightforward. You’ll be asked to provide the following:

  • A unique screen name
  • Email address
  • Home address
  • Phone number
  • Last four digits of your social

You might be wondering why a partial social is required. While this may seem an intrusion to some, it is necessary for operators to confirm your identity by crosschecking your information with a number of government and private databases.

If you have any qualms about providing these details, just know that your data is in safe hands. Legal U.S. online casinos are highly regulated and are protected by the same types of encryption and security measures used by large online retailers and banks.

Banking on a PA online casino site

When it comes to banking, legal PA casinos have a major advantage over unregulated, offshore sites, which often break U.S. law in order to process deposits and withdrawals.

Legal online casinos are free to do business with a wide variety of established payment processors, including companies like PayPal, which makes the experience of adding or requesting funds a seamless one.

What’s more, PA’s highly regulated iGaming sites are required by law to keep your funds in segregated bank accounts, or in other words, separate from operating capital. That means your money is always safe and fully available for withdrawal at any time.

Apart from PayPal, we suspect that the following banking methods will be made available to PA patrons:

  • Visa/MasterCard
  • ACH/eCheck
  • Online bill pay
  • PayNearMe
  • Neteller
  • Wire transfer

As far as withdrawals, players can expect some of the following:

  • ACH/eCheck
  • Neteller
  • PayPal
  • Personal check

In neighboring New Jersey, patrons are allowed to make deposits and withdrawals at an online casino site’s affiliated land-based location. It’s unknown whether “cash at the casino cage” will be a viable cashiering format in Pennsylvania, as the state already restricts players from gambling for real-money online at retail outlets. A further restriction preventing players from loading their online accounts at the casino cage doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

Shared wallets

Often, sites that offer not only online casino games, but poker and sports betting, will offer a shared wallet, making it easy for patrons to play any game they like without going through the hassle of creating a new account or moving money around.

Welcome bonus packages, deposit bonuses and promo codes

It’s uncommon for the average player to walk into a brand new casino and get handed free money just for showing up. Rarer still, is receiving a match bonus on any money they bring to the property.

Not the case with online casinos. PA iGaming sites will be offering up free money in the form of sign-up bonuses and deposit bonuses, which can be quite lucrative when players make wise bets.

Once you sign up a new, valid account, the majority of online casinos will credit you with an amount of real cash, which you can use to place real bets. This is the operator’s way of attracting new customers, while giving the patron the chance to “test drive” the casino, so to speak.

The amounts are usually small, in the $10-$30 range, but give you the chance to win real money without risking a dime.

But the bonus offers don’t end there. Once you go one step further and make a deposit, most operators will match that amount by a certain percentage up to a specific maximum. That means that you could potentially deposit $500 at an online casino, and receive $1,000 total in your account.

Of course, this bonus money comes with strings attached — before you can cash it out, you’ll need to complete a sometimes-difficult wager requirement, so be sure and read the fine print (or our reviews) carefully.

Pennsylvania online casino license holders

All brick-and-mortar PA slots license holders are eligible to purchase online gambling permits. While the opportunity originally excited casino execs, PA officials threw cold water on the process by demanding exorbitant licensing fees and tax rates.

The high cost of doing business made some fear that the industry might not get off the ground it all.

But thankfully, that wasn’t the case. In July 2018, it was announced that nine slots licensees had taken the plunge and bought licenses to offer online slots, table games and poker for the “discounted” package price of $10 million. Other casinos came along later, but bought licenses piecemeal for $4 million a pop. After a predetermined window, the state allowed out-of-state entities to scoop up any leftover licenses.

Currently, 10 PA casinos hold online slot/table game licenses, along with two other qualified entities. Here’s a quick rundown of each casino and entity set to launch an online gambling site in the Keystone State:

Harrah’s Philadelphia

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: SG Digital

Harrah’s is one of the most recognizable brands in the casino business, and has the backing of gambling behemoth Caesars.

Caesars online casino in New Jersey is powered by SG Digital technology, and this relationship will extend into the Pennsylvania market. SG tech also powers Harrah’s Philadelphia’s retail sportsbook, which went live in early 2019.

Harrah’s has already confirmed it will host the WSOP.com poker site, which runs on the 888 platform.

Mohegan Sun

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: Kindred

Mohegan Sun originally ponied up the cash for both online casino and poker licenses, but later had a change of heart and decided to give back its poker permit.

For its online casino offering, the property has chosen to partner with Kindred, which will offer sports wagering and online casino gaming through its well established international brand, Unibet. Few PA gamblers will likely recognize the Unibet name at launch, though, so the company will need to market aggressively to increase brand recognition.

Parx Casino

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: GAN

Parx rakes in more revenue than any of its Keystone State competitors and plans to offer a branded experience for all online gambling verticals opened up by the state.

Parx was the first casino to shell out the $10 million required to buy the initial trio of online gambling licenses put up for grabs. The company also dropped $8.1 million on a satellite casino to be built in Shippensburg Township.

Mount Airy Casino

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: 888

Apart from snagging big dog PokerStars as its online poker partner, Mount Airy has teamed up with 888, which is heavily invested in online gambling across the U.S.

In New Jersey, 888 provides the platform for WSOP.com and Harrah’s, while also hosting its own branded iGaming and sports betting site.

In PA, 888 could both power Mount Airy’s online casino, while also launching a site under its own name. PokerStars might also spread online casino games under the license, just as it does in the Garden State.

SugarHouse Casino

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: Rush Street Interactive

SugarHouse Casino is a rarity in that it has built its own online gambling platform from the ground up, rather than partnering with an established tech provider. The decision has paid off handsomely.

The property operates a popular online casino in New Jersey and will have no trouble porting that operation over to its home state.

Rivers Casino, owned by SugarHouse’s parent company, will likely serve as a de facto skin for its sister site. Rivers originally purchased licenses to offer online casino games, but eventually turned them back over for a refund. This made perfect sense, as Rivers can likely generate just as much interest as a skin under SugarHouse than via its own license, saving itself the $10 million license fee in the process. It also works out for SugarHouse, which will prominently feature its branding on the Rivers online gaming skin.

Sands Bethlehem

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, and poker
  • Online casino partner: TBD

Sands Bethlehem is currently under the purview of Sheldon Adelson, a vehement opponent of online gambling. In 2018 though, it was announced that Wind Creek Hospitality would wrangle the property away from the mogul for a cool $1.3 billion.

Wind Creek (via Sands) subsequently purchased a license to offer online casino games and online poker, although its technology partners are still anyone’s guess. The company, which may be busy finalizing the casino acquisition, simply hasn’t revealed much information to the public about its iGaming plans.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: IGT

Penn National has spent more than any of its competitors on expanded gambling in the state, purchasing licenses for every iGaming vertical available, along with two satellite casinos for good measure.

Hollywood’s online casino and poker site will be powered by IGT, a major producer and publisher of virtual casino games globally.

While IGT titles can be found at nearly all NJ online casinos, the company has yet to provide the core platform for any U.S. iGaming site.

Presque Isle Downs

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, and sports betting
  • Online casino partners: BetAmerica

Presque Isle Downs is owned by U.S. gambling and racetrack giant Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), and is set to offer online casino games through the BetAmerica brand.

BetAmerica went live in New Jersey with a virtual casino and sportsbook in February 2019, under Golden Nugget’s license.

Valley Forge

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, poker, and sports betting
  • Online casino partner: IGT and FanDuel

Valley Forge plays host to one of the state’s smaller casinos, but has hooked up with a pair of online gambling heavyweights. For its Internet casino and poker site, it will rely on the IGT platform. For its sports betting operation, it has partnered with DFS-turned sports betting giant FanDuel.

While FanDuel is primarily a sports-focused company, it may launch its own online casino games under Valley Forge, much like its arch nemesis DraftKings has done to great success in New Jersey.

Live! Hotel & Casino

  • Licensed for: Online slots and table games
  • Online casino partner: TBD

Construction has yet to begin on the Live! project, which is set to be located just a stone’s throw from the sports arenas at Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park and the Wells Fargo Center.

The property’s physical slots and table games will be accompanied by online versions through Live!’s online gambling site. With the project details still up in the air, though, don’t expect to be playing on a Live!-branded site any time soon.

Golden Nugget

  • Licensed for: Online slots and table games
  • Online casino partner: SG Digital

Golden Nugget is a brick-and-mortar casino located in Atlantic City, which dominates that state’s online gambling market.

As an out-of-state casino, it was not allowed to scoop up any PA iGaming licenses when they were initially up for grabs. But after state casinos were given a chance to buy-in, a few permits remained, which were offered to outside qualified entities.

In PA, GN will likely continue to use the same SG Digital (formerly NYX) online casino platform that it does in NJ – because, why fix it if it ain’t broke?

MGM

  • Licensed for: Online slots, table games, and poker
  • Online casino partner: GVC (likely)

Like Golden Nugget, MGM doesn’t have a physical presence in PA, but was allowed to purchase leftover iGaming licenses, picking up permits for both online slots and table games, plus online poker.

MGM is heavily invested in online gambling in the Garden State through Borgata Hotel & Casino, which serves as the umbrella for nine online casino and poker brands, including two named after itself – playMGM.

MGM is likely to continue in Pennsylvania with a playMGM-branded casino. PlayMGM casino games and poker tables both run on the GVC platform, originally developed by bwin.party.

Laws and regulations

Some of the Internet gambling regulations dreamed up by PA lawmakers and gaming officials are sensible, and similar to those in other states, but others diverge sharply.

For one, state online gambling sites will be forced to pay the same sky-high tax rates as their physical counterparts. On its face, this might seem fair, but in reality, the structure is a much bigger burden for online operators.

While it’s true that online casinos have less overhead, they also have less opportunity to earn revenue through non-gambling options like dining and entertainment, something that will hurt their bottom line.

What’s more, operators are forced to pay massive fees to buy licenses for several different categories of games and betting options. PA, in fact, levies the highest fees in the country on brick-and-mortar and online gambling properties.

Pennsylvania also requires that online gambling skins prominently feature the branding of the license holding casino on its skin. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal. More troublesome is a caveat that appears to require skins to exist as a sub-domain on the license holder’s primary site. This can potentially lead to some cumbersome URLs and confusion among patrons. There is other cryptic language buried in the regulations that may or may not further hinder the industry, depending on their interpretation.

Overall, these onerous conditions might force casinos to reduce their marketing spend or spread games with less than favorable odds, hampering the industry from reaching its full potential.

Taxes and fees

Here’s a top-level view of the most important iGaming financial regulations:

  • Operators may offer online slots, table games and poker, at a cost of $4 million per vertical. If all three licenses are purchased together, the price is discounted to $10 million.
  • Physical/online sportsbook licenses cost $10 million each
  • Online slots are taxed at 54%, with table games taxed at 16%
  • Sportsbook revenue is taxed at 36%, 2% of which goes to a local share assessment

Skins and miscellaneous regulations

Here are a few additional regulations, which include some we find odd and counterproductive:

  • Online casinos are allowed to partner with unlimited skins, but sportsbooks are restricted to one each.
  • Skins must visually identify their associated license holder. So, for example, a Unibet-branded iGaming site would be forced to proudly display the Mohegan Sun Pocono logo.
  • Skins must exist as a sub-domain of their licensed partner’s main website. (e.g. unibet.mohegansuncasino.com)
  • Online gambling is not allowed inside physical casinos.
  • Based on one interpretation, players may only have one account for each iGaming license holder. So, if five companies launch skins under the Valley Forge license, players will have access to each of them via the same user account.

History lesson: The path toward legal PA online casinos

Pennsylvanians got their first taste of legal casino gambling in 2006, after lawmakers passed a bill allowing for slot machines at select venues. In 2010, gambling options expanded further, with casinos permitted to take bets on table games like blackjack, roulette and craps.

It wasn’t until 2011 that online gambling became a possibility, after the Department of Justice issued an opinion on the Wire Act, which opened the door for states to legalize online casinos within their borders.

Rep. Tina Davis (D) lead the charge in regulating iGaming in PA, first introducing an online gambling bill in 2013. After several years of attempts and countless hearings on the subject, Keystone State lawmakers came to a consensus on a wide-ranging gambling expansion package in 2017, which they hope will go a long way towards plugging a large budget deficit.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law in late October of that year, making Pennsylvania the fourth state to legalize some form of online gambling.

Apart from online casinos, the law also regulates daily fantasy sports, sports betting, satellite casinos, online lottery and VGTs at truck stops.

Ironically, the DOJ recently modified its opinion on the Wire Act – likely as a favor to ex-Sands owner Sheldon Adelson – which has delayed the industry from going live.

PA officials are confident, however, that the state online casino industry will fully comply with the law and is pushing ahead towards launch, officially slated for July 15, 2019.