Regulated online gambling is coming to the Keystone State in 2018, and so are “Category 4” Pennsylvania Satellite Casinos.
According to the official PA Gaming Control Board website, up to ten licenses will be issued for businesses (most likely to be owned by current PA land-based casinos) to operate “mini” brick & mortar gambling businesses with up to 500 slot terminals each.
While Category 4 operators are unlikely to have an impact on the regional poker industry, they could heavily influence where and how consumers spend their disposable gambling income in Pennsylvania. With that in mind, here are some insights on Pennsylvania Satellite Casinos — not to be confused with the allowance of Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) that have been authorized for qualified “truck stops.”
Pennsylvania Satellite Casinos along Interstate 80?
A quick look at the current brick & mortar casino landscape in Pennsylvania shows that most establishments are located near the heavily populated areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. State law will mandate that no Pennsylvania satellite casinos can be located within 25 miles of an existing brick & mortar gambling establishment (unless it is owned by the same operator).
Mount Airy in Pole Position for Pennsylvania Satellite Casinos?
That leaves the eastern I-80 corridor (which runs from San Francisco to New Jersey) as a likely region for mini casinos due to its close proximity to New York City. Recent legislation could heavily favor Mount Airy Casino & Resort (the northeastern-most casino on the above map) as it stands to be the largest benefactor of the PA online gambling bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“The bill paved the way for so-called mini-casinos to open around the state, requiring only that they be at least 25 miles from one of the larger, established gambling halls. The amendment nearly triples that buffer zone for the Monroe County casino, barring mini-casinos from contiguous Carbon, Pike and Wayne counties,” states the Nov 11, 2017 article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“More importantly, it guarantees that the Mount Pocono destination remains the closest and most accessible casino for the thousands of New Yorkers who flock each week to the commonwealth to gamble.”
Pennsylvania Satellite Casinos and VGT Cross Promotion
Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) are also coming to the Keystone State, and will be licensed to operate at qualified “truck stops” which are logically placed along major roadways.
VGT distributor Rush Street Gaming (the parent company of Poker Night in America, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Philadelphia) will likely improve its statewide land-based position significantly in 2018 because of this, and could use a three-prong marketing strategy to promote its VGTs, brick & mortar casinos, and online brand PlaySugarHouse.
A Nov 28, 2017 writeup by PlayPennsylvania author Katie Callahan points out that Rivers Casino is also strategically located to benefit from the mini casino allowances as a result of the legislation, while competitor Penn National — which operates Hollywood Casino a few miles northeast of Harrisburg — explores legal options to counter what it perceives will be cannibalization of its brick & mortar business, according to Online Poker Report contributor Matthew Kredell.
Which PA Casinos are the Most Popular?
The image above (click to enlarge it) is based on official numbers recently published by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). You can take a closer look at the Gross Generated Revenue (GGR) for each PA casino here.
The “Gaming Space” in square feet is not available for all PA casinos, but some publish this on their official websites.
Basically, the ratings show that Parx Casino has the most successful poker room (monthly GGR per table — which typically reflects occupancy) while Valley Forge obtains the highest GGR per slot terminal but does not offer poker.
If we take an average of each casino’s GGR per table or slot terminal and compare it to competitors, the overall ratings show Parx, Sands Bethlehem (owned by online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson), SugarHouse, Valley Forge and Rivers Pittsburgh as the most successful land-based operations.
The Pennsylvania gambling industry will have a more complete understanding of land-based casino winners and losers once the Category 4 establishments go live (expected to happen in 2018).
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