Bally Casino will be going live soon in Pennsylvania, becoming the 19th online casino in the state. While there’s no launch date yet, it is surely imminent, as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has approved Bally’s Corporation’s licensing application as a “qualified gaming entity” (QGE).
As a QGE, Bally’s can offer Bally Casino’s online slots and table games in Pennsylvania without partnering with one of the state’s brick-and-mortar casino operators.
The PA launch means Bally’s online casino will be live in three North American jurisdictions:
- New Jersey
- Ontario, Canada.
Its sportsbook, BallyBet, is active in 6 US states plus Ontario.
However, when Pennsylvanians can expect Bally Casino Pennsylvania to launch remains unclear. When it does, it will be a standalone casino product with no sports betting. Whether Bally’s will be able to bring BallyBet to the state at some later date is an even murkier question.
Bally’s Could be Pennsylvania’s sole QGE
QGE status is a unique feature of the Pennsylvania market. The ability for out-of-state retail operators to apply for direct licensing was likely added to the Pennsylvania iGaming bill with Atlantic City casinos in mind.
Even so, there are currently no active QGEs in the state. When the PGCB recently reopened QGE applications, Bally’s was the only company to submit one.
Pennsylvania regulators presumably expected more interest in the idea. In the first round of QGE applications, there were two takers. However, neither MGM nor Golden Nugget followed through with a QGE launch after receiving approval.
MGM dropped its application altogether and launched Borgata Online and BetMGM Casino through two separate land-based partnerships.
Golden Nugget also received PGCB approval but has yet to launch, and its plans are less clear.
After receiving approval, Golden Nugget Online Gaming was acquired by DraftKings. It has said it plans to launch in the second half of 2023. However, it remains to be seen whether that means an independent launch as a QGE or as a secondary skin through DraftKings’ partnership with Penn National’s Hollywood Casino.
QGE’s Open Door to Out-of-State Operators, Extra Funds for PA
In 2019, Pennsylvania was the first state to join New Jersey in launching a competitive, regulated online casino market.
Following NJ’s footsteps, PA replicated various aspects of the Jersey model, including the tethering requirement. Revenue share tactics, as such, are often a tool to get physical casinos to back online casino expansion.
In Pennsylvania’s case, the later implemented QGE option allows out-of-state operators almost as good a deal as those already active in the state.
It was also intended to serve as a revenue generator for the state. Certificates cost $4 million, and operators need at least two for a viable product – one each for slots and table games. None of the QGE applicants has sought to offer online poker, but the PGCB offers all three certificates as a package for $10 million.
Bally’s Satellite Casino, Sportsbook on Hold Over Court Challenge
However, unlike most PA online casinos, Bally’s cannot offer online sports betting as a QGE.
Pennsylvania legalized sports betting separately from iGaming. The sports betting law lacks any legal way to offer online sports betting without tethering the product to a retail casino.
So, Bally’s and anyone else operating under a QGE in the state does so without the option for an integrated sportsbook. That competitive disadvantage may explain why there has been so little interest. In the US, apps combining online casino games and sports betting have been far more successful than standalone products.
With an integrated app, customers enjoy the ease of a single account while operators benefit from cross-marketing opportunities. And even though online casinos drive higher revenues, online sports betting is crucial for attracting new customers.
Unlike for iGaming, however, Category 4 “mini-casinos” can serve as land-based partners for sports betting. Bally’s probably intends to offer online and retail sports betting eventually via a planned mini-casino in State College. PGCB recently awarded a satellite casino license to businessman Ira Lubert, who has a deal with Bally’s to operate it.
However, those plans are in limbo due to a competitor’s pending case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Until the court settles the challenge brought by Cordish Companies, Bally’s mini-casino, and any sports betting offshoots, are on hold.
As for Bally Casino online, Bally’s Corp. has yet to offer a timeline for its Pennsylvania launch. But, with all that’s happening, Pennsylvanians could find themselves with a wait.