Pennsylvania has a decent chance of passing an online gambling bill in 2016, but passage is far from ironclad. This uncertainty could explain why a number of Pennsylvania casinos (not to mention casinos across the country) have already put a contingency plan in place: Social casinos.
The latest Pennsylvania casino to launch a social casino platform is the Penn National-owned Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse. Penn National is the sixth of the state’s 12 casinos to launch a social casino platform. Penn National launched their social casino, powered by Scientific Games, several months ago.
Chris Sheffield, who heads up Penn National’s online division, recently told eGR Magazine, “The main reason for launching social casino products was to improve engagement with our existing landbased customers and to see if social casino products can be used to successfully acquire new customers for our properties.” According to Sheffield the platform is already paying dividends.
Social casinos in Pennsylvania
Penn National isn’t the only Pennsylvania casino that has turned to social gaming.
Parx Casino and GAN
Parx Casino’s social casino is powered by GameAccount Network (GAN) which will also act as the company’s real-money online gambling provider should Pennsylvania pass an online gambling bill. Parx’s GAN powered social casino launched in August of 2014.
The Rush Street contingent: Rivers and SugarHouse
Both the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia are owned by Rush Street Gaming, which has their own social gaming product. Rush Street launched the their social casino in September of 2015.
Harrah’s Philadelphia was the first Pennsylvania to go social, taking advantage of the industry-leading social casino product of its parent company Caesars, which owns and operates the Playtika social casino software.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Mohegan Sun simultaneously launched a social casino platform (like Penn National, Mohegan’s social product is powered by Scientific Games) for their Connecticut casino, Resorts Casino in Atlantic City (Mohegan Sun manages the property), and its Pennsylvania casino at Pocono Downs in July of 2015.
Mohegan is devoting more space to social gaming marketing than any other casino in Pennsylvania, as the entire bottom half of the casino’s homepage is an advertisement for its social casino.
Why are casinos choosing social?
With real money online gambling legalization grinding to a halt, casinos have sought out other ways to increase their online footprint, and what they’ve found is social gaming is not only an alternative to real-money online gambling, it may very well be a far superior product in terms of marketing, and most surprisingly, as a potential revenue stream.
At G2E 2015, Pala Interactive’s Brett Calapp explained several of the benefits of social gaming for land-based casinos; from allowing potential customers to experiment with games before playing for real money, to filling out the player profiles of current customers. “You know everything about them when they are in your casino,” Calapp noted, “but when they walk out the casino door you know nothing about them.”
Social casinos also offer several other benefits:
- First, social gaming doesn’t fall under the sway of gaming regulators, which means, presently, social gaming is legal, and it’s far less costly to roll out and to manage for all involved. Social casinos can also be used to test the popularity of new games before sending them off to regulators to approve.
- Second, casinos can get as involved with the social side of things as they want. They can create their own social gaming platform, or contract with a social gaming provider who can act as either a B2B or a B2B2C turnkey operation.
- Third, in many instances, with the proverbial flip of the switch, social casinos can become real-money gambling websites if an online gaming legalization bill is passed. This capability allows casinos to not only build up a database of potential customers, but to work out a lot of kinks and position their brand in the market before real-money online gambling is legalized.
- Finally, casinos can use social gaming as a way to market to new and existing customers, or monetize their games through advertising and/or a freemium business model, where players can play for free, or, if they so choose, purchase additional chips for a nominal fee.
Social casinos are a highly malleable product. They will work in the absence of real-money online gambling or in conjunction with real-money online gambling. So, whether real-money online gambling passes or not, Pennsylvania’s casinos seem to be looking at social casinos as a way to increase their online footprint and bolster their revenue.