Pennsylvania Gaming Expansion Not Limited To Online

January 29, 2018
Pennsylvania Gaming Expansion Not Limited To Online


After a three-year wait, Pennsylvania finally became the fourth state to legalize online poker last October. The bill passed and was signed into law only a few weeks after an interstate agreement was forged that allows players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware to compete with one another. The timing was coincidental but it naturally caused a lot of excitement for Pennsylvania poker players.

It made perfect sense that the online component of the legislation would get most of the hype, however the omnibus bill did a lot more than allow for poker players in the Keystone state to log in and cash out. Aside from virtual gaming, there will be an unprecedented expansion for existing casinos and opportunities for new faces in the market, some of which have been biding their time patiently on the sidelines.

The bill gives authorization for up to five video gaming terminals at qualified truck stops. However, that comes with strict limitations. Truck stops have to meet exacting standards – they have to sell an average of 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel a month as well as meet design, logistical and geographical requirements. Casinos can also house interactive gaming in the eight state airports.

Additionally there was the creation of up to ten “satellite” casinos in designated areas. These, too, are subject to a myriad of regulation designed to not cannibalize any of the existing twelve casinos in the state – a satellite cannot be located within 25 miles of them unless the operator owns both the casino and satellite. Wherever they are built, they will house between 300-750 slot machines.

Poker should see an expansion as well

While none of these developments have poker players in mind, there are other facets of the bill that will directly and indirectly impact Pennsylvania poker players, and not just online.

The bill repealed a provision from the 2004 gaming legislation that limited ownership of casinos. This was the crux of a lawsuit brought about primarily by SugarHouse Casino ownership, Rush Street Gaming, against The Cordish Companies and Greenwood Gaming. Those two partnered and won the license to open Philadelphia’s second casino in 2014. SugarHouse alleged that Watche “Bob” Manoukian of Greenwood owned a stake in Parx Casino that precluded his ownership of a new casino under the existing legislation.

The issue bounced back and forth between the courts and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the last hurdle stalling the so-called Stadium Project Casino. The bill’s passage gave SugarHouse no legal legs to stand on and they dropped the suit soon after Governor Tom Wolf signed it into law.

Despite the green light, The Cordish Companies – with over a century developing real estate, most notably Maryland Live! Casino outside of Baltimore – have yet to announce any specific start date to the project. According to Carmen E. Gonzales, the Director of Communications of Live! Casino & Hotel, construction on the current site of the Holiday Inn Philadelphia Stadium at 9th and Darien Streets South Philadelphia will commence sometime in the new year with the casino opening in 2020.

Stadium Casino, LLC, the name of the joint venture, promises more than 1.5 million square feet including a 205-room hotel, dining and other retail alongside 2,200 slots and electronic table games. The project will create approximately 2,000 new direct and indirect jobs as well as 3,000 jobs during construction.

While details of what this means for poker have not been announced, it is easy to infer that poker will probably be a part, and likely a big part, of Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia.

They are promising 150+ live action table games which includes poker. Beyond that, Parx and Maryland Live! Casinos are among the largest cardrooms in the Northeast, market leaders in Philly and Baltimore respectively in terms of size and revenue. That kind of pedigree bodes well for a strong poker operation.

The casino would also be the only one in Philadelphia with a hotel and a poker room, making it easier to host larger buy-in, multi-day tournaments that attract high stakes poker professionals.

Read about Stadium Casino LLC’s second satellite casino auction victory for a location outside of Pittsburgh.

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Boyd Gaming to acquire Valley Forge Casino Resort; is a poker room in the cards?

Boyd Gaming has announced that the group will add Valley Forge Casino Resort to its two dozen properties. At a cost of $280.5 million dollars, Boyd acquires the King of Prussia property and its nearly 500 hotel rooms and 40,000-square-foot casino with 600 slot machines and 50 table games.

The timing of the announcement may be coincidental, but there’s no denying that the gaming expansion made the property, located about 40 minutes northwest of Philadelphia, considerably more attractive.

The law also has provisions that allow Valley Forge to expand and add up to 250 slot machines as well as 15 poker tables according to Kenneth Hilario of the Philadelphia Business Journal. It remains to be seen whether the new ownership will be enthusiastic to add to the 145 poker tables in the area at Parx, SugarHouse, Harrah’s in Chester and Delaware Park in Wilmington, DE.

The transaction is expected to be finalized in the third quarter of 2018.

Pennsylvania didn’t have legal cardrooms until mid-2010. The conversation at that point was how poker would be received in the area. Now that the region has become one of the top poker destinations in the country, it will be interesting to see whether a newly built Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia and a new poker room at Valley Forge Casino Resort will continue Philadelphia’s ascent or whether the market will reach the kind of saturation that negatively afflicted nearby Atlantic City.

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