Parx, SugarHouse and Hollywood casinos are set to launch online gambling this week, putting slot machines, roulette wheels and blackjack tables at the fingertips of virtually anybody in Pennsylvania over 20 years old with an internet connection.
Twenty-one months after the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized online gaming, Hollywood and Parx will conduct soft launches for eight hours on Monday — Hollywood starts at 11 a.m., and Parx at 2 p.m., said Douglas Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The test periods will last two or three days, he said.
SugarHouse Casino, soon to be renamed Rivers Casino Philadelphia, will launch its online games on Wednesday for two days of testing,he said.
Internet gaming was approved under the sweeping 2017 expansion of Pennsylvania’s gaming law. Casino operators could buy separate licenses for online slots, casino games, or poker. Most operators paid $10 million license fees to get all three internet gaming licenses. Two out-of-state operators also bought licenses that went unclaimed by Pennsylvania casinos.
Harbach said that the initial online offerings will include only slot machines and table games, such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat. Those games are played against a computer. Online peer-to-peer poker, which involves human competitors, is more complicated and will be launched at a later date, he said.
The gaming board told the state’s operators in April that the state would be ready to launch iGaming July 15, but the operators needed to submit their software for review. The software includes mechanisms for age verification and geo-location, to limit gambling to players who are physically inside the state’s borders.
Parx and SugarHouse started online sports betting in recent weeks, and the new online casino games options will be paired with the existing sportsbooks in mobile apps and on websites -- ParxOnline.com, PlaySugarHouse.Com.
Hollywood, which was the first casino in the state to launch a physical sports book at its casino near Hershey, has not yet started online sports betting. Its internet gaming will be located at HollywoodCasino.com.
Online gaming was launched five years ago in New Jersey. The practice in Pennsylvania was opposed by anti-gambling advocates, as well as the owners of some brick-and-mortar casinos, who fear it will cannibalize existing casino customers. But advocates said that legalized online gaming would help the state tax gambling activity that is now conducted illegally on offshore websites.