Pennsylvania Democrats held a hearing on Thursday to discuss the pros and cons of regulated online gambling. State legislators have flirted with the idea of passing an intrastate online gambling bill for a couple years now but have yet to gain any traction on the issue. Wednesday’s hearing by the House Democratic Policy Committee precedes the May 7 release of a state-commissioned study on the potential effects of online gambling on the state’s brick-and-mortar casino industry.
The tentative tone of Wednesday’s hearings underscored the fact that nobody really expects the state to pass online gambling legislation in 2014. But as their California counterparts understand all too well, herding cats and/or stakeholders is a tough proposition and thus practice makes perfect.
Among those appearing before the House Dems were the usual suspects – reps from GeoComply, the Poker Players Alliance, Gambling Compliance and various problem gambling groups – but the day’s most interesting testimony came from David Satz, VP of Government Relations for Caesars Entertainment. Satz warned legislators that continuing to ignore the internet could leave their brick-and-mortar casino industry to the same fate as newspapers or retail book and music stores.
Satz insisted that an online gambling option would increase, rather than cannibalize, state gambling revenues. Satz backed this up by noting that 91% of Caesars’ online gambling players in New Jersey weren’t listed in any of Caesars brick-and-mortar casino databases. What’s more, the 9% who were existing customers increased their brick-and-mortar spending by 11% following New Jersey’s online gambling launch. Satz’s comments mirror that of New Jersey’s online gambling market leader, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which has said 85% of its online players were not in their database.
Parx Casino and Racing chairman Bob Green told legislators he viewed online gambling as the latest logical step in the state’s gambling evolution, but Green raised eyebrows when he suggested that online gambling platform providers be precluded from sharing in gambling revenue. “They should be part of a fair fee structure, but shouldn’t be affiliated, integrated or partners with the major licensed casino operators.”
PARX TO SEEK MOBILE GAMBLING OPTION ON CASINO FLOOR
In somewhat related news, Parx owner Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment just announced it wants to make Parx the first to bring smartphone and tablet gambling to the casino floor. Greenwood plans to file a petition sometime in the next six months seeking permission to launch WMS Gaming’s Betcloud system, which is already in use on Norwegian Cruise Line ships and is currently awaiting approval by regulators in Colorado. The system would disconnect players if they left the casino floor. Similar systems have been available in Nevada and New Jersey casinos for a couple years.
Much like online gambling, Greenwood reps say the high-tech option is necessary if casinos want to avoid the fate facing the state’s horseracing industry, which has failed to catch on with younger generations. Philly.com quoted Greenwood CTO John Dixon saying the introduction of “themes that we think would appeal to younger people” had so far failed to alter the aging demographics of slots players. Dixon said the company had since realized that young people “like to play things on mobile devices and they like to do things … simultaneously.”