News

These Three PA Casinos Aren’t Bothering With Online Poker


Online poker is coming to Pennsylvania in a rather big way. In fact, 10 of the 13 casino license holder in the state have applied for licenses to operate online poker, including one that hasn’t even finished building a casino just yet.

Demolition of a former Holiday Inn in Philadelphia’s Stadium District is underway where developers are ultimately planning to build Stadium Casino. Still, the 10 PA casino license holders who did apply for online poker licenses, including Stadium Casino, are putting together plans for exactly what to do with them.

In the meantime, that leaves three PA casinos that don’t appear to be bothering with online poker right now.

Presque Isle Downs & Casino

Erie’s Presque Isle Downs & Casino is about to be turned over to a new owner and it has a plan for online gambling. It just isn’t a plan that includes online poker right now.

Louisville-based racing, gaming, and online entertainment company Churchill Downs Incorporated announced in February 2018 that it reached an agreement to purchase Presque Isle Downs & Casino from owner Eldorado Resorts.

The deal once also involved the purchase of Lady Luck Vicksburg in Mississippi, but that fell through. Now it has Churchill Downs assuming management of Eldorado’s Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington instead.

Both transactions are expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Leaving online poker out

In the meantime, Presque Isle Downs & Casino has applied for PA online gambling licenses to operate online slots and table games, leaving out online poker.

Churchill Downs once had a keen eye on the emerging US online poker market, purchasing popular poker magazine and online poker portal Bluff Magazine in 2012.

It now appears its interest in online poker has completely waned. Presque Isle Downs & Casino is in the live poker business. However, it’s small seven-table poker room posted gross poker revenue of $947,293 in fiscal 2017-18. This represented the lowest poker revenue numbers of any room in the state.

Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin

Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin appears to be following Presque Isle Downs & Casino’s lead when it comes to online poker.

As a part of its agreement to purchases Presque Isle Downs & Casino, Churchill Downs Incorporated is assuming management of the small Farmington-area casino. So far, it has not indicated any interest in online gambling through either owner Eldorado Resorts, or new manager Churchill Downs.

If Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin does look into online poker in the future, it would represent quite a departure for the operation.

Luck Casino Nemacolin does not currently host a poker room. In fact, the closest it comes to poker is the handful of video poker machines it counts among its 600 slots or the Three Card Poker casino game found in its 28 table games.

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino represents a very different case altogether.

On the one hand, the Metro Pittsburgh Area casino and racetrack has a thriving live poker scene that could only benefit from the introduction of an online companion product. On the other hand, the property has a new owner whose online gambling plan is currently focused elsewhere in the state.

In December 2017, PA-based casino giant Penn National Gaming agreed to buy Pinnacle Entertainment in a cash-and-stock deal valued at approximately $2.8 billion.

Penn National and Pinnacle

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino is one of 16 Pinnacle Entertainment regional casino and gaming facilities across the country. The complex deal also saw Pinnacle sell four of its Ameristar properties to Boyd Gaming. It also signed a variety of lease agreements with Penn National Gaming real-estate spin-off Gaming and Leisure Properties.

Penn National Gaming walked away with operational control of a combined 41 casino properties. Pinnacle shareholders got a combination of cash and approximately 22 percent of Penn National Gaming stock.

Penn National Gaming’s PA online gambling plans were revealed when its other PA casino, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, became one of nine PA casino license holders applying for a $10 million online slots, online table games, and online poker license just ahead of the state’s the July 16, 2018 deadline.

A social casino site

Penn National Gaming is not currently in the real-money online casino or online poker business. However, its Hollywood Casino brand is online.

The company runs the social site HollywoodCasino.com, launched in 2015 with partner US gaming tech company Scientific Games Corporation.

Now it appears Penn National plans to take the Hollywood brand into real-money online casino and online poker. That move leaves The Meadows Racetrack & Casino on the out of the online gambling market for now.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course has a mid-sized 17-table poker room. Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino brand also ran a now-defunct promotional poker tournament series. It culminated with a popular annual championship event at its M Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Hollywood brand has cultivated a reputation for poker it clearly plans to leverage online. However, Penn National Gaming may be missing out on the opportunity to do the same with The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Live poker at Meadows

The poker room at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino small at just 14 tables, but it’s growing.

In fact, it was one of the few poker rooms in the state posting gains in fiscal 2017-18. Gross poker revenue at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino rose from $1.8 million in 2016-17 to $2.2 million during this past fiscal year.

The room features a seven-day-a-week tournament schedule. Plus, it has built a ton of momentum around its televised Heartland Poker Tour events. It began running those on the property in November 2017.

HPT Pennsylvania drew 462 entries for an $1,100 Main Event the first time around. Then, another 422 when it came back in March 2018.

With two prize pools in excess of $400,000 on the property, it looks like the HPT is planning to make making The Meadows Racetrack & Casino a regular stop.

It could certainly benefit from local online satellites feeding players into the event. However, it looks like someone must convince Penn National Gaming of that first.

The HPT will continue building the case when it heads back to Meadows in September 2018 for an HPT Mini-Series. It’ll have a $350 Main Event and side event buy-ins ranging from $150 to $200.

However, the question remains whether Penn National wants to compete with its own Hollywood brand online.


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.