The Bicycle Casino From ‘Live at the Bike’ To Online Poker

Located in Bell Gardens, California, the Bicycle Casino, more commonly referred to simply as “The Bike” is one of the most famous card-rooms in the United States and has been an iconic name in the poker world for three decades. History of “The Bike” The Bicycle Casino opened its doors on November 30, 1984, and almost immediately managed to become a well known property, even before California’s poker expansion in the mid-1980’s. When the Bicycle Casino opened in 1984 the only game legally allowed in California was Draw Poker, but many card-rooms were also spreading Holdem poker at this time (the game had surged in popularity in nearby Nevada) which led to a legal dispute between the state and the card-rooms. Draw poker had been officially legal in California since the early 20th century, and in 1987, after an appellate court ruling, California card-rooms were legally allowed to offer other variants like Stud, which had been expressly banned in California dating back to 1911. With the ruling Stud Poker, Texas Holdem, and Omaha joined Draw Poker games, and the “California Poker Rush” was officially on. The entire California poker landscape changed after this ruling with the Bicycle Casino as one of the first benefactors. During the 1990’s and 2000’s the Bicycle Casino was one of the must-visit card-rooms in the world, with the casino attracting celebrities from nearby Los Angeles, and of course the poker pros eager to take them on. George Hardie and his vision The Bike was the vision of George Hardie Sr.—a 2012 Poker Hall of Fame finalist—who brought the card-room to prominence during his time at the helm. During its heyday, in the mid to late 1980’s, the Bicycle Casino was the largest cardroom in the world thanks to Hardie’s leadership and creative ideas such as offering “guarantees” for tournaments held at the casino. In a time when this wasn’t always a given, the Bicycle Casino was known for running honest games and was frequented by many of the biggest names in poker. Hardie is one of the most interesting and colorful characters in poker history, as this LA Times articles attests to. The Bike in modern times The modern Bicycle Casino features a 100-table non-smoking poker room with table-side food and beverage service. The poker room at the Bike offers jackpots, multiple televisions around the room, and wi-fi service. There are plenty of amenities away from the tables as well. The Bike offers several spa services, dining options, and bars on the property as well as valet parking. While it’s no longer one of the jewels of the poker world, the Bicycle Casino is still a terrific card-room, and has remained relevant with new creative ideas such as their Live at The Bike online telecast (more on this below). Where They Stand Now in the Poker World The Bicycle Casino is still a prominent card-room in the eyes of the poker community, and one of the key stops for several poker tours. Although it has given some ground to competitors like The Commerce, don’t sleep on the Bike, especially if online gambling is passed in California. The casino has a terrific brand and a solid reputation it can leverage. With 100 dedicated poker tables for cash-games, and a total of 190 tables when you count tournaments and casino card game tables like Pai Gow and Three Card Poker, the Bicycle Casino is still one of the largest and most heavily trafficked card-rooms in California, and therefore in the world. In addition to their robust daily tournament schedule, with buy-ins ranging from $30 to $90, The Bike currently hosts several exclusive tournament series as well as tournament series for the following tours:
World Series of Poker Circuit Events
World Poker Tour Legends of Poker
Cardplayer Poker Tour
LA Poker Series
Winning O’ the Green
Mega Millions Series
WSOP Academy seminars Here is a glimpse at the daily tournament schedule at The Bike. Rewards Program Like most casinos and card-rooms, The Bike offers their players a rewards program where players earn points that can then be used at the casino. The Bicycle Casino Player’s Club and its Custom Card allow players to earn 1 point for every hour they play at The Bike, equivalent to about $1 in comps. Live at the Bike As mentioned above, The Bike offers a live televised cash game feed known as Live at the Bike. The regularly scheduled game draws professional players thanks to the exposure from the live feed, and with a wide assortment of stakes and formats the Live at the Bike feed has a little something for everyone. Handicapping Their Chances for Online Poker The Bicycle Casino is definitely on board when it comes to online gambling, and with their storied history and prominence in California, The Bike should be one of the top online destinations for California poker players if and when California passes an iGaming bill. The Bicycle Casino was a part of the now defunct COPA (California Online Poker Association) and is a member of the California Gaming Association which has backed online gambling expansion in the state. The Bike has the name as well as the resources to get involved in online poker in California and would make an appealing partner for an online gaming site. Previous Post Next Post bike About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Commerce Casino: At The Forefront Of California Online Gambling

Located in the suburbs of Los Angeles in Commerce, California, the Commerce Casino is the largest card-room in the world, with an astounding 243 tables. With nearly 200 dedicated poker tables and some of the highest stakes games in the world, the Commerce Casino is widely considered one of the top poker destinations, and has become synonymous with California poker since the Poker Boom. History of the Commerce Casino The Commerce Casino came into being in 1983, and along with contemporaries like the Bicycle Casino, Commerce helped usher in the California Poker Boom that exploded in the 1990’s. Initially Commerce was just another card-room in a state dotted by dozens of them, but over the years the casino has grown to legendary status, and the name Commerce has become the model for poker in California and around the world—if your card-room is compared to Commerce you’re in good company. Commerce has continued to grow over the years, adding more and more gaming options and amenities for visitors to take advantage of. The largest and most significant expansion took place in 2001 when Commerce underwent a major renovation with the addition of a 200 room hotel to the property, turning the Commerce into not just a card-room, but a destination card-room. In 2009, Commerce made a smaller but still significant addition, adding to their already sizable list of gambling options with an off-track racebook, and inching Commerce closer and closer to a full resort-style casino. While it’s not quite there yet (Commerce is still considered a card casino), this is something online poker and gambling expansion in California would help to achieve, and something the area would also appreciate as the Commerce Casino accounts for a full 38% of the town’s yearly revenue according to Wikipedia, making the Commerce Casino a vital cog of the local economy and a source of pride for local residents. The Commerce Casino today The Commerce Casino is a non-smoking poker room and offers their patrons table-side food and beverage service. The Commerce Casino also offers jackpots, discounted hotel rates for players and free wi-fi. Even though the property technically isn’t considered a full casino, Commerce has everything players have come to expect from resort casinos, including the aforementioned hotel, a shopping center, a number of different spa services, fine dining options, private pool and sundeck, and even on-site entertainment options such as boxing and MMA matches. Where They Stand Now in the Poker World The Commerce Casino is hands down the best card-room in California, and one of the best card-rooms in the entire world. In addition to having the largest card-room in the world, the Commerce also boasts one of the best management staffs in the world, with Tournament Director extraordinaire Matt Savage leading the Commerce staff. Savage is widely considered to be the best Tournament Director in the industry and is often mentioned as a potential Poker Hall of Famer for all of his work in the industry. Commerce also hosts a number of major poker tournaments and events throughout the year:
Los Angeles Poker Classic
California State Poker Championship
Commerce Poker Series
LA Poker Open
Free poker lessons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the hotel
Bring your home game to Commerce Casino Here is a look at the Commerce Casino’s daily tournament schedule. You can follow Commerce on Social Media: Facebook; Twitter; and YouTube. Rewards Program Commerce Casino offers a full reward program to their guests. As a member of the Commerce Player’s Club you’ll receive comp points for the time you spend at the Commerce tables as well as the following offers:
Exclusive promotional offers
Advance Tournament news
Exclusive admission to Carded Members Only tournaments and more Players Club points can also be exchanged for everything from dining and hotel stays to merchandise in Commerce shops and even car washes. Handicapping Their Chances for Online Poker If California passes online poker or online gambling legislation you can be certain that the Commerce Casino will be heavily involved in the effort, and that they will be at the forefront of California online gambling. Commerce Casino was a member of COPA (California Online Poker Association) a group of pro-online gambling casinos and tribes that disbanded back in 2012—infighting led to the dissolving of COPA—as well as the California Gaming Association, which has also come out in favor of online gambling on behalf of its members. The Commerce Casino has publicly come out in favor of online poker in California. As the largest card-room in the world, Commerce will certainly looking to be at the forefront of online gaming in California, and while they are fighting for online poker in the state, The Commerce Casino is also fighting to make sure they get a favorable deal if a deal is made—which is essentially where the factions have drawn their lines in the sand. Previous Post Next Post commerce About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Bay 101 Casino Quiet on Online Gambling in California

Located in San Jose, California, the Bay 101 casino offers poker and “California” card games, and is easily accessible, located just off Highway 101. Best known for their eponymously named Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament, the casino is a well-known property in the poker world and one of the newer and more modern casinos in the state. History of Bay 101 The current Bay 101 Casino opened in 1994, but the history of the casino can be traced all the way back to the Depression era and the Sutter’s Club in Alviso, California. The family owned Sutter’s Club opened in 1929 under the guidance and steady leadership of Joseph Sutter Sr. who created a legacy for his family with Sutter’s Club. In 1961 the club, which was being run by Joseph Sutter Jr. at the time, added five poker tables to their offerings, kick starting a long history of poker in the San Jose region. Sutter’s closed in 1992 when construction of the current Bay 101 location began down the road in San Jose, which eventually opened its doors in 1994, creating a new, modern poker scene in the San Jose area. Despite being a relatively new construct, this might not be the final home of the casino, as Bay 101 may be looking for a new home in the near future —the Bay 101’s lease is set to expire in 2017—and the casino has expressed interest in moving closer to the new M8trix Casino also located in San Jose. The idea would be to create a gambling hub in the city. Of course, this is all just rumor and speculation at this time. Bay 101 today Bay 101 is a non-smoking casino with table-side beverage and food service available. The casino is open 24 hours a day, has on-site parking and is located in a very industrial area of San Jose, which gets very quiet after business hours. The casino is one of very few that offer players to reserve seats via telephone for stakes of $20/$40 and up. Bay 101 also offers a number of amenities ranging from salon services, and casual and fine dining options. Where They Stand in the Poker World As mentioned above, Bay 101 is best known for their Shooting Stars tournament, (created way back in 1997 by Marko Trapani) which is one of the preeminent stops on the World Poker Tour and the only major tournament played as a bounty tournament in the world. The unique bounty format insures that dozens of top tier pros and celebrities will play the event every year. The property features 49 gaming tables, of which 30 are dedicated exclusively to poker. Bay 101 major tournament series throughout the year:
WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star
Bay 101 Open Here is a look at the Bay 101’s daily tournament schedule. Rake at Bay 101 Bay 101 has a fairly player-friendly rake structure, especially for California, and especially for short-handed games. Most games at Bay 101 have a max rake of $5 and there is no jackpot drop. Shorthanded games (which Bay 101 considers any table with fewer than seven players) receive a rake break to $3 max, while extreme shorthanded games with four or less players will only pay $1 in rake. Timed games have a charge of $6 per half hour. Rewards Program Bay 101 doesn’t offer a rewards program. The only comps offered at Bay 101 are for coffee and water. The lack of Rewards program is one of the few drawbacks at the casino, and the addition of a comp program would likely draw in new players. Handicapping Their Chances for Online Poker Bay 101 is an interesting case study when it comes to online poker. The casino has a solid but not great brand, and is on seemingly solid financial footing, but thus far they have been somewhat quiet on the matter. Bay 101 did not join the short-lived California Online Poker Association (COPA) which dissolved in late 2012 amid internal struggles. However, Bay 101 is a member of the California Gaming Association, which has thrown its support behind online gambling efforts. As noted above, Bay 101 has talked about a potential move that would bring Bay 101 closer to the recently opened Casino M8trix in San Jose. This could mean one of two things for Bay 101: Either the casino will be preoccupied with moving into their new facilities, or perhaps the Bay 101 casino will embrace online poker to help increase their brand and market their new property. Of course, this is all predicated on Bay 101 moving from their current home, which isn’t set in stone. Previous Post Next Post bay 101 About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

Four Questions That Might Be Answered At PA’s Online Gambling Hearing

On Wednesday the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee (or just CERD for short) will lay all of its cards on the table when it hosts a hearing on comprehensive gambling reform in the Keystone State. The hearing will touch on all of the topics from a new bill introduced on Tuesday, SB 900. SB 900 covers a number of gaming reforms ranging from online gambling to the elimination of the membership fee that Category 3 casinos are required to collect. The new legislation is sponsored by Senator Kim Ward, and cosponsored by all nine Republicans on the CERD Committee which includes Senate President pro tempore Joe Scarnati. The following four questions will hopefully be answered at the hearing, and the answers will likely be a barometer of whether or not online gambling will be included in the state’s upcoming budget for FY2016. 4. Is Parx still calling for in-person registrations? In 2014 Parx Casino took an apathetic view towards online gaming expansion in Pennsylvania. Parx Chairman Bob Green told lawmakers he wasn’t sold on online gaming expansion, but if it was being discussed Parx would be involved in shaping the law and if it passed, Parx would offer online gambling. Parx later partnered with GameAccount Network, one of the few announced partnerships in Pennsylvania. However, in 2015 Parx floated the idea of in-person registrations, which is included in SB 900 and considered anathema to iGaming analysts. If the company is adamant about this restriction, it might derail online gambling expansion as this will be a poison pill to a lot of other casinos. 3. Have any other partnerships been formed? At a previous hearing we learned of the partnership between 888 and Mount Airy Casino, so it’s not out of the question that other partnerships may be informally mentioned or officially announced at Wednesday’s hearing. If new partnerships are talked about in the abstract (more likely) or if a casino representative will name a specific company (less likely), it would be a good sign for online gambling expansion in the state. 2. How much is Sands going to fight PA online gambling? This will likely be more of a “read between the lines” kind of answer, as Sands representative Mark Juliano, the President of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, will almost certainly tow the company, and Sheldon Adelson’s, line and be vociferously opposed to iGaming. How these protestations are received by the committee will be far more telling than anything Juliano says. If Sands has been pushing behind the scenes, I would expect some lawmakers to bring up these concerns unprompted, and perhaps lead Juliano down the “bash online gambling” trail. On the other hand, if Sands is resigned to online gambling coming to Pennsylvania (which could be the case), the fear-mongering at the hearing may be muted, and lawmakers will likely ignore or even challenge some of Juliano’s assertions. 1. What revenue projections will the state use? The million dollar question will of course be what amount of revenue can Pennsylvania generate from online gambling, and will it be enough to bring Governor Tom Wolf to the bargaining table with some of his tax proposals in hand? This is also important for another reason, as Pennsylvania doesn’t want to come up short in an attempt to shoot the moon, effectively pulling a New Jersey by making revenue predictions the industry simply cannot live up to. Fortunately, even the high-end estimates are nowhere near as ridiculous as New Jersey’s early predictions.

Senate Hearing Reveals Strong Support For Legalizing Online Gambling In Pennsylvania

Emissaries from numerous Pennsylvania casinos were on hand in Harrisburg last week for a public hearing held by Senator Kim Ward’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. A large portion of Wednesday’s conversation surrounded online gaming legalization, an effort which now appears to command sizeable support among both state lawmakers and casino representatives. In attendance at the hearing were delegates from Pennsylvania’s Sugarhouse, Rivers, Meadows, Penn National, Sands Bethlehem, Harrah’s, Parx, and Valley Forge casinos. Each casino supported online gaming regulation to some extent, with the exception of Sheldon Adelson’s Sands which, predictably, opposed the bill outright. Absent from the conversation were Mohegan and Presque, as well as Live! Hotel & Casino, which is still under construction and slated to open next year in Philadelphia. Debating SB 900 The hearing represented a growing legislative trend of support for online gambling in Pennsylvania. Five regulatory bills have already been introduced in 2015, and SB 900 is the latest such effort from state lawmakers. Sponsored by Ward, SB 900 was the immediate cause for last week’s committee hearing, which also delved occasionally into questions of tavern gaming and liquor laws. SB 900 included language championed by Parx boss Bob Green, which would require online players to register in-person at a casino. Even as Green reiterated his support for live registration at Wednesday’s hearing, others in attendance condemned the approach as impractical and potentially costly. The caveat was a central cause for SB 900’s initially cold reception, but at the hearing, Ward noted the terms of the bill were not yet finalized. Such a requirement could become a sticking point that has a chance of derailing PA online gaming legislation. Casino execs support legalizing PA online gambling “We are in favor of online gaming, as long as it’s affordable and the details are ferreted out,” said Meadows General Manager Sean Sullivan. “We have to be considerate of what the fee of entry is, and what the taxes are.” Sullivan said land-based casinos in nearby West Virginia and Ohio are currently “pillaging” business in the state. Caesars Vice President Michael Cohen told lawmakers online gaming would attract a huge, younger demographic not currently drawn to brick and mortar establishments. Four-fifths of online registrants are entirely new players, Cohen said, of which fifteen percent then venture into live casinos for the first time. “Acquiring new players is the lifeblood of the industry,” said Richard Schwartz of Harrah’s, who also spoke out against the live registration system proposed by Green, comparing the process to registering for Netflix at a movie theater. Legalized online gaming would counteract the “poaching” of Pennsylvania players, Schwartz said, adding it would lead to “little overlap” with land-based receipts. Tax questions remain For Pennsylvania casinos to compete in the online marketplace, Schwartz emphasized a need for finalized legislation to mandate a tax equal to or below that of New Jersey, noting that many offshore operators are subject to tax rates as low as one percent. But Senator Robert Tomlinson, a member of Ward’s committee, condemned Schwartz’s call for a tax rate of 15 percent or lower. Casinos would capitalize on higher online profit margins, Tomlinson argued, and divest from brick and mortar operations. “If you see an advantage in the tax rate, you’re going to take advantage of that,” Tomlinson said. “If we give you a tax rate that incentivizes you to give people a cell phone and an app and go home, that’s a scary point to me.”

The Four Types Of Land-Based PA Casino Licenses Explained

Pennsylvania first launched legal casino gambling in 2006 when the first legal slot machines opened up at racetrack and casino properties across the state. Since then, 12 legal gambling operations opened their doors, and a 13th is currently under construction in Philadelphia. The original authorization for slot operations came from Pennsylvania’s Racehorse Development and Gaming Act, which was signed into law on July 5, 2004. In fact, the act created the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to oversee casino gambling in the state. Plus, it also created three categories of casino licenses governing gambling operations. Category 1 licenses are for the state’s existing racetracks. Category 2 licenses for stand-alone casino operations. Category 3 licenses are for resort casinos. In 2010, lawmakers amended the Act to allow for the operation of table games inside all three types of licensed facilities. Plus, in 2017, the state passed a comprehensive gambling expansion package. It authorized the issue of online gambling licenses. Plus, this new set of laws created a fourth casino license category for satellite, or mini-casinos, across the state. Here’s a look at the now four types of land-based PA casino licenses and exactly what each authorizes: Category 1 – Racinos Category 1 casino licenses were designed to help bolster the state’s struggling horse racing industry. The state’s existing racetracks were invited to apply for these Category 1 licenses and turn their horse racing facilities into a combination racetrack/casino known widely as a racino. The state planned to award no more than seven Category 1 licenses. Each license permits the racetrack facility to host as many as 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines. Six racetracks applied for Category 1 licenses and were approved. The list of currently operating Category 1 licensed Racinos in the state includes:
Harrah’s Philadelphia
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Parx Casino and Racing
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse
Presque Isle Downs In order to apply for the license, existing racetracks were required to host live racing for at least two years prior. In order to keep it, live racing must occur at the property at least 100 days every year. If a new racetrack property wants to apply for a Category 1 license, it must host live racing for a minimum of 150 days by its second year. Category 2 – Stand-alone casinos Category 2 licenses are for classic casino operations. There are currently five Category 2 licenses in the state. These are the four that are open:
Mount Airy Casino Resort
Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
SugarHouse Casino Philadelphia The state granted a Category 2 license to Stadium Casino LLC. This entity is a partnership between Cordish Cos. and Parx Casino and racing owners Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. They are currently building a casino complex in South Philadelphia’s sports stadium district. The complex should open in 2020. Category 2 license holders can operate the same 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines the state’s Category 1 license holders can. They can also offer major resort amenities, including restaurants, spas, and entertainment. However, Category 2 licensees are not permitted to operate hotels directly connected to the casinos. Although, hotels may be built elsewhere on the property. Category 2 licensees must build casinos in major cities or tourist areas. Additionally, they must be outside of a 30-mile radius of any Category 1 Racino. Category 3 – Resort casinos Category 3 licenses are for resort casino properties. The law authorizes the state to issue three of these licenses. So far, there are only two Category 3 casinos. These are:
Valley Forge Casino Resort
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin Gaming options are restricted to 600 slot machines and 50 tables. However, these are the only gaming facilities that can have attached hotels. Initially, casino players had to either be hotel guests or pay a fee to use the property’s amenities. However, as a part of the state’s 2017 gambling expansion, Category 3 licensees could pay a $1 million fee to remove the amenity fee provision. Category 3 licensees can now also pay another $1 million to add an additional 15 table games and $2.5 million to add up to 250 slot machines. Category 4 – Satellite Casinos The comprehensive gambling expansion laws passed by PA legislators in October 2017 authorized the issue of up to 10 Category 4 satellite casino licenses These mini-casinos can operate anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games. Properties can add 10 more table games after the first year of year of operation. Satellite casino sites cannot be within 25 miles of one of the state’s existing Category 1, 2, or 3 casino license holders. However, its these license holders that got the first chance to procure the licenses and build the casinos. PGCB is now in round two of auctions for Category 4 licenses. The first round began in January 2018, resulting in four accepted bids:
Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, operators of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, bid $50,100,000 to build in the Borough of Yoe in York County.
Stadium Casino, LLC, the group in the middle of construction on a second Philadelphia casino, bid $40,100,005 to build in Derry Township in Westmoreland County.
Mount Airy #1, LLC, operator of the Mount Airy Casino Resort, bid $21,188,888.88 to build in the City of New Castle in Lawrence County.
Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., which operates Parx Casino, bid $8,111,000 to build in South Newton Township in Cumberland County.

Pennsylvania Will Legalize Online Gambling This Year… If

A comprehensive gaming reform package (SB 900) that included everything from online gambling expansion to 24-hour liquor licenses and allowing slot machines at OTB locations has apparently been scrapped as the state legislature continues to craft a budget that can pass the desk of newly elected Governor Tom Wolf. There are signs that indicate the legislature could be looking at just one aspect of the comprehensive proposal: Online gambling expansion, but there is one sticking point that seems to be holding it up. If the legislature can compromise on a tax rate, Pennsylvanians will likely be playing on legal online gaming sites this year or by the end of 2016, considering 11 of the state’s 12 casinos are in favor of iGaming expansion and agree on every major issue, unlike the stakeholder gridlock in California. It is still possible that misplaced fear by Pennsylvania lawmakers could be the reason online gambling fails to pass this year. The tax rate proposals The hiccup seems to be where to set the tax rate on online gaming operators. Representative John Payne’s HB 649 had a casino-friendly 14% tax rate; the same rate Pennsylvania collects from table games in the state’s casinos and a rate in line with New Jersey’s iGaming tax rate of 15%. On the other hand, the comprehensive bill proposed by the state senate called for a 54% tax rate, identical to Pennsylvania’s tax rate on slot machines. Why the discrepancy? State Senator Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson appears to be the driving force behind the 54% tax rate, as he has openly expressed his concern that a tax rate below the rate imposed on Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar gaming would lead to casinos focusing on online gaming instead of B&M gaming — a patently absurd notion. Tomlinson has made this pitch multiple times, and despite several experts explaining the differences in margins between the two, Tomlinson seems convinced his point of view is correct. Even if the higher tax rate comes from a good place (a desire to raise more revenue for the state) it’s a logical fallacy. One might think a higher tax rate would mean more money for the state, but the reality is a higher tax rate would likely reduce the amount of money the state pulls in from online gambling. First, gaming analysts are convinced that a tax rate as low as 15% only provides operators the potential for 5% margins. Essentially, any tax rate over 20% makes iGaming in a closed market like Pennsylvania close to unprofitable and will likely reduce the number of casinos and online software companies willing to enter the space. Instead of 10 or 11 licenses at $5 million a pop, Pennsylvania would be lucky to have two or three casinos apply. Right off the bat, Pennsylvania could lose as much as $40 million. Furthermore, to make up for the higher tax rate, online gaming operators would need to increase the rake on poker games and implement other penny pinching policies such as reducing the payout percentage of slot machines. These customer-unfriendly actions would drive many patrons away from Pennsylvania’s regulated sites, as they could either drive across the border to play at the more customer-friendly New Jersey online poker sites (if they live close enough) or continue to patronize the numerous unlicensed online gambling sites available. An untenable tax rate would sabotage online gambling before the first site ever went live. A high tax rate doesn’t allow potential operators the ability to compete on a level playing field. What’s the answer? If the lawmakers calling for a high-end tax rate are simply unwilling to compromise and concede to a rate under 20%, the only other option might be a proposal similar to the B&M casino tax rates; a higher tax rate on slots and a lesser rate on table games and iPoker. If this is out of the question, then online gambling in Pennsylvania will likely have to wait another year.

PA Regulator Says Casino ‘Novelty Has Worn Off’; Could Online Gambling Spur Growth?

Pennsylvania’s top gambling regulator says that the “novelty has worn off” for Pennsylvania’s casinos and that growth may have plateaued, leaving online gambling as a possible avenue for growth in the state’s gaming industry. What the Gaming Control Board’s head said William H. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, was commenting as part of an in-depth feature at Trib Total Media on the current state of Pennsylvania’s casinos. The story notes that casino revenue growth peaked in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and that only two of Pennsylvania’s 11 casinos have experienced growth over the next two years (Sands Bethlehem and Valley Forge). Ryan noted that he believes that growth for PA casinos may have topped out, without changes to their economical model and/or streams of revenue: And later: One of the ways to foster growth in the casino sector? Online gambling. Online gambling can help brick and mortar casinos While Sheldon Adelson (casino magnate behind Sands Bethlehem) and company would like you to believe that internet gambling will cannibalize revenue from land-based casinos, that’s really not the case. The most recent research on the subject of online gaming suggests that it can be complementary to brick-and-mortar casinos. The concept also came up at a Senate committee hearing last month, as representatives from both SugarHouse Casino and Harrah’s talked about iGaming’s potential for:
Growing revenue.
Creating new customers.
Reactivating inactive players.
Cross-promotional possibilities. Then what’s stopping online gambling in PA? In reality, there’s not much stopping it. There is minimal opposition to the idea of iGaming — notably from Sands and some horse-racing interests. The other 10 casinos generally support launching online gambling, to the point that some have already partnered with online platforms. Most interests in the state approve of iGaming in some form, although the proposed tax rate and implementation remain issues that would need to be resolved. In the spring, Reps. John Payne and Nick Kotik — a Republican and a Democrat — made their case for online gambling legalization in an op-ed, and both sides of the aisle have introduced regulation bills. The PGCB said it is more than ready to handle the task of regulating online gaming, if a bill is passed. At the same time, legislation regulating online gambling has not really come up much in the current budget standoff. That’s despite the fact that online gambling has the potential of creating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state as the state looks to trim huge projected deficits. But if casino revenue growth in Pennsylvania actually has plateaued or continues to dip at some casinos — and the state is still looking for revenue in the coming weeks and months — the solution on online gaming waits in the wings as a fairly non-controversial way to help foster growth in the sector. Photo by It’s Our City used under license CC BY 2.0.

Gov. Wolf Staying Firm On Increased Spending, Meaning Revenue Questions Remain

A month into Pennsylvania’s budget standoff, Gov. Tom Wolf appears to have no plans to reduce the expenditures he has planned for the state, like more money for education. The takeaway? If he wants to keep his plans for the budget intact, he will have to find a way to fund the expenditures while also appeasing Republicans, who have been adamant about not raising taxes in Pennsylvania. What Wolf wants to keep In an impasse that has now lasted a month, there has been almost no progress made in meager negotiations between the Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers in the state. While the two sides have been talking, albeit sporadically, Wolf, at least publicly has shown little willingness to cut back on any of the funding increases he earmarked in his version of the budget. In particular, Wolf appears to remain firm that funding be increased for Pennsylvania’s schools, one of the major tenets of his successful campaign. To back down from his promises on education would amount to a major political defeat for Wolf. Despite the fact that funding for this school year might be affected if a budget isn’t passed soon, Wolf is sticking to his guns. In talking to the York Rotary Club on Wednesday, Wolf had this to say about increased education funding in his budget: How does the education funding get paid for? Republicans would likely be happy to approve Wolf’s education funding, but only if it isn’t accompanied by a suite of tax increases that Wolf is also proposing. There’s been no mention of online gambling as a bridge between Wolf and Republicans on the revenue front. But if Republicans want no new taxes, and Wolf wants more education funding, there is clearly going to need to be compromise on revenue-generating measures. Internet gambling remains one of those possibilities. Privatization of the state liquor system, which Wolf has opposed, is a Republican-backed plan that Wolf may end up acquiescing to. At the same time, it also seems highly unlikely that Republicans’ hard line on opposing tax increases will continue, either. No matter what, the two sides will have to figure out how to pay for Pennsylvania’s budget, one way or another, and that has been the most contentious part of the impasse. No positive signs The latest nugget of news on the iGaming front came from Penn National Gaming CEO Tim Wilmott, who is bearish on online gaming happening during this legislative session. Here’s what Wilmott said in an earnings call last week: In the same call, however, PNG Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Government Relations Eric Schippers did leave the door open for a possible avenue to a deal getting done this year that that would regulate iGaming. Beyond that, there has been no mention of online gambling by politicians in the state in recent weeks. At the same time, the budget standoff, which was mostly political theater until now, will start having a real impact on the state soon, as money to some state-funded programs will run out in August or shortly thereafter. For now, everyone in Pennsylvania is watching and waiting for one of the sides to give some ground, or find a new solution to the issues Democrats and Republicans disagree on. Will online gambling be a part of that solution? While it’s looking increasingly unlikely, it’s not off the table yet. Photo by Governor Tom Wolf used under license CC BY 2.0.

Hawaiian Gardens Casino’s Expansion Could Lead to Online Poker

Located in Hawaiian Gardens, California, just outside of Los Angeles, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino is one of the larger and more prominent cardrooms in California. History of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino The Hawaiian Gardens Casino was the brainchild of Dr. Irving Moskowitz who bought the land in 1993 and opened the Hawaiian Gardens Casino’s doors in 1995; right next door to Moskowitz’s bingo hall which he purchased from the city in 1988. The casino sprang up in what was at the time one of the most crime-ridden area of Los Angeles, and while gambling opponents will scream from the rooftops that casinos increase crime, the Hawaiian Gardens is perhaps the perfect example (Tunica, Mississippi is another) that casinos, and the employment opportunities they can bring, can do wonders to rehab an area. Since opening the Hawaiian Gardens Casino the area has seen record drops in crime. Still, the area isn’t quite what people consider “safe.” And because of its location, the Hawaiian Gardens employs a lot of security. With six hundred cameras in and around the facility to protect its patrons and the decreased crime rate, the casino is really helping to usher in a new era in the city and turning the surrounding area into a “safe” neighborhood. The Hawaiian Gardens Casino today Hawaiian Gardens, like all California casinos, is a non-smoking facility that offers tableside food and beverage options. Free wi-fi is available on the casino floor; automatic shufflers are used on all tables; as well as several amenities from dining options to massage being available. Additionally, Hawaiian Gardens is currently undergoing a $45 million expansion that is anticipated to be finished sometime in early 2016, when the Hawaiian Gardens will move into its new 200,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility. The expansion will make Hawaiian Gardens the largest card-room in California (in terms of square footage and possibly tables) and will also be a boon to the local economy as some three hundred to four hundred new jobs will be added—Hawaiian Gardens already employs about 1,600 people. Like the Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens is a vital part of the local economy, accounting for 70% of the general revenue for the smallest LA County. Where They Stand in the Poker World With 110 poker tables, Hawaiian Gardens houses a very large poker room (a separate area contains tables for other table games like blackjack), unfortunately, the location and the reputation of the area keeps many high-rollers from heading out to the casino. Because of this, most of the games at Hawaiian Gardens are low and middle limit offerings. This also puts a damper on major tournament series visiting the casino, as the only major tournament series offered is the Gardens Poker Classic, an on-site tournament series run by the Hawaiian Gardens. The casino does have a solid daily tournament schedule, which you can view here. Rake is fairly standard for the area, with lower limit games having a $4 max plus $1 jackpot drop. Rewards Program Hawaiian Gardens does have a frequent player’s card, but the card offers very few perks. Essentially, the player’s club card is only used to mail you special offers and to enter you into special drawings the casino holds. There are no comp points or other benefits attached to the player’s card—a very strange decision on management’s part. You can also sign up to receive text messages from the casino, where Hawaiian Gardens will text you tournament information as well as info on the latest promotions and contests taking place at the casino. Handicapping Their Chances for Online Poker Hawaiian Gardens signed on to the short-lived COPA (California Online Poker Association) and the casino is also a member of the pro-online gambling California Gaming Association (CGA) so it would appear that they are on board with online poker expansion in the state, although like most casinos they are keeping their cards close to their vest. Considering their expansion plans (the casino floor will house some 300 gaming tables and there will be room for conference and banquet halls as well), Hawaiian Gardens appears to be pushing the envelope, and that probably means online poker or online gambling is on their to-do list. Next Post hawaiian gardens About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.