Even Though It’s Prepping A Launch, Parx Is Still Badmouthing Online Gambling

Written By Steve Ruddock on March 1, 2019

Pennsylvania’s top casino, Parx, has never been a fan of online gambling. Throughout Pennsylvania’s long, winding road to legalization, the Philadelphia-area casino fought online expansion tooth and nail.

To its credit, Parx was very open about its intentions: If you do this, Parx is going to be involved, but you’re going to have to drag us there kicking and screaming.

Based on comments at a recent Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing, Parx is still dead-weighting the state.

“It’s a legitimate concern… It’s not something Bob Green (Parx Chairman) and I were advocating for because you’re combining what is potentially one addictive behavior with another addictive behavior on a cell phone,” Parx Casino CEO Anthony Ricci said at the hearing. “But that’s the law now. It’s our industry; we have to compete as well as we can.”

The problem with his comments is that they are not entirely based on reality, especially when it comes to online gambling cannibalizing the current market.

He only has to look at NJ online casinos and Atlantic City to know there are reasons to think the opposite.

Parx continues to sabotage online gambling in PA

As noted, even though PA online casinos and sports betting are in the forecast, Parx isn’t exactly embracing online gambling.

In fact, it’s done everything within its power to try to make the state’s online gambling industry as ineffectual as possible.

And now, with Pennsylvania approaching its online launch, Parx is back to its fearmongering ways.

At the hearing, Ricci called into question the PGCB’s decision to allow qualified outside gaming entities to apply for the online licenses Pennsylvania casinos eschewed.

Those QGEs include Golden Nugget and MGM, both which run successful online gambling sites in New Jersey.

“One of the concerns is that you have other operators coming into the state the way this process is conducted that may not have brick and mortar investment. All they’ve got is a server and they could spend a lot of money marketing, maybe not be so intelligent in what they give a customer to attract them because there is a very low cost of entry for them and they’ll take a shot. It could destabilize the situation.”

Retail and online can work together

Ricci also likened online gambling to the onset of online retail shopping and cautioned that casinos could become the next JC Penney.

The problem with his analogy is that retail companies that embraced online shopping are not only still in existence, but they’re also doing quite well serving both retail and online customers. These companies modernized their business for a changing world.

The reason JC Penney went out of business is that JC Penney didn’t embrace online shopping until it was too late. That seems to be the model Parx wants to mimic — fight it all the way until it’s inevitable and too late.

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Parx’s motives and the success of NJ online casinos

Parx has been sounding the alarm that online will cannibalize retail revenues — something there is no evidence for.

In fact, NJ online gambling has given the Garden State a new job market, a robust additional revenue source for its casinos, and helped AC get back on its feet.

But what Ricci and Parx are actually afraid of is current Parx customers using competitors’ mobile apps.

Parx benefits from being in a highly populated area, and it likely views online gambling (where every operator has access to the same number of people) as a potential equalizer.

Bottom line: Parx isn’t concerned that Parx’s online gambling products will hurt Parx’s retail revenue. Parx is concerned that its competitors will have access to customers Parx believes belong to them.

That’s caused Parx to take a very protectionist attitude toward online gambling. That might be good for Parx’s short-term interests, but it’s terrible for the industry.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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