The Stars Group, Mount Airy Casino Announce Pennsylvania Online-Gambling Deal

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Canada’s The Stars Group and Pennsylvania’s Mount Airy Casino Resort have announced an online-gambling partnership that will likely return the Stars family of brands to a second US state.

Pennsylvania’s Mount Airy Casino Resort and The Stars Group (TSG) of Ontario, Canada, operator of global online-poker market leader PokerStars and growing online sports-betting brand BetStars, have announced a planned partnership through which TSG will provide software services and support for online gambling products licensed by the casino in Pennsylvania.

The partnership, if approved by Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board regulators, will allow Mount Airy Casino’s online site to use TSG’s state-of-the-art gaming software and the prominent “Stars” branding as part of its upcoming online-gambling rollout. Mount Airy is one of the nine Pennsylvania casinos that have already filed applications with Pennsylvania’s gaming regulators. Upon approval, they will be able to offer online sports betting, poker, and house-banned casino games. The offerings licensed to Mount Airy and several other Keystone State casinos are expected to go online for real-money play in 2019.

TSG, in return, will gain access to a second US state in its slow push to return to the United States market. TSG’s Stars brands are already available in New Jersey, one of the first three US states to already have regulated online gambling.

TSG approval probable but uncertain

The deal likely includes some tacit understanding or preliminary investigation by Pennsylvania’s regulators that The Stars Group is more likely than not to receive approval. TSG already operates sites in partnership with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after undergoing a rigorous, two-year-long application process. That deal now includes two New Jersey sites, PokerStarsNJ and PokerStarsCasinoNJ.

However, TSG remains on the outside looking in Nevada, due to a controversial “bad actor” clause that forbids market participation by any firm that served the US after late 2006, when the US’s federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act went into effect.

TSG’s PokerStars brand served most of the US well into 2011, but the company has undergone a change in ownership that was a necessary component of its eventual New Jersey approval, which came in late 2015. PokerStars and the other Stars brands were originally owned by the Isle of Man-based Rational Group, before being sold to Amaya, Inc., in 2014. Amaya was later renamed The Stars Group.

All of that opens the door to questions about TSG’s ultimate approval by Pennsylvania regulators. However, Pennsylvania has openly modeled its online gambling market plans on New Jersey’s experience, since New Jersey has been the most successful of the formally regulated US online-gambling states to date. Pennsylvania also chose not to include a preemptive bad actor clause similar to Nevada’s in its own regulations, further increasing the chances of approval.

TSG acknowledges market expansion goal

Increasing that fragile toehold in the US is vital to TSG’s long-term plans. “We’re excited to take this next step as The Stars Group looks to broaden its presence in the United States,” said Matt Primeaux, SVP Strategy & Operations, USA, at The Stars Group. “In partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, we believe we’re well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Commonwealth by bringing our world-leading offerings to Pennsylvania players.”

Vincent Jordan, Vice President of Marketing & Gaming Operations, Mount Airy Casino Resort, said: “As one of Pennsylvania’s leaders in entertainment, offering internet sports wagering and gaming and partnering with The Stars Group is the obvious next step for us to continue diversifying our casino offerings.

“Introducing internet gaming through The Stars Group will provide compelling opportunities for our customers, particularly our younger customers, who are ready to experience the next gaming challenge.”

TSG’s multi-service platform will allow it to provide a complete, integrated platform for Mount Airy Casino, which ranks roughly in the middle of Pennsylvania’s casinos in gambling revenue. According to the statement: “The Stars Group intends to utilize its existing and proprietary technology and player account management platform for its offerings in Pennsylvania, providing customers with a single account, common wallet, various online and mobile depositing and withdrawal options, and a seamless offering of betting and gaming options.”

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