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Pennsylvania Regulator Allows iGaming Operators to Offer Multiple Skins

One of the last remaining hurdles for Pennsylvania’s newly legalized online gambling was cleared last week, when the state’s top gaming regulator allowed operators to offer multiple “skins” on the same platform.

In iGaming parlance, a skin refers to the various front-facing brands operated by a single license-holder. Skins allow operators to tailor their products to different markets, with iGaming sites that specialize in slots, poker, or casino games creating their own themed brands.

Pennsylvania passed House Bill 271 back in October, legalizing online poker and casino games as part of an ambitious expansion of the state’s gaming industry. Since then, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PCGB) has worked to develop a regulatory framework for iGaming, and the initial round of regulations was approved in late March.

But when the state began accepting license applications from prospective operators – a list initially limited to land-based casinos already operating in the state – the PCGB had yet to finalize regulations regarding the use of skins.

Parx Casino, a major player in the state’s gaming sector, forcefully objected to the multiple skin model, arguing that licensed operators would simply sublet their licenses to companies which haven’t been vetted by the PCGB. That argument was refuted by 888 Holdings, the only iGaming operator with a presence in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware – the three states currently running regulated iGaming.

In the end, the PCGB elected to allow the use of multiple skins, approving Temporary Rules and Regulations 125-215.

This essentially models Pennsylvania’s iGaming experiment after the thriving industry already in place in neighboring New Jersey, where iGaming generated $245 million in revenue last year.

Kevin O’Toole, who serves as executive director of the PCGB, issued the following statement on April 4 clarifying the state’s decision to allow multiple skins:

“What the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board did at its public meeting of April 4, 2018 was to approve temporary regulations that enable a very open and competitive market for internet gaming while at the same time assuring transparency and accountability for the consumers.

Under these temporary regulations there is no limitation on the number of skins that a slot machine licensee may employ to deliver games, but every ‘skin’ that a casino offers must be branded in a manner that makes it clear that it is offered on behalf of the slot machine licensee consistent with language of the act.”

Interestingly, the new regulations will limit online gamblers to their choice of one skin per licensed operator. Per section 812.4, the Single Account Requirement provision, players won’t be allowed to maintain multiple accounts across the same network using multiple skins:

“A player shall have only one interactive gaming account for each interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator licensee.

Each interactive gaming account shall be non-transferable; unique to the player who establishes the account; and distinct from any other account number that the player may have established with the interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator licensee for non-interactive gaming activity.”

The impetus for this regulation isn’t clear, but it does differ from the template established in New Jersey. Players in the Garden State can register accounts for PartyPoker NJ, Pala Poker, or Borgata Poker – all skins of the same Borgata licensing group.

Another provision of the skins regulation appears to be designed to promote Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar casinos:

“All interactive gaming skins must, at all times, clearly identify the interactive gaming certificate holder or an entity within the interactive gaming certificate holder’s organizational structure, on the display screen visible to players.”

This language suggests that land-based operators like Mohegan Sun – which operates a skin in New Jersey under the Resorts Casino AC licensing group – will be able to advertise their brand through affiliated skins.