Parx owner plans to seek OK for gambling on smartphones and tablets

A brochure for betcloud, the online gambling platform used on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
A brochure for betcloud, the online gambling platform used on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
Posted: May 02, 2014

In a bid to attract younger crowds, Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. is planning to introduce gambling on smartphones and tablets at Parx Casino in Bensalem.

"The idea is to try to expand our business, create more revenue both for us and the state by offering something that would appeal to a whole new generation of slots players," John Dixon, Greenwood's chief technology officer, said Wednesday at a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearing in Harrisburg.

Greenwood Gaming's attorney, Alan C. Kohler of Eckert Seamans, told the board that the company would like to file a petition in the next three to six months seeking permission to introduce a system called betcloud.

It would allow gambling on mobile devices only in the casino - with a Bluetooth system that would disconnect the device if it left the casino - and would connect directly into the statewide computer network that ensures Pennsylvania gets its share of gamblers' losses.

The games would be taxed at the same rate as slot machines: 55 percent.

Betcloud, owned by WMS Gaming Inc., is available on Norwegian Cruise Line ships and will soon be up for approval by gambling regulators in Nevada, Steve Beason, WMS's chief technology officer, told the board.

"We will not be first here. We will be a fast follower," Beason said.

Michael Cruz, chief technology officer for the gaming board, said he did not know of any other Pennsylvania casinos that were looking at the mobile-gambling technology.

Dixon, of Greenwood Gaming, said that on the casino floor the company was trying to avoid the fate of horse racing, which has failed to attract younger gamblers. He said attempts to attract younger slots players to machines with "themes that we think would appeal to younger people" had failed.

"We've spent quite a lot of time and research on what would attract younger people into our business. One of the things is they like to play things on mobile devices, and they like to do things . . . simultaneously," Dixon said.

In the area of the casino described by Dixon, "there would be loud music and videos and sports on the screens, and lots of things going on."

"They can sit, they can play on their mobile devices whilst they're having a drink or something to eat, talking to their friends, a much more social kind of atmosphere," Dixon said.

Separately, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday that Greenwood does not have to pay taxes on the value of prizes, such as cars, jewelry, and gift certificates, that it gives away to gamblers.

Greenwood had sought a $600,000 tax credit for $1.1 million in prizes it gave away as promotions in 2007 and 2008, but was denied by two state tax boards and by Commonwealth Court, before winning the 6-1 decision in the Supreme Court. The case was sent back to the lower court for further action.

Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille dissented. In his opinion, he wrote that he did not agree that lawmakers "intended to create a loophole for casinos whereby their discretionary general marketing and promotional costs - matters over which the Commonwealth has no control - may be passed on to the taxpayers."


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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