Q&A: SugarHouse Bridges NJ, Pennsylvania Online Players
Philadelphia is just a bridge away from New Jersey, but that’s a bridge too far for online gamblers in Pennsylvania—a state that has yet to OK real-money online games.
But fans of SugarHouse Casino on the Philly waterfront can still play and win in their favorite (virtual) gaming hall—as long as their feet are firmly planted in the Garden State. Last September, SugarHouse hooked up with Golden Nugget Atlantic City to offer real-money online gaming, complete with loyalty points and extra perks.
iGamingPlayer.com talked to Rush Street Interactive COO Mattias Stetz, who oversees marketing and operations for playsugarhouse.com.
iGamingPlayer.com: Explain how SugarHouse, a Philadelphia casino, can offer online real-money games in New Jersey.
Stetz: According to New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement regulations, each brick-and-mortar licensee in the state can use its online gaming license to operate up to five brands. We entered into a deal with Golden Nugget to use one of the potential five brands available from its license.
SugarHouse players must have been stoked to hear about Johnnyboy5555, who won $160,000 playing slots on the site in February. Is that the granddaddy of jackpots so far? What can you share about Johnnyboy’s winning strategy?
Stetz: That was indeed the biggest payout to one player to date for playsugarhouse.com. Johnnyboy went on a hot streak playing slots that lasted 12 days. He deposited on Friday, February 13—certainly a lucky day for him—and then kept winning over the next 12 days.
At one point, he hit a jackpot of 498.75 times his bet, and still continued to win after that! It was an incredible streak.
There have been other big winners—for example, a woman who won over $60,000 playing video poker a few weeks ago.
What are the most popular games and titles at SugarHouse Online?
Stetz: Many classic player favorites in the brick-and-mortar casino are also very popular online, like Cash Spin, Quick Hit Platinum, Cleopatra and China Shores. Our proprietary blackjack has proven to be a success as well, perhaps because players can play for as little as 10 cents a hand.
What goodies can I get for signing up?
Stetz: Every player who signs up at playsugarhouse.com gets a free wheel spin that guarantees a win of $10, $15 or $20 in bonus money. We match each player’s first deposit 100 percent up to $100.
Also, we offer the lowest wagering requirements on all bonus money in the market, which is only one times wager, like any brick-and-mortar casino. All winnings from bonus spins are the player’s to keep.
Further, all players are automatically enrolled in the market’s premier loyalty program and start earning loyalty points as soon as they start wagering. The rewards come in the form of more wheel spins with guaranteed wins. The only question is how much the player wins every time.
We also have our daily free bonus bingo games that players get randomly invited to play and where they can win additional bonus money. We’ve taken the approach to “gamify” bonuses and rewards.
You have an online chat room. What goes on there?
Stetz: The chat room has been a big success and is starting to get some real traction. Players are very friendly with each other. They wish each other “Good luck” and “Congratulations” and share winner stories. Our chat hosts also act as player supports in the chat room, and I’ve seen instances where players help each other.
Do you serve mostly New Jersey residents? What devices do they play on?
Stetz: The regulation permits players from anywhere in the United States to register and even deposit money, but you have to be physically located within the state borders of New Jersey while wagering. Most are Jersey residents, but as SugarHouse is in Philadelphia, it’s natural that we’ve attracted a few players from that area. Some are also brick-and-mortar players at SugarHouse, and recently we added rewards at the SugarHouse for our online VIP players every month. So yes, there’s some crossover.
We’re very happy to see that from the start more than 50 percent of players used mobile devices to play. We believe our mobile product is market-leading, as we haven’t compromised on functionality or quality.
If I had one foot in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania, would the geolocation robot freak out? How in the world do you know where I am?
Stetz: We use a company called GeoComply for this exact purpose. Their location solution gathers the most accurate, reliable data available to locate each device within meters of accuracy, using a formula that includes cell towers, Wi-Fi access points and GPS.
We rely on something we refer to as “confident range.” We create a circle around each device. If any part of the circle is outside New Jersey, play will be denied. So having one foot in New Jersey and the other outside your circle would mean you can’t play.
To ensure we don’t accept any bets from users crossing state lines, we use an algorithm that calculates how long it will take to cross the border! It captures the location and maps it against permitted boundaries.
Now it’s your turn to place a wager. Do you expect legal online gaming for cash to come to Pennsylvania soon? If so, how will it affect your Jersey-based operation?
Stetz: Based on our current information, we think it’s more likely than not that Pennsylvania will legalize online gambling.
If it happens, playsugarhouse.com will be in a strong position. SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia reaches both New Jersey and Pennsylvania players, so our cross-marketing programs would become even stronger. We’d view the legalization of online gaming in Pennsylvania as a very positive step for both our New Jersey and future Pennsylvania operations.