Have you ever dreamed of getting into the casino business but Las Vegas or Atlantic City were out of the question? The market is certainly competitive, but it’s never been a better time to open a land-based or online casino in the United States as states from Pennsylvania to Michigan and beyond expand gaming.
Land-based casinos are getting bigger and better, and now incorporate entertainment complexes, restaurants, and theme parks alongside the casino buildings. And if you don’t have the capital for a land-based casino with a massive gaming floor, liquor license and dining options for guests, and online gambling site might be the next best thing.
Here’s our guide on how to open a casino in 2020. Now all you need is a few million dollars and a few business ideas!
Step 1: Choose Your Location
Opening a brick-and-mortar casino? First, you will need to decide on your location. If you’re opening your casino in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Nevada, you will need to apply for a license from the relevant state gaming board.
You’ll also need to look at competition. Building a casino in Pittsburgh, for example, will cost millions to build, but it might be better for your new casino to be physically close to an established casino. This ensures you get foot traffic from guests walking between multiple casinos.
Online casinos are 100% legal in Pennsylvania. You will need to partner up with an existing land-based partner to open an online casino, so those costs need to be taken into account, too.
Application fees vary by state and can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, and while most require an online casino to be tethered to a brick-and-mortar location, states with that requirement are beginning to allow online only casinos if existing land-based casinos don’t want to use all their “skins.”
And if you’re setting up an online casino, you’ll need a location for your server.
Step 2: Get Legal and Licensed
Under the 2019 Gaming Act it is now legal for operators to provide casino games, online poker and slots online in Pennsylvania. However, you will need to apply for a PA gaming license in order to operate.
Online gaming operators must be licensed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), and an initial five-year license costs $1 million. A renewal for another five years costs $100,000. In addition, individual game operators and suppliers must also apply for licenses in PA.
As a new PA casino, you’ll need to prove to the gaming board that you are a fit and proper candidate. You will undergo a full background check to see if you have a criminal record or have been previously banned from working in the gaming industry. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board provides full criteria for applicants.
And if you’re hiring staff, employees must also acquire permits in order to work in a casino in the state. Management company licenses cost $2.5 million, with employee permits costing around $350 each.
Step 3: Buy Games and Software
You’ve decided on whether you want to open a brick-and-mortar or online casino, but you’ll also need some games if you want the players to keep coming back.
As well as a lot of money for building costs and staff, you’ll need a big budget for games. In a land-based casino you will need 500-1000 slot machines at least, plus table games. Don’t forget costs for a restaurant and bar, plus a budget for hospitality staff, valets and cleaners.
Sports betting is legal in Pennsylvania, so you’ll need to decide whether you want to set up a sportsbook. A licensed software provider can handle all the programs you will need, including cutting-edge betting terminals for land-based customers.
For an online casino, you will need to buy games from approved and licensed operators. You can opt for a turnkey casino solution that comes with a full backend and games already installed.
Don’t forget about server costs too. You can choose to have your server hosted in a location that licenses online gambling. In Pennsylvania, online casinos are aligned to existing land-based casinos. You might want to look for a new or smaller land-based casino looking to partner with an online casino.
Step 4: Hire the Right People
Around 20% of your overall budget will be taken up by staff, so you need to find the right people for your new casino. For a land-based casino, you’ll need a management team including a casino manager, marketing manager and human resources team, as well as pit bosses, dealers, bar staff and restroom attendants.
Dealers should be trained and have clean records, but you will be able to hire teams straight out of state dealing schools or community colleges. There are dedicated recruitment agencies for gaming staff across the US.
All your new gaming staff should be knowledgeable about the games and have good customer service experience. Online casino staff will also be trained in programming, social media and online payment methods.
Step 5: Promote Your Casino
One of the key members of staff you’ll need to hire is a marketing manager. Social media plays a big part in promoting a casino, so you’ll need a social media manager who can oversee marketing and PR.
Good marketing is about reaching out to new customers, retaining existing ones and helping your casino grow. You’ll need to stay ahead of your competitors with innovative promotions and better comps and perks. But with some good promotion, you can make a decent profit. For a $1 million-$3 million outlay, you could easily recoup your start-up costs within your first 2-3 years.
Step 6: Have Your Big Opening
You know now how to open a casino. You’ve applied for your gaming license, undergone background checks and acquired the capital to start your business. You’ve decided on whether you want to build a casino from the ground up or rent an existing shell. Or, you may have opted for an online casino with a server in Pennsylvania.
Now you’re ready for the big opening. Get your property insurance in order, get your marketing and promotions in line and open your casino doors.
How much does it cost to open a casino? Probably not as much as you think. How much to open a casino and keep it turning a profit? That could be down to other factors like recessions, a change in gaming legislation or even global pandemics.
Is the Cost of a New Casino Worth the Effort?
Starting a new casino can be a long and costly undertaking. But with sensible management, a good business plan and some great games and slots, you can make it a profitable venture long-term.
In 2020, online casinos and betting sites are legal in Pennsylvania. If you are launching a new online gambling site, you need to decide whether you want to offer just slots and table games, or a mix of casino games, poker and sports betting.
Luckily, with many turnkey platform options available, you can cover all options for a one-off cost. So, budget for licensing, marketing and expertise, remember your revenue is taxed by the state, and see if you can become the casino king.
How to Open a Casino FAQ
How much does it cost to open a casino?
For a small land-based casino, $2 million-$3 million is a conservative cost to open a casino. More ambitious casino projects can cost up to $50 million or even $100 million.
Big US casinos can make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year, mostly from table games, slots and entertainment. The profits in the US casino industry are some of the highest compared to other types of industry.
What makes the most money in a casino?
Slot machines are the most profitable games for a casino operator. Average slots takings in the US can be as high as $70,000-$90,000 per machine.
What requirements are there to opening a casino?
To open a new casino, you must acquire a valid gaming license and pay the relevant fees. You must also undergo a full background and criminal check.
Can anyone open a casino?
As long as you have enough funds and the appropriate licensing and background checks, you can open a new casino.
Will online casinos take my business?
In regulated states like Pennsylvania, there is no suggestion that online casinos take away business and profits from land-based casinos. In fact, both online and offline casinos tend to increase profits in a regulated market.