There is some speculation in the industry that neither [BetMGM nor WSOP] is interested in sharing liquidity with Michigan until Pennsylvania joins MSIGA. While June 2023 was one of the best months for online poker in the last two years in neighboring New Jersey, the vertical had one of its worst months in the last four years in Pennsylvania.
Six months after PokerStars combined its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey, a new dynamic is starting to take shape — one where New Jersey, after 22 consecutive months where it trailed Pennsylvania in terms of revenue, is back on top of its more populous neighbor.
It’s a trend that is likely to continue for as long as Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro declines to have his state sign the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multistate compact for online poker that currently includes Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that Shapiro, a Democrat who just took office in January, plans to sign MSIGA anytime soon.
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NJ Bests PA for First Time Since July 2021
Online poker in Pennsylvania generated $2.4 million in revenue in June, according to figures provided by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). By comparison, New Jersey online poker grossed $2.5 million, data from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) show.
The last time the Garden State made more money in online poker was in July 2021. That month, New Jersey’s online poker rooms made $3.1 million compared to Pennsylvania, which trailed with $2.6 million.
New Jersey finished ahead of Pennsylvania in terms of monthly revenue from online poker four times in 2021 — in January, March, April, and July — the last month of which had the biggest gap at $476k.
In June, online poker was down 2.9% month-over-month ($2.5 million) in Pennsylvania. The vertical was also down 6.6% year-over-year ($2.6 million).
PokerStars PA was the biggest operator in June in terms of revenue, with $1.4 million, but it was a record low. The BetMGM Poker Network also had the lowest revenue in six months ($340k), and Borgata Poker PA had its lowest revenue in the last four months ($107k).
WSOP PA was the only operator that saw increased revenue in June ($547k), but the operator was down nearly 21% from the year-ago month ($692k). But team BetMGM grew 50% from June 2022 ($227k), and Borgata was up nearly 21% year-over-year ($63k).
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“No Movement” on MSIGA
Shapiro’s predecessor, former Governor Tom Wolf, took office in 2015 — but he didn’t have to think about having Pennsylvania join MSIGA until November 2019, the month the Keystone State launched online poker. Pennsylvania was able to do so after a judge ruled five months earlier that the federal Wire Act applied only to sports betting, not to poker or casino gaming.
It’s important to note that Shapiro served as the state’s attorney general (AG) before being elected governor. During his tenure as AG, Shapiro signed a letter with 25 other AGs in June 2021, urging US AG Merrick Garland to clarify the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) position on the Wire Act.
Online poker and MSIGA were not issues during the 2022 gubernatorial campaign.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to comment on whether Shapiro was considering having Pennsylvania join MSIGA or to confirm whether he had even been briefed on joining the compact. On Thursday, PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach told pokerfuse that “there simply has been no movement to report” on the issue.
Delaware and Nevada formed MSIGA in 2014. New Jersey joined in 2017 Michigan followed suit in May 2022.
Michigan joining the compact opened up an opportunity for PokerStars. The operator combined its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey, forming the PokerStars US Network, on January 1, and has been on a roll against its rivals in the Garden State ever since.
There is still no word on when the BetMGM Poker US Network or the WSOP real money platform might similarly combine its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey. There is some speculation in the industry that neither is interested in sharing liquidity with Michigan until Pennsylvania joins MSIGA. That would allow BetMGM and WSOP — and PokerStars, too, for that matter — to combine its player pools across additional states.
If Pennsylvania were to join MSIGA, WSOP would be the only operator able to connect players in all five states of the expanded compact — it is the only online operator in Nevada, and it holds a monopoly in Delaware through a partnership with 888. Meanwhile, the BetMGM Poker Network has a presence in all five states, except Nevada — but is rumored to be interested in launching online poker in Nevada, too.
With nearly 13 million residents, Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest US state in population. That means that if it were to join MSIGA, the compact would become much larger — the player pool could reach 42.5 million, compared to about 29.5 million currently.