The Reason Why Pennsylvania Hasn't Joined Multi-State Online Poker Yet The Reason Why Pennsylvania Hasn't Joined Multi-State Online Poker Yet

For some frustrated fans of online poker in Pennsylvania, they’ve been counting the days.

The number of days since Josh Shapiro was sworn in as governor.

No doubt such dedicated fans of online poker in the Keystone State have access to a website that can quickly count the number of days between today and the day that the Democrat took office — which, in case you were curious, was January 17, 2023.

And, in case you were really curious (and wanted me to do the work for you), that was 375 days ago as of Thursday. So, a year and some change.

Why is this important? Recall that while legal real money online poker in Pennsylvania, it does not have multi-state poker. That means the online poker operators in the state — the BetMGM Poker Network, PokerStars PA, and WSOP PA — cannot combine their player pools in PA with those in other states.

If the operators were allowed to do that, there would be bigger tournaments and prizes for players. Just ask anyone in Michigan and New Jersey who’ve been playing on PokerStars for the last … 390 days (again, as of Thursday). PokerStars combined its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey on January 1, 2023.

PokerStars was able to do that because both Michigan and New Jersey are signatories to the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state gaming compact that also includes Delaware, Nevada, and West Virginia.

It could also include Pennsylvania. All that’s needed is a thumbs-up from Shapiro.

Which raises the question — What’s the holdup?

One Reason Stands Out

Shapiro spokesman Manuel Bonder has told pokerfuse on multiple occasions, the last time being early November 2023, that there were no developments on the possibility of Pennsylvania joining MSIGA.

Industry experts have held that Shapiro may not have taken action yet for one of three reasons:

  • Online poker won’t generate much in tax revenue
  • There are bigger priorities
  • It’s still not clear that multi-state poker is legal

But while online poker won’t make much in tax revenue, that’s beside the point. The fact is it will generate additional tax revenue that the state currently doesn’t have. There doesn’t appear to be a downside, although that’s for Shapiro to decide — he has a fiduciary duty to consider the pros and cons of such opportunities.

And there is broad agreement that the federal Wire Act applies only to sports betting and not to online poker or casino gaming — even more so since a federal district court in Rhode Island issued a ruling to that effect in September 2022. Michigan and West Virginia have also recently joined the compact.

Which leaves just the second reason — that there are bigger priorities for the Democratic governor to tackle than green lighting multi-state poker. Addressing these other priorities — aka “kitchen table issues” per politicos — is likely the reason that Shapiro doesn’t appear to be engaged on the issue.

No, Shapiro is likely focused on something else — stopping Donald Trump.

Why It Matters

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Shapiro would prefer to have President Biden remain in the White House through January 2029. There’s no question that the two Democrats have a better working relationship than Shapiro and Trump ever could.

Shapiro also ran against a Trump acolyte and fellow election denier, Republican Doug Mastriano, in the last gubernatorial election.

As Trump continues to barrel through to the Republican nomination for president in 2024, and with nearly every poll predicting that the 2024 race will be a nail-biter, there seems to be a growing sense among Democrats that the party will need all hands on deck to help get Biden re-elected in November.

Pennsylvania is a key battleground state. Trump managed to flip the state in 2016 on his way to the White House, but he was denied a second term in part because he lost the state to Biden in 2020.

Expect to see Biden make campaign stops all over Pennsylvania (remember, he’s from Scranton). Shapiro is likely to be at the president’s side for most (if not all) of those campaign stops to help make the case that Biden and his economic policies have been good for the state. Pennsylvania has 19 electoral votes, so both the Biden and Trump campaigns will be pulling out all the stops to win it.

With many calling the upcoming presidential election a test of American democracy, it seems likely that Governor Shapiro will be occupied until at least the day of the election — which, in case you were curious, is November 5, 2024.

And, in case you were really curious (and wanted me to do the work for you), that is 286 days from now (again, as of Thursday).