Pennsylvania at Risk of Falling Further Behind Other Online Poker States Pennsylvania at Risk of Falling Further Behind Other Online Poker States

Pennsylvania risks falling further behind other states with real money online poker, now that WSOP Online has created a three-state network.

The long-awaited software upgrades were made to WSOP Nevada and WSOP New Jersey, then WSOP Michigan was connected to the multistate player pool on May 27, effectively creating a network called WSOP Online. WSOP PA is not part of that network.

Players on WSOP MI, WSOP NJ, and WSOP NV will get to share the fun, but players on WSOP PA won’t be able to experience the benefits of shared liquidity. Those benefits include increased competition, more players, bigger prizes, more variety in the types of poker games offered, and more online poker action at all times of the day and night, not just the most popular times.

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WSOP Online is made possible by the fact that all three states on the network are also signatories of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a gaming compact that supports real money online poker. Operators are allowed to combine their player pools across the member states, creating shared liquidity.

Since Pennsylvania is not a member of MSIGA, WSOP PA is unable to connect to the new three-state network, aka WSOP Online. But once that changes WSOP (and PokerStars) is expected to quickly add the Keystone State to its network. Note: PokerStars USA has been a two-state network that includes Michigan and New Jersey since New Year’s Day 2023.

Pennsylvania has three paths to becoming a full member of MSIGA:

  • Governor Josh Shapiro could issue an executive order for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to apply for the state’s membership in the compact
  • Lawmakers could pass HB 2078, a bill that would authorize the PGCB to do the same
  • HB 2078 could be included in a “code bill” since it affects revenue to the state (if Pennsylvania is in MSIGA, operators will make more revenue and therefore owe the state more in tax revenue)

Players Didn’t Like WSOP PA Upgrade

While WSOP has been busy putting together its three-state network across Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey, it did devote some attention to its still-segregated online poker room in Pennsylvania.

Whether that attention will eventually be appreciated by players on WSOP PA remains to be seen — in the short run it has been a little messy. At issue is a software upgrade that WSOP rolled out in the Keystone State on May 22.

The operator appears to have upgraded WSOP PA to a version of Poker 8 software that is even newer than the versions installed in Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey. It also appears to be the same version of software that 888poker deployed in the international dot-com market last February.

Judging by comments on social media, players mostly disliked the upgrade — at least initially. After complaints about the site’s appearance and functionality, an update may have addressed at least some of those concerns, with a few players welcoming the fixes by June 4.

Pennsylvania players are just now getting their first glimpse at how what is offered to them stacks up to what is offered to players in Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey. Consider that WSOP announced a 30-event bracelet schedule that started on June 1 for players on the new WSOP Online network, but would hold a separate 7-event schedule for those on WSOP PA.

Could PA Support a Fifth Operator?

Then there is the matter of BetRivers Poker, the real money online poker platform in development by Rush Street Interactive (RSI).

When RSI plans to release BetRivers Poker is anyone’s guess — the Chicago-based company has been opaque about its plans for the platform, which is based on the Run It Once poker project conceived by poker guru Phil Galfond, and purchased by RSI for $5.8 million in March 2022.

Launches in Michigan and New Jersey seem the most likely, since both are members of MSIGA. Delaware is a likely home for BetRivers Poker, too, considering RSI was selected as the Delaware Lottery’s exclusive igaming provider in 2023. But since the poker product wasn’t ready to go when RSI took over at the beginning of the year, there is an ongoing blackout of real money online poker in the First State.

A launch of BetRivers Poker PA is almost certain, even if it’s a segregated market for when the platform is ready for prime time. Consider that the BetRivers brand is already popular in the Keystone State — RSI’s affiliate, Rush Street Gaming, owns are operates casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the two biggest cities in the state.

On the question of whether Pennsylvania could support a fifth real money online poker operator — BetRivers Poker PA would compete against BetMGM Poker PA, Borgata Poker PA, PokerStars PA, and WSOP PA — one could make the argument that the state absolutely could. But BetRivers will also likely take players away from the other platforms to a degree. Whether most of the market share BetRivers Poker PA comes from longtime vertical leader PokerStars PA or the smaller online poker rooms remains to be seen.

The Keystone State has a population of about 13 million. Meanwhile, the Canadian province of Ontario, another segregated market, has 14.6 million residents. The province also has six real money online poker operators, running across four separate networks. Pennsylvania isn’t that much smaller, it could do just fine as a segregated market — but operators would obviously do much better in terms of revenue, and players would be able to benefit from shared liquidity, if Pennsylvania were in MSIGA.

BetRivers Poker PA would share the Rivers-Philadelphia license with Borgata Poker PA.