The Pennsylvania online poker market is set to make its debut on July 15 and with less than four weeks remaining, the million dollar question is which online poker rooms will go live on that date?
So far, state regulators have issued Interactive Gaming Certificates to seven land-based casinos to offer online poker in the state. Among the casinos authorized by the Pennsylvania State Gaming Board (PGCB) are Mount Airy, Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia, SugarHouse Casino, Valley Forge, Hollywood Casino, Parx Casino and Sands Bethlehem.
MGM in conjunction with Borgata, its New Jersey casino property, has also been approved to offer online poker in the state under the Qualified Gaming Entities provision.
While the PGCB has not disclosed which poker operators are expected to go live at launch, some of the biggest names in online poker including the likes of PokerStars, WSOP.com and 888 are among the top three contenders to launch their operations in Pennsylvania.
GVC’s online poker room, partypoker has also applied to offer interactive gaming but is still waiting for its approval.
The worldwide online poker leader, PokerStars, will certainly not miss the opportunity to enter a regulated US online poker market, and in fact, the room has already been approved to offer online poker, casino, and sports betting in the state thanks to its partnership with Mount Airy Casino.
PokerStars announced its partnership with Mount Airy in August 2018 and was approved by PGCB in late November.
Assuming its testing period goes well, players in Pennsylvania can expect to see the PokerStars branded online poker room and casino games on July 15.
Pennsylvania will become only the second US state in which the operator offers its online poker room after New Jersey and could eventually lead to the room’s first US shared liquidity pool should Pennsylvania join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
Players could expect to see a wide variety of promotions including deposit bonuses and online tournament series like they did in New Jersey when they launched there in 2016. PokerStars also offers the widest selection of games worldwide including the trending variant 6+ Hold’em (Short Deck).
Its experience as one of the world’s most regulated online poker rooms with licenses in more than a dozen jurisdictions will certainly be beneficial to the company when it comes to getting new games approved which could give it an advantage over its competitors.
The online poker brand of WSOP is also among one of the most likely candidates that will go live on July 15.
It is expected to launch its online poker operations in the state through its close association with Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment, also the owner of WSOP brand. Harrah’s casino is home to the only WSOP brick and mortar poker room in Pennsylvania featuring 28 tables.
WSOP is the most recognizable poker brand in the US and the only network that offers cross-border shared liquidity in all three regulated US states. It is currently the market leader in New Jersey and has a monopoly in Nevada.
- Largest player pool in New Jersey
- Compete for World Series of Poker bracelets from New Jersey
- Great Sign up bonus and player rewards
If launched, WSOP.com could give tough competition to online poker giant PokerStars and will have a significant edge if Pennsylvania decides to share its player pool with Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Should that happen, the WSOP network will then be exposed to a population of roughly around 26 million—double the size of its current reach.
The network is already heralded as the largest online poker network in the country, hosting the country’s largest online tournament series. It will also have the added benefit of potentially offering online bracelet events to Pennsylvania players next year.
There is a good chance that 888Poker could also launch its online gambling operations with its own branding. The network has close ties with both Mount Airy and Harrah’s Philadelphia, but it remains to be seen how it plans to offer online poker in the state.
888 partnered with Mount Airy in 2015 ahead of online gaming legislation being passed in the state. It currently provides play money casino game titles, and Mount Airy promotes real money 888casino games in neighboring New Jersey.
As per the licensing requirements in Pennsylvania, license holders can have as many skins as they want, so there is a possibility that Mount Airy may offer both 888 and PokerStars online casino and poker offerings.
888 also works exclusively with the WSOP.com in the US by providing poker software to players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
The Gibraltar-based online gaming network in December 2018 bought out the remaining 53% stake of All American Poker Network (AAPN) from its joint venture partner Avenue Capital for $28 million, becoming the sole owner of the network.
At the time, it was said that the transaction would strengthen its hold and growth position in the burgeoning regulated market in the US.
With the Pennsylvania online poker market going live on July 15, 888 will not want to ignore one of the country’s biggest states to come online as the state is also expected to eventually join MSIGA.
partypoker also has an eye on the US online poker market through its potential partnership with Valley Forge Casino. The casino is owned by Boyd Gaming, which has close relations with MGM Resorts and GVC Holdings.
However, it is not clear if the online poker operation will launch on July 15 as it still awaits approval from the regulators as of today.
Partypoker has the potential to become a big player in the US as it was recently granted approval from Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) to offer online poker in Nevada. It already operates in New Jersey, sharing its player pool with Borgata and MGM.
Once it goes live in Nevada and Pennsylvania, partypoker could have a three-state network.
Other Online Poker Rooms
Alongside top online poker rooms, several other online poker rooms are also gearing up for the Pennsylvania launch thanks to their partnerships with local casinos.
Paddy Power Betfair is expected to launch both online casino and could even offer online poker in the state. It is in close touch with Parx Casino who has shown willingness to launch an online casino, slots, and online poker. The casino has selected GAN plc (formerly Game Account Network plc) as its software provider. GAN runs Paddy Power Betfair in New Jersey.
SugarHouse Casino (PlaySugarHouse.com) has partnered with Rush Street to offer online casino games but is unlikely to launch online poker in the state.