Nearly two years after Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf signed online gambling into law, authorizing online poker, online casino games, and other forms of online gaming in Keystone State, the online gambling market finally went live on July 15.
Pennsylvania became only the fourth state in the US to legalize online poker, joining Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
Seven land-based casinos have been issued Interactive Gaming Certificates by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to offer online poker in the state.
In the opening week of the PA online gambling market, Parx Casino, Hollywood Casino, and SugarHouse Casino soft-launched their online casino games offering online slots and table games for real money, but online poker was left out.
While there were expectations that online poker would also go live, allowing players in the state to play at regulated online poker sites eight years after Black Friday, unfortunately, poker was not among the first wave of real money online games available in the state.
Poker players in Pennsylvania were disappointed that not even a single online poker operator launched their operations during the first week, raising doubts whether online poker would go live at all.
So what stopped online poker operators from going live in the market?
It is likely that state regulators gave first preference to online slots and table games as they generate more tax revenue and are less complicated than online poker, which is a multi-player game where players compete against each other, unlike table games and slots which are played against the house.
Doug Harbach, a spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board told Philadelphia Inquirer’s Andrew Maykuth that games like online slots and table games, such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat are played against a computer/house. Games like live dealer and online poker are more complex than casino games as they are peer-to-peer games involving human competitors.
Harbach further said that these games will be launched at a later date as they are “more complicated” and will need further checks from the regulator.
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When can we expect to see online poker launch in PA?
Online poker players may likely have to wait for weeks or even months as state regulators have yet to confirm a timeline as to when online poker rooms will go live.
Pokerfuse reached out to PGCB and asked if we are likely to see online poker in Pennsylvania in July or if the timeline is longer for the first online poker rooms to go live in the state. PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach commented, “we cannot predict a timeline on that right now.”
We also asked if the regulators are going to hold up the online poker launch until multiple operators are ready to launch. Harbach said that once an online poker operator is ready to launch, it will be allowed to do so without having to wait for another operator in the same vertical.
“Poker will be rolled out when operators are prepared to do so,” Harbach added.
What PokerStars has to say on Pennsylvania?
The world’s leading online poker brand, PokerStars, is likely to be among the first online poker operators to go live in the state. The operator was approved by PGCB in late November to offer a full slate of online gaming products to players within the state after partnering with the land-based Mount Airy Casino.
However, as the launch date neared, there was no announcement by the company about soft-launching on July 15.
Pokerfuse reached out to PokerStars ahead of the launch and asked about its plans in the Keystone State.
“We’re working with our partners and the authorities to finalize plans and bring our leading brands to PA’s players as soon as possible,” a representative of The Stars Group told pokerfuse. “There’s a lot to look forward to, so rest assured we’ll be in touch with more details as soon as they’re available.”
What about other online poker rooms?
Alongside PokerStars, several other online poker rooms have been eyeing the newly launched Pennsylvania igaming market, but most of them have remained tight-lipped on their plans to launch online poker.
PokerStars competitor partypoker already has a presence in the US online poker market and is likely to launch in Pennsylvania too. However, from what we can tell from a review of PGCB documents, partypoker’s parent company GVC Holdings still awaits approval from the regulators as of today.
Meanwhile, on social media partypoker has also been responding to users’ query on Pennsylvania. Like PokerStars, partypoker “doesn’t have an exact date yet.”
WSOP and 888 are also among the top candidates to launch online poker in the state. WSOP operating on the 888 platform is the only online poker network in Nevada, and the two combine to make up the largest network in New Jersey. However, as of now, no details have been provided by either company about their plans to launch in Pennsylvania.
Parx and Hollywood, the first two properties to launch an online casino in the state, also have plans to offer online poker, but so far, we have no further details.