While players in Pennsylvania await for online poker to go live in the state, Hollywood Casino who was the first to launch an online casino in the Keystone State on July 15, has stated that it plans to launch an online poker product by the end of this year.
In a response to a player’s query ahead of the July 15 launch, the casino did admit that online poker “will not be initially available” but also said it is “hoping to have poker integrated by the end of 2019.”
Hollywood Casino, run by Penn National Gaming, is among one of seven PA casino license holders that have been approved for an online gambling license in all three of the categories of interactive games—slots, table games, and online poker.
The casino applied for an interactive gaming license back in July 2018 for a discounted fee of $10 million. Two months later, the casino got the green light from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to offer online gambling within the state.
What Online Poker Software will Hollywood Use?
Shortly after receiving PGCB approval, Penn National struck a five-year deal with IGT, a major online and land-based gaming supplier. IGT offers a full portfolio of internet-based gambling products including slots, bingo, online casino games as well as online poker.
In 2016, IGT overhauled its online poker platform which has been under development since 2012, perhaps in prepration for the burgeoning US online gambling market. IGT currently powers three different online poker networks: Sweden’s online gaming provider, Svenska Spel; Lottomatica in Italy; and the Canadian Poker Network.
It is expected that Hollywood Casino’s online poker offering will also utilize the IGT online poker platform. It rolled out its online casino in Pennsylvania on July 15 through its association with IGT and NetEnt.
However, in a major development that took place on July 31, Hollywood Casino owner, Penn National Gaming inked a multi-year agreement with four leading online gaming operators including The Stars Group.
As per the agreement, Penn’s partners “will have the option to own, operate, and brand real-money online sports betting, poker, and casino offerings in each of the states” where the casino operates and where such activities are legal.
The agreement with TSG allows market access to nine US states but not Pennsylvania. Therefore, it is expected that Hollywood Casino’s online poker product will compete against PokerStars in the Keystone State.
What Other Online Poker Operators can be Expected in Pennsylvania?
Besides Hollywood Casino, PokerStars has shown the most interest in launching online poker in Pennsylvania.
PokerStars was approved by the PGCB in late November 2018 after sealing its partnership with Mount Airy Casino and is expected to be one of the first online poker rooms to launch its poker operations in the 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 ahead of July 15. “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.”
Another major online poker platform, partypoker, may also appear in Pennsylvania, but as of now, its status is unclear. From a review of PGCB official documents, partypoker’s parent company GVC Holdings has applied for interactive gaming, but it still awaits approval from the regulator as of today.
888 on the other hand, which already has a presence in three US states, surprisingly has not shown much keenness to enter the Pennsylvania market.
“We continue to monitor the developments in Pennsylvania however our focus remains with New Jersey and other markets in which we operate at this time,” said 888 representative in response to our query on the Pennsylvania market.
However, both partypoker and 888 could appear in Pennsylvania as B2B providers that power other brands.
Parx and SugarHouse Casino also have plans to offer online poker, but so far, no further details have been released.
But Why is Online Poker Not Offered in Pennsylvania Yet?
It seems that the state regulators have given first preference to online slots and table games, presumably because they generate more tax revenue and are less complicated to regulate and test 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.
Pokerfuse reached out to the 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.”
Furthermore, Harbach told pokerfuse, “poker will be rolled out when operators are prepared to do so.”