Pennsylvania poker players have been able to play legal, regulated online poker in Pennsylvania since November 2019 when PokerStars PA launched, but the addition of a second site will create competition that could result in greater benefits overall for consumers.
While no official timeline has been released for the launch of WSOP PA, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has confirmed to pokerfuse that many of the applications required for WSOP.com to go live have been approved, and 888’s iGaming Manufacturer application is currently sitting with the Board’s investigative unit.
Status of WSOP PA with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
Approval by gaming regulators is an obvious prerequisite for a legal, regulated online poker room to launch, and nearly all of the requirements for WSOP.com to deal its first hand of online poker in Pennsylvania have been met.
The overall application process appears to be in its final stages with 888 presenting the final hurdle before WSOP.com launches in Pennsylvania.
“888 is currently in background with our investigative unit, PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach told pokerfuse. “I do not know the timetable on when that applicant will be ripe for approval by the board, but that must occur before WSOP can be launched on the Caesars site.”
When asked how long he estimates it will be before another online poker room launches in Pennsylvania, Harbach responded, “likely when the 888 platform is ready to go.”
888 has already had its company vetted and its online poker platform tested in three US states so far – New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware – so the approval process is expected to go smoothly, and we could see another online poker operator in Pennsylvania soon.
888 Touts Pennsylvania Online Poker Launch to Investors
In a recent conference call to discuss 888’s full-year earnings for 2019, Itai Pazner, CEO & Director at 888 Holdings, once again affirmed the plan for 888 to go live in Pennsylvania through its B2B partnership with WSOP.com.
[W]e’re looking to launch into Pennsylvania, WSOP Poker,” said Itai Pazner. “I can share that. Like poker everywhere else in the world in the markets that are regulated and available currently in the US, they’re also benefiting from the situation, and more and more people are returning to poker.”
However, Pazner did not provide investors with a timeline for the Pennsylvania launch.
Last year Yaniv Sherman, 888’s Head of Commercial Development maintained the same stance in an exclusive interview with pokerfuse, stating that while Pennsylvania has the potential to be a “big online market,” 888 has “[n]o firm timeline for PA yet.”
Panzer also did not give investors any indication that 888 was looking to launch a branded online poker room in Pennsylvania.
888 currently operates its own 888-branded online poker room alongside Caesars’ WSOP.com in New Jersey, but it only provides its online poker platform in a B2B capacity in Nevada and Delaware.
Will the Launch of WSOP in Pennsylvania be Delayed?
While it is unlikely that the PGCB will find anything disqualifying while investigating 888, testing of the 888 platform could pose the potential for delays.
Though as noted, the 888 online poker software platform has performed successfully under scrutiny from other state regulators (as well as regulators in Europe), the company has plans for “a very big product overhaul coming out this summer, which is called Poker 8,” according to Pazner.
Speaking further on Poker 8, Pazner indicated that the new platform is “going to be launched soon” and along with its partnership with WSOP, could lead 888 to the pole position in the US market.
WSOP PA Related Approvals by the PGCB So Far
Caesars Interactive Entertainment, owner of WSOP.com, was approved by the PGCB on February 12, 2020, and many of the other requirements to go live have already been met.
- Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia Approved August 2018
- Caesars Interactive Entertainment (WSOP.com) Approved February 2020
- 888 Atlantic Limited Pending January 2020
Like in other US states, the regulations for online gaming require that online gaming providers (such as WSOP.com and its online poker platform provider 888) operate in conjunction with an established and licensed land-based casino to offer gambling games over the internet.
WSOP parent company, Caesars Interactive Entertainment, is owned by the Caesars Entertainment Corporation which also owns Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia, making its choice for a land-based casino partner relatively easy.
Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia was approved to offer interactive (online) gaming by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in August 2018, but only recently started offering gaming over the internet.
Though not technically covered under its Interactive Gaming certification, Harrah’s Philadelphia took its first online sports bets last month, just as the sports leagues began to suspend play due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The operator reported just $66 in revenue on nearly $140k in handle during March.
On Thursday, Caesars Casino launched online slots in Pennsylvania. Branded as Caesars Casino & Sportsbook by Harrah’s Philadelphia, Caesars online gaming added 12 slot titles to its Pennsylvania offering.
However, the final approval required by the PGCB for WSOP.com to begin offering online poker in Pennsylvania will only be grated once 888 successfully emerges from investigation and the 888 platform is fully tested.
WSOP Looking to Replicate its Success in Pennsylvania
WSOP.com currently operates in New Jersey and Nevada under a B2B partnership with 888 on the All American Poker Network (AAPN). The network also serves the state of Delaware through a partnership with the Delaware Lottery and three local racinos, with players in all three states allowed to play together at most cash games and tournaments tables.
The shared liquidity allowed the network to capture the top spot in the US in terms of both traffic and revenue, overtaking PokerStars New Jersey in May 2018.
It held the top position for over a year until PokerStars snatched that pole position back with its launch in Pennsylvania.
Despite losing its pole position, the combined network of WSOP/888 is having wide success, hosting the country’s largest online tournament series. It is currently running Spring Online Championships Series which guarantees $4 million—the biggest guaranteed in the US regulated market.
However, WSOP PA is unlikely to join the cross-border shared liquidity at the time of the launch as Pennsylvania has yet to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
PGCB has shown interest in joining the agreement but complications involving the Wire Act have delayed the process. Still, the state is expected to approve shared liquidity upon a favorable resolution to the Wire Act case.