Online poker was legalized in Pennsylvania exactly two years ago, but there are still no online poker rooms up and running in the state. Online casinos exist, as do sportsbooks, but no internet poker. Until Monday.
According to PlayPennsylvania, PokerStars will be the first online poker room to launch in the Keystone State on Monday.
Mount Airy, PokerStars in the gate
PlayPennsylvania asked Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) spokesperson Douglas Harbach about online poker during the PGCB’s Wednesday meeting.
“We have staff prepared to initiate and oversee a test launch this Monday of another online casino gaming site, this one licensed under Mount Airy Casino and their suite of casino-type games,” Harbach said. “At this juncture, it would include the testing of a poker game. The caveat is always that if issues come up, then the beginning of the testing could slide.”
Though he did not specifically mention PokerStars, PokerStars is Mount Airy’s poker partner, so there you go.
Better late than never
It wasn’t expected that online poker would go live right away two years ago, but the wait has been longer than expected. Online casinos and poker sites were supposed to launch together on July 15th, but only Parx and Hollywood, followed by Sugarhouse, got their online casino sites going this summer.
There were further rumblings that we would see poker in September, but sports betting beat it to the punch.
As with the online casinos, PokerStars will begin with a “soft launch” in Pennsylvania, which is a public testing period. Should all go well, it should transition smoothly into the full launch. There might be a short down period before the full launch, but even so, it should follow shortly from the test period. It is unknown if the mobile app will launch alongside the desktop site.
Only intrastate for now
As was the case with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, Pennsylvania online poker will be intrastate, meaning that only customers located within state borders will be allowed to play on the site. One would expect Pennsylvania to eventually enter into a compact with New Jersey (and, by extension, the other two states) in order to increase its player pool, but that will likely have to wait a while. The sites and regulators will need to make sure everything is working fine within Pennsylvania before branching outward.
PokerStars has a poker site in New Jersey, so it is no doubt anxious to create and interstate network.
According to OnlinePokerReport, PCBG Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the he expects other online poker rooms to launch in Pennsylvania in the next four to six weeks. There are seven casinos that are licensed for online poker. The natural candidates to be the next to launch would be Harrah’s using the WSOP/888 platforms and Valley Force using the partypoker platform. Both have established poker packages and have sites in other states, so they should be ready to flip the switch.