PA poker players should have no shortage of options from the state's casinos
Online Poker Report

A Glimpse At The Future Of The Pennsylvania Online Poker Market

PA online poker future

The Pennsylvania online gambling market is beginning to come into focus, and from the looks of it, The Keystone State is going to have a robust online poker industry.

Nine Pennsylvania casinos applied for the three-category license that includes online poker, and another online poker license has already been scooped up in the second round of licensing.

Thus original nine applicants are:

  1. Parx Casino
  2. Harrah’s Philadelphia
  3. Mount Airy Casino
  4. Hollywood Casino at Penn National
  5. Sands Bethlehem (on behalf of Wind Creek)
  6. Rivers Casino
  7. SugarHouse Casino
  8. Valley Forge Casino
  9. The unbuilt “stadium casino”

The tenth casino to apply for an online poker license is Mohegan Sun.

But will every licensee launch an online poker site?

The number of online poker applicants provides a glimpse into the number of future operators.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulations, license holders cannot sit on their licenses for an extended period of time:

“All interactive gaming certificate holders and interactive gaming operator licensees shall commence operations on the date established by the Board unless granted an extension by the Board, upon a showing of good cause by the interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator licensee, up to 12 months from that date. Failure to commence interactive gaming operations within the time directed by the Board may result in administrative sanctions up to and including revocation of the certificate or license to operate interactive gaming in this Commonwealth.”

That said, it’s unlikely Pennsylvanians will have nine distinct online poker options when the industry goes live.

The more likely scenario is a choice between three or four intra-state poker networks. Each of these networks would contain one or more of the state’s licensed operators. In layman’s terms, there will be a branded site for every licensee, but there will likely be less than a handful of operating platforms powering these sites.

Who will be operational in the state?

That begs the question, what online poker companies will jump into the Pennsylvania pool?

That will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Current presence in online poker states
  • How well positioned they are in future online poker states
  • Existing relationships with casinos inside and outside of PA

Right now the expected choices are:

A couple of other possible players include:

Sizing up the competition

Rush Street

Both of Rush Street’s Pennsylvania casinos (SugarHouse in Philadelphia and Rivers in Pittsburgh) applied for the three-category license. As such, the company will be launching multiple online poker sites. Those sites will almost certainly be powered by the same software and linked together.

Rush Street Interactive is believed to have created an in-house online poker platform. To date, no one has officially seen the finished product, but if its anywhere near the quality of RSI’s proprietary online casino platform used by PlaySugarHouse.com in New Jersey, it will be very well received.

If, as is expected, Pennsylvania joins the existing New Jersey-Delaware-Nevada compact for multistate poker, an RSI online poker launch in New Jersey might also be in the cards. A New Jersey launch likely depends on how well-received the online poker platform is in Pennsylvania.

As noted above, Rush Street is already an active player in New Jersey. It also has casinos in two other states that are considered online poker contenders, New York and Illinois. That gives Rush Street plenty of opportunity to leverage interstate agreements and become a formidable online poker operator as more markets open down the road.

888

888 has links to both Mount Airy and Harrah’s in PA, and because of its reach (888 is active in every state with legal online poker) it’s an attractive option for any casino looking for an online poker partner.

The Mount Airy connection is officially official, and also one of the more interesting, as the casino also has an official partnership in place with PokerStars.

Our best guess at the moment would see Mount Airy with an independently branded PokerStars site, as well as a Mount Airy branded site powered by 888.

The 888 site could also link up with Harrah’s (likely to be a WSOP.com branded site powered by 888) and any other 888 platforms in Pennsylvania.

And then there’s 888’s current interstate online poker network that currently encompasses online poker sites in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

  • POKER
  • BONUS
  • DETAILS
  • PLAY

PokerStars

PokerStars is officially coming to Pennsylvania (pending regulatory approval) through a partnership with Mount Airy Casino.

With one Pennsylvania casino partner already penciled in, coupled with its reputation as the top online poker operator in the world and the capability to link up with its New Jersey site down the road, PokerStars is every bit as attractive an online poker partner as 888.

A Mohegan Sun-PokerStars partnership would make all the sense in the world. Mohegan Sun already has history working with Stars, as it runs Resorts Casino in New Jersey; PokerStars partner in the market.

GVC / PartyPoker

Because of its deal with MGM, and because of MGM’s deal with Boyd Gaming, GVC is expected to launch in Pennsylvania via Boyd Gaming’s Valley Forge Casino (when the sale is officially completed).

And like PokerStars and 888, GVC’s growing presence in US online gaming (largely due to its partnerships with MGM and Boyd) makes the company a very attractive partner.

IGT

IGT has submitted applications to act as an online gambling operator, and while the company isn’t known for its poker product, it does have one, and it’s a pretty good one at that.

The platform is a revamped version of the BOSS Media online poker software, and has some interesting features, particularly the mobile client.

If it’s going to become a player in the US online poker market, IGT has a lot of catching up to do, and getting its product into Pennsylvania would be a good place to start.

Pala

Pala is another in-house online poker platform that could make an appearance in Pennsylvania.

The California tribe has spent years building a proprietary casino and poker platform, and has been shopping itself around as a B2B online poker platform provider ever since it launched in New Jersey.

Even though Pala’s NJ online poker site hasn’t gained any traction in the highly competitive NJ online poker market, it could be a reasonable alternative for one or more of the Pennsylvania casinos who have online casino partners that like a viable online poker platform.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.