PA online poker will be here within months

Is Multi-State Online Poker In The Cards For Pennsylvania Any Time Soon?

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Pennsylvania online poker players hope they will be able to take to the virtual felt against players from other states. But will they? For the time being, that answer is: Maybe.

Speculation has been brewing on whether PA plans on becoming part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) — the agreement that allows Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware to pool online poker players.

Regulators continue to remain mum on the multi state poker situation dating back to late 2017, when the Keystone State became the fourth to legalize online poker when it passed an extensive online gambling package.

What are regulators saying?

Doug Harbach, director of communications for the PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB), told Online Poker Report the status of PA joining the MSIGA remains unclear.

“While an interstate compact could certainly occur, at this junction I can’t predict or comment on the likelihood,” Harbach said.

Language in Pennsylvania’s bill does clear the way for interstate play. However, it appears there will be several hurdles in the way before the state takes an in-depth look at becoming part of the MSIGA.

Currently, the PGCB has several other priorities to contend with including, establishing regulations for sports betting and figuring out what to do with the remaining five category 4 mini-casino licenses.

Several calls and emails to Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration seeking comment were not returned. Wolf would be the one who has the authority to join the MSIGA on behalf of the state. Governors are the ones who have signed the MSIGA for the other three states.

It appears that online poker will continue to take a back seat to other gaming issues in the state.

Casinos vs. the state: A problem?

There is also some question about whether Wolf’s administration would play nice with PA casinos, given the currently testy relationship.

A group of PA casinos recently sued to have the state lottery to stop offering online games. The PA online lottery was authorized as part of the 2017 law, and Wolf is a proponent of the lottery’s expansion. He also unilaterally allowed the state lottery to move into virtual sports betting, something the casinos also take issue with.

While Wolf could certainly sign the MSIGA while all this is going on, the battle between casinos and the lottery complicates things.

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The multistate poker agreement at a glance

The MSIGA currently consists of Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware with the latter having legalized online poker in 2012.

Player pools went live on May 1 for WSOP NJ, WSOP Nevada and 888 NJ players.

In the first of its kind agreement in the US, the MISGA established a set of rules for governance including:

  • Open membership
  • State revenue based on players’ location
  • Establishing a framework for further expansion

Adding a state like PA, with a population base in the top ten in the US, would go a long way to strengthening the US online poker market.

- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five year stint in Chicago where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.
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