PokerStars, Mohegan Sun Pocono approved in PA

PokerStars Cleared For Launch In Pennsylvania On Early-2019 Timeline

PokerStars PA launch

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) signed off on two more interactive gaming petitions during Nov. 28 meeting in Harrisburg.

PokerStars received authorization to offer its full suite of online gambling products, including a world-class online poker platform.

Mohegan Sun Pocono is also conditionally approved for online slots and table games, though it withdrew the poker portion of its application. Details remain sparse, with owner Downs Racing choosing to keep its partner a mystery for now.

PokerStars approved for PA online poker, casino

PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group (TSG) will serve Pennsylvania under the license of Mount Airy. The two first disclosed their relationship in August, also confirming plans to offer sports betting via the BetStars brand.

Neither the casino nor the operator has applied for PA sports betting to date, but Mount Airy was one of the first approved to offer interactive gaming. Regulators signed off on its paperwork just days after the partnership announcement.

Now PokerStars is also approved, clearing a big milestone by securing access into a second US state. It has so far been stuck in New Jersey since returning to the US market in 2016. Given the movement toward multi-state poker, PokerStars players from NJ and PA could be sitting elbow to elbow at the virtual tables in due time.

What’s more, a recent deal with Eldorado Resorts could eventually see TSG expand into 11 more states. While its PokerStars NJ platform is better than competing NJ online poker sites, it has lacked a broad market-access arrangement. Until now.

Side note: Mount Airy also has an existing relationship with 888, but it is not clear if the two will work in tandem for real-money gaming.

Mohegan Sun leaves online poker behind

Downs Racing was actually first to the table for the morning meeting.

After missing the deadline for a discount, Downs initially applied for all three permits at full price — $12 million. It’s not clear what caused the change of heart, but it amended that down to $8 million during its hearing by forfeiting online poker.

Mohegan Sun is actually the third PA casino to take that step. The developers of the Stadium property also removed online poker from their plans, while Rivers withdrew its entire petition in October.

Downs executives presented their application to the Board, with slides detailing their planned operations. While the group did not name its interactive partner(s) in the open forum, it did provide some clues:

  • Well-known public company based in Europe
  • Current NJ online gambling applicant with plans to enter PA
  • Will work in tandem with Scientific Games

This partner would also have no apparent interest in offering PA online poker, which seems to exclude PokerStars and partypoker as candidates. Both have already established their partnerships in the Commonwealth anyhow.

Those pressed to speculate might look at Kindred Group as the possible partner for Mohegan. It seems to tick the most boxes, at least, given its NJ deal with Hard Rock AC and its new relationship with Scientific Games.

Later in the meeting, the Board approved Downs’ petition for online slots and table games.

  • POKER
  • BONUS
  • DETAILS
  • PLAY

What’s next for PA interactive gaming?

With the exception of Valley Forge sports betting and its partner FanDuel Sportsbook, the PGCB has now approved all pending petitions from PA casinos. You can see the online roadmap and status for each property here.

With Mohegan taking a pass on online poker, a total of 12 permits remain available to Qualified Gaming Entities (QGE) in other jurisdictions:

  • 6 online poker
  • 3 online slots
  • 3 online table games

It looks like some of those will go unclaimed too, at least in the short term. Only two QGE petitions are filed, one from MGM and another from Golden Nugget. Both will seek to port their products over from New Jersey, though it is not yet clear which categories they seek.

Launch is the major item still outstanding, of course.

PA sports betting went live at Hollywood Casino this month, but it’s still limited to on-site wagering. Online/mobile sportsbooks are not yet available, nor are the first online poker/casino platforms. At the moment, the timeline for interactive rollout looks like early 2019.

The next public PGCB meeting is scheduled for the morning of Dec. 19.

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Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.