PokerStars preparing for Pennsylvania debut

PokerStars Will Open The Pennsylvania Online Poker Market Next Week

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The moment that Pennsylvania poker players have been waiting for is around the corner.

The official word from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is that PokerStars is ready to go forward with a test launch of its PA online poker site on Monday, Nov. 4.

PlayPennsylvania was the first to report the news on Wednesday following a scheduled meeting of the PGCB. Regarding online poker, PGCB spokesperson Douglas Harbach said:

“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. At this juncture, it would include the testing of a poker game.”

Public test period before the full launch

Pennsylvania’s online casinos likewise went through a short public test period before their full launch earlier this year. Harbach also warned, however, that nothing is set in stone, and unforeseen issues could push the testing window back.

It’s also unclear whether to expect a mobile app to launch at the same time. Based on what we’ve seen with PA online sportsbooks and casinos, it may well be that only the desktop client is rolled out first.

Screenshots of the PA test client released last month show a product bearing a close resemblance to that in New Jersey. The only significant difference is the prominent placement of branding for the site’s brick-and-mortar partner, Mount Airy, as required by PA regulations.

No screenshots or information about a mobile app were included at that time, either.

Many false alarms for PA online poker

For Pennsylvania residents eager to play online poker, the wait has seemed endless. The state’s online gambling legislation originally specified a go-live date of July 15 for all verticals. It was generally expected that this would mean a synchronized rollout by most operators, similar to what happened when NJ online gambling debuted in November 2013.

Only two operators went live at first, though, Parx and Hollywood. Two days later, SugarHouse followed suit. All three had a rather limited selection of games available, however, and no poker.

There were a series of false alarms in early September.

Rumors circulated on Twitter of insider information pointing at launch within the month, and screenshots seemed to show a product ready for launch. Furthermore, the Sept. 5 launch of Fox Bet PA led to speculation that poker was being held back in order to get the associated sportsbook up and running first.

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PA online poker is official this time

There should be no disappointment this time, though the reason for the delay is still unknown.

Previous claims of an impending launch were based on rumor and speculation. Here, we have word directly from the PGCB. Its caveats about unforeseen circumstances notwithstanding, we should see a launch sometime in the coming week (if not Monday).

Additionally, PCBG Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said he expects additional sites to roll out in the coming four to six weeks. Some of these will include poker as well as casino and sportsbook products.

The most likely sites to be included among these are partypoker, in conjunction with Valley Forge and/or WSOP/888, in conjunction with Harrah’s. Parx is also expected to offer online poker, but its scratch-built platform will likely come later than the others.

The current list of operators that have gone live in Pennsylvania, so far, and their products, are as follows:

  • SugarHouse (Casino, Sports)
  • Parx (Casino, Sports)
  • Hollywood (Casino)
  • BetRivers (Sports)
  • Fox Bet / Mount Airy (Sports)
  • FanDuel / Valley Forge (Sports)

The following casinos are also expected to come out with some sort of product this year:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Presque Isle Downs
  • The Meadows
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono

It’s quite likely that some of these, particularly Harrah’s, will be among the new sites referred to by O’Toole.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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