48 hour soft launch test period will be followed by full launch on Thursday

It’s Fight Time In Pennsylvania As BetMGM And Borgata Poker Prepare To Take On The PokerStars Monopoly

Pennsylvania poker players finally have new online poker rooms to choose from, as BetMGM and Borgata should begin their two-day test period today.

Both operators are already established online casino providers in the state. Now they are adding online poker to their product portfolios. BetMGM is partnered with the Hollywood Grantville casino and the Borgata with the Rivers Philadelphia casino.

The two new PA poker rooms are really just two skins for the same product, and share traffic between them. In practical terms, then, players in the state now have two choices – PokerStars or BetMGM/Borgata – and not three.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board originally said that launch was scheduled for 9 a.m. ET. However, a Borgata customer service representative told a reporter from US Poker that it would be at 2 p.m. ET. As of 11 a.m., the new sites are not yet live, so it appears the latter information may be correct.

Update (04/27/21, 2:45 p.m.): The apps can be downloaded from the two brands’ websites, but registration isn’t open yet. Private testing is underway, however, suggesting that the public soft launch will come later today or perhaps tomorrow.

The two-day test period is standard procedure for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). All operators must go through the test as a last check before they open fully to the public. As soon as the test is over, adult poker aficionados anywhere within the state borders can try out the new poker rooms.

Update (04/29/21, 11 a.m.): As of 9 a.m. this morning, both BetMGM and Borgata Poker have had their official launch announcements and are out of the testing period. Users complained about some technical glitches during those first two days, but that is to be expected and ironing out the problems is the purpose of the test period. Problems now seem to have been resolved.

PartyPoker software debut in Pennsylvania

Until now PokerStars has had the PA market all to itself. Stars launched on Nov. 4 2019 and has enjoyed its monopoly for almost 15 months. How much that first mover advantage means remains to be seen, and it hasn’t always been a big factor for other products in other US markets. That said, PokerStars is dominating BetMGM Poker in Michigan so far in terms of traffic, and with a much smaller head start.

Powered by the Partypoker platform, both Borgata and BetMGM will hope to claim a large chunk of PokerStars’ market share. If experience in New Jersey is a guide, they will have some success, as the race is tight there. The picture in Michigan makes it seem unlikely that BetMGM/Borgata will be able to claim the lead, however.

The Partypoker platform focuses on providing a safe customer experience for recreational players. In general, Pennsylvanians can expect to see smaller tournament guarantees from BetMGM and the Borgata. Cash game tables will likewise focus on low stakes No-Limit Hold’em.

The poker room offers new players plenty of protection against predatory players. A socially oriented set of missions is a available to show new players all the games on offer on the platform.

More growth for the Pennsylvania online poker market

The next competitor to enter the PA online poker market should be WSOP. The company has revamped its 888-powered platform and expects to competitive in the fight to be the most popular poker room in Pennsylvania. The company hasn’t announced a specific date, but it expects to arrive some time this year.

Pennsylvania has a population around 25% larger than New Jersey’s. In the long term, its online poker market should be large enough to be commercially viable for PokerStars, BetMGM/Borgata, and WSOP.

Optimism for the success of online poker revolves around hopes that PA will soon join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). Current MSIGA members are Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. The agreement allows participating states to pool their players across state lines. This means, for example, that PokerStars PA players can compete with PokerStars NJ players in the same tournaments.

WSOP is the only platform currently sharing a players this way, between its sites in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. If and when Pennsylvania joins the MSIGA, PokerStars and the Borgata/BetMGM players will be able to face off with their counterparts in New Jersey.

Combining player pools allows for higher tournament guarantees which is important for marketing to new players. It also allows operators to spread more cash games at a wider range of stakes. This allows players to find a table open more easily when they want to play.

- A former founder of Poker Industry Pro and Head of Content at PokerNews publisher iBus Media, Joss Wood is a graduate in English from the University of Birmingham. Joss also holds a master’s degree in Organisational Development from the University of Manchester. His career path has taken him from the British Army, through business and finance to seven years as a successful professional poker player.
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