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Pennsylvania passed a broad gambling expansion bill in 2017 that among its many provisions authorized online casinos, online sportsbooks, and online poker sites.
Given the heavy lift of licensing and regulation, it took nearly two years for the first PA online poker sites to appear. Fittingly the world’s largest operator, PokerStars, christened the market in November 2019.
As the fifth-most populous in the country, the Keystone State has relatively high prospects for online poker — even higher should the Commonwealth enter into a multi-state poker compact to combine player pools and share liquidity with other markets.
So far, there is just one real-money online poker site open for business in Pennsylvania:
Under a partnership with Mount Airy, The Stars Group became the first real-money online poker operator in the state in November 2019.
The debut of PokerStars PA as a state-regulated site represents the return of the familiar red spade to Pennsylvania more than eight and a half years after disappearing from the US entirely under the Black Friday indictments of April 2011. It also came four and a half years after its launch in neighboring New Jersey in 2016.
All Pennsylvania online poker rooms will be available via web-based browsers for Mac and Windows PC, and most will also be accessible on smartphones and other mobile devices.
These Android and Apple (iOS) apps are free to download and feature much of the same functionality as their web-based counterparts. They do sometimes, however, feature a smaller game selection than the web version.
Android users need to download online poker clients using their device’s web browser, since the Google Play Store does not allow gambling apps. Apple users face a different obstacle under a new policy that requires gambling apps to be built on the native iOS (and not coded in HTML5).
Seven of the land-based Pennsylvania casinos have permits to offer online poker in the state.
Of these, only Mount Airy has so far launched an online poker site under its license.
Although PokerStars PA has enjoyed several months as the only real-money online poker site in Pennsylvania, players in the state may well have more options soon.
Harrah’s is part of Caesars Entertainment, which also owns the World Series of Poker. That means when it does roll out online poker, it will be a WSOP site similar to those already up and running in New Jersey and Nevada (and Delaware, using the 888 Poker platform). The existing interstate poker compact allows WSOP to combine the player pools in those three states, and it could in the future do something similar with a local site in PA.
Valley Forge is similarly racing toward PA online poker under a partnership with Roar Digital. The property’s license will provide the path to market for the partypoker brand, which is likewise operational in NJ and the rest of the world.
PokerStars hit the ground running in Pennsylvania, offering several online tournament series during its first few months of operation. Most mirror the major recurring festivals found on the operator’s global dot-com site, including:
Nearly all online poker tournaments on PokerStars PA are no-limit hold’em events of varying types, with occasional pot-limit Omaha and pot-limit Omaha hi-lo tournaments popping up on the schedule as well.
With a player pool relatively small compared to international sites, expect almost all PA online poker tournaments to be NLH.
While PokerStars PA is currently the only online poker room operating in the state, the banking options it offers aren’t terribly different from what you’ll find for most online gambling sites in other states.
There are a variety of ways to deposit funds, including:
Withdrawal methods aren’t quite as plentiful, although there are multiple options for players.
When depositing or withdrawing from online poker sites in Pennsylvania, be sure to make note of minimums or maximums, expected wait times for withdrawals, and any other policies.
Sites also allow players to set deposit limits for themselves if desired.
As found in online casinos and sportsbooks across the country, online poker sites in Pennsylvania offer bonuses of various types to encourage players to sign up and continue playing. These vary depending on the operator, though most fall into one of three buckets:
In most cases, the welcome bonus comes in the form of free money that allow first-time users a way to try out the games.
Some are no-deposit bonuses, which award a small amount of money (usually from $10 to $25) for use on any of the available games. Such welcome bonuses are more often tied to an initial deposit, however. These matching bonuses usually match 100% of a player’s first deposit up to a certain maximum amount.
Welcome bonuses cannot be withdrawn, but new players do keep the winnings they earn.
Some online poker sites offer ongoing loyalty programs that reward players according to how much they play — much like brick-and-mortar poker rooms. Such loyalty programs are often linked to online casino and sports betting promotions.
Most PA online casinos often offer ways to earn bonuses via promotions such as reload bonuses, double-points deals, referral bonuses, and more. Keep an eye out for these as they come along.
Besides real-money poker sites like PokerStars PA, players in the state can also play on Global Poker — a sweepstakes site available in 49 states.
Sweepstakes online poker does have some advantages for Pennsylvanians, including access to a multi-state player pool. Some players will, however, always prefer the traditional model of real-money online poker.
Below are some common questions and answers related to online poker in Pennsylvania.
Yes. Real-money online poker in the state is legal, as long as you are playing on a regulated PA online poker site. Sweepstakes online poker is legal as well.
Just like in the brick-and-mortar poker rooms in the state’s casinos, players must be at least 21 years of age to play poker online in Pennsylvania.
Players need not be PA residents to play online poker, but they do need to be physically located within the state in order to play. Sites use geo-location software to determine players are indeed within state lines when trying to play online poker in the state.
Yes. PokerStars returned to Pennsylvania in November 2019, opening the state’s first fully legal and regulated online poker site.
When it comes to regulated, real-money online poker sites, the answer is not yet.
Pennsylvania sites are “ring-fenced,” meaning players can only play against other players in the state. The law does permit the creation of compacts with other states with legal online poker, however, so PA interstate poker could happen at a later date.
Meanwhile, sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker do allow players from different states to play against each other.
The first online poker room to open in the state, PokerStars PA, generated an average of more than $2 million gross revenue per month and an average of around $365,000 in taxes per month during its first four months in operation.
Online poker sites in PA must pay the state 16% tax the total win. That’s considerably less than the tax rates faced by online casinos where the tax rate is 34% for table games and 54% for slots.
Click here for monthly updates on revenue and tax totals for Pennsylvania online poker rooms.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) licenses and regulates most forms of gambling in the state, including online poker.
PO Box 69060
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9060
Email: [email protected]