Sports bettors can place bets online through brands such as PlaySugarHouse and FanDuel in the state of PA. Casino gamblers can also play online slots and online roulette through casino casinos such as PA PlaySugarHouse and Penn National’s Hollywood Casino. But while online sports betting and online casinos gets off of the ground and are beginning to thrive, there is one obvious omission from the new online gaming market in the state – online poker.
Even though online poker is not currently available in PA, there are plenty of companies that are interested in online poker in the state. By our count, there are seven land-based PA casinos that have received online poker license approvals. The list includes Parx Casino, Mount Airy, Sands Casino, Hollywood Casino, Valley Forge, Harrah’s Philadelphia and SugarHouse Casino.
Whats been the reason for the delay?
Three PA casinos have launched online casinos thus far (Parx, Hollywood, SugarHouse and Rivers Pittsburgh). The Parx Casino, SugarHouse, BetRivers and Valley Forge/FanDuel have also went live with online sportsbooks. Why haven’t these brands and others went live with online poker yet?
There is likely a few reasons that online poker has not launched in Pennsylvania yet, despite the would-be market promising to become the largest in the United States.
1) Other gaming options have taken priority
Despite the headlines that poker and online poker generate, it simply does not generate as much revenue as other gaming products like online casinos and online sportsbooks. In neighboring New Jersey, online poker accounts for just a small fraction of all revenue. Considering the complexiities of online poker, it’s easy for online casinos to focus on launching other products.
2) Online poker is more complicated
The peer-to-peer nature of online poker simply makes it more difficult to pull off. Infrastructure, software and service providers are more involved and require more planning. By contract, casino games such as slots, table games and online sports betting have transactions between the house and the player.
3) Confusion over interstate poker
The United States Department of Justice added confusion in the regulated online poker industry when it released an opinion saying that the Wire Act was applicable to most forms of online gambling, especially if crossed state lines. Due to the fact that multi-state online poker by natures crosses state lines, it was put under significant threat.
Fortunately, a judgment this summer in New Hampshire was favorable to online gambling across state borders (where it is legal), leading to the DOJ to put enforcement of the decision on hold for now. The decision makes online poker across state lines more likely for Pennsylvania, but regulators are likely still contemplating where the DOJ position will ultimately go.
Still hope for 2019
The good news for PA players is that there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. In July, the Hollywood Casino confirmed that it hopes to launch online poker sometime in 2019.
Mount Airy, which has partnered with PokerStars is expected to be at the forefront of online poker in the stat once going live. partypoker, another popular international online poker provider, has applied for an online gaming license but has not been able to provide an exact launch of online poker. 888poker, one of the online poker leaders in other states, has so far stood on the sidelines while they monitor developments in the state.
It looks like the launch of online poker effectively lies in the hands of local casino operators. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently told pokerfuse that they couldn’t put a finger on the timeline at the moment but that “poker will be rolled out when operators are prepared to do so.”
There is some value in being the first to market in a regulated state. Even with the hurdles and other priorities that PA casinos have faced, the launch of online poker it likely to be here sooner rather than later, especially once casinos start indicating their eagerness to come to the market.