PokerStars Pushing to be First Poker Operator in Pennsylvania’s Newly Legalized iGaming Market

It’s only been two weeks since Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive online gambling regulation package, but global industry leader PokerStars has its sights set on the emerging market.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 271 into law on October 30, and within 10 days’ time, executives for PokerStars parent company The Stars Group were openly discussing plans to apply for a license there.

During the company’s third quarter earnings call with investment analysts, The Stars Group chief executive officer Rafi Ashkenazi discussed the potential for PokerStars expansion into Pennsylvania:

“We are poised to take advantage of the positive momentum in the growth of online gaming globally and the continued march toward regulation, including in the United States, where we aim to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its doors to online poker and casino.”

Even before Wolf signed the iGaming bill into law – making Pennsylvania the fourth state along with Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware to approve online gambling – The Stars Group celebrated HB-271’s long-awaited passage by the state legislature.

Eric Hollreiser, who serves as vice president of corporate communications for The Stars Group and PokerStars, took to Twitter and praised Pennsylvania for expanding America’s regulated iGaming industry:

“We applaud the Pennsylvania Legislature for taking decisive action to legalize online gaming.

This is commonsense legislation that will protect consumers, help close Pennsylvania’s budget gap, and make the state more competitive within the regional gaming industry.

The Stars Group looks forward to working with Pennsylvania and its gaming regulators and competing in the future marketplace.”

PokerStars currently operates in just one of the three legal zones, holding an interactive gaming license through the Resorts AC casino in New Jersey. Language included in the iGaming law passed by Nevada and Delaware includes so-called “bad actor” provisions, which prohibit PokerStars from participating based on the company’s previous decision to flout a federal iGaming ban between 2006 and 2011.

Pennsylvania declined to include similar bad actor restrictions in HB-271, freeing PokerStars to expand on its successful PokerStars.nj platform.

Brian Kyle, chief financial officer of The Stars Group, pointed to New Jersey as a template for PokerStars’ plans in Pennsylvania during the conference call:

“We received some promising news from the U.S. two weeks ago, as Pennsylvania became the fourth US state to authorize iGaming within its borders, including poker, casino and, if the US federal law changes, sports.

With a population almost twice the size of New Jersey, Pennsylvania is poised to become a significant marketplace for iGaming, and a potential boost to our US poker business as Pennsylvania is expected to share liquidity with NJ and other US states as they regulate.

We are optimistic that Pennsylvania will be a catalyst for other US states to continue the momentum of iGaming regulation in the US.”

As is the case in New Jersey, prospective iGaming operators must obtain a license in conjunction with one of the state’s existing brick and mortar casinos. PokerStars secured its New Jersey license through Resorts AC, a subsidiary of the Mohegan Sun casino ownership group.

Given the presence of Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, it would appear likely that the venue would be a perfect fit to serve as PokerStars’ licensing partner – but chief legal officer Marlon Goldstein spoke with Online Poker Report to explain the company’s process:

“We’re still evaluating our options in terms of who we may want to partner with and the landscape in Pennsylvania generally.

But again, we are really excited to be competing in that market sequentially as soon as possible.”