Following a two-day soft launch period which began on November 4, the PokerStars online poker platform is officially open for business in Pennsylvania. Players physically located within state lines can now log on to PokerStarsMtAiryCasino.com to compete in real money cash games, multi-table tournaments, and one-table “sit and go” tournaments.
In comments made to industry news outlet PokerFuse, PokerStars representative Rebecca McAdam Willetts celebrated the long-awaited entrance into its second regulated American market:
- “PokerStars PA is now officially live after receiving full approval from the regulator.
- We look forward to welcoming players in Pennsylvania around the clock and we’re very excited by the level of engagement and support so far.”
PokerStars PA operates under an iGaming license held by the Mount Airy Casino Resort.
PokerStars Makes it a Pair of American Markets
PokerStars returned to the U.S. in March of 2016 following a nearly five-year exile forced in 2011 by the federal government, following the industry’s “Black Friday” purge of operators who failed to comply with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.
But with the feds now deeming online / mobile gambling to be legal on the intrastate level, the world’s largest online poker platform has doubled up on its American presence.
To help accelerate the brand’s revival stateside, Toronto-based parent company The Stars Group partnered up with FOX Sports in May to turn the former StarsBet online / mobile sportsbook into FOX Bet.
In a press release posted to the PokerStars Blog, Matt Primeaux – who serves as president of FOX Bet senior vice president of strategy and operations in the U.S. for The Stars Group – positioned the partnership as Pennsylvania’s preeminent iGaming provider:
Primeaux said, “We’re excited to launch PokerStars as the first and currently the only online poker option available to players in Pennsylvania.
Including today’s launch of our highly rated casino product, which is now available in the FOX Bet and PokerStars apps, we’re proud to say we’re currently the only online provider offering all three forms of regulated gaming in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
State Gaming Regulator Takes Slow Road to Poker Rollout
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill – which included online / mobile sports betting, casino games, and poker – into law back on October 30 of 2017.
A deliberative licensing approach taken by lawmakers and regulators saw 17 months pass before the first online / mobile sportsbook went live on May 31 of this year, followed by the launch of casino platforms on July 15.
Poker sites were expected to commence business on the same date, but despite the apparent similarities between the backend technology used to power the casino and poker verticals, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) continually pumped the proverbial breaks on PokerStars PA.
According to public comments made by PGCB spokesperson Doug Harbach, online / mobile poker’s status as a peer-to-peer game involving wagers placed against fellow players, rather than a house-banked game a la blackjack or slots, led to the delay.
As recently as October 30, when local iGaming industry media outlet PlayPennsylvania broke the soft launch news, Doug Harbach told reporters that further delays were still possible:
“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.
The caveat is always that if issues come up, then the beginning of the testing could slide.”
Fortunately for poker enthusiasts in the Keystone State, that caveat never came into play as PokerStars PA proved its capabilities to PGCB regulators during the successful soft launch.
Doug Harbach went on to tell PlayPennsylvania that competitors to PokerStars PA would only join the fray when operators were fully in compliance with PGCB mandates:
“There is no doubt there is a market out there for Pennsylvania poker players.
There is an excitement about it getting unveiled but, at this point, we are still waiting for the operators to be in a position to launch the poker games.”
As of now, the list of potential competitors that have iGaming licensing deals with local land-based casinos includes PartyPoker (Valley Forge), WSOP.com / 888 Poker (Harrah’s), IGT (Hollywood at Penn National), and GAN / Kambi (Parx).