On Monday, the long-awaited launch of online / mobile casino gambling finally arrived for players in Pennsylvania. But as the July 15 date designated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) back in April came and went, it became clear that Pennsylvania online poker would be late to the party.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Parx Casino went live with their respective HollywoodCasino.com and ParxOnline.com sites as scheduled Monday afternoon. And while both operators are also licensed to offer online / mobile poker tournaments and cash games, neither site launched with poker capability at the onset.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette timed to coincide with Monday’s launch, PGCB spokesman Doug Harbach told the newspaper that his agency was excited to finally integrate online / mobile casino games within Pennsylvania’s regulated iGaming industry:
“I think most people believe moving these games online is certainly something that fits very well into a younger demographic, who does so much of their business and hobbies online.”
Pennsylvania legalized the iGaming industry, including online / mobile casino, sportsbooks, and poker wagering, in October of 2017.
More than a year and a half later, however, and only online / mobile sportsbooks (May 31) and casinos (July 15) have made their debut. Harbach told the newspaper that online / mobile poker’s “peer to peer” nature has created complications ahead of the expected Pennsylvania online poker launch date:
“There’s still some issues to be worked out. It’s a totally different game, because it’s player to player – or peer to peer, as we call it – rather than the player [competing against] the house.”
All told, of the 10 land-based casinos licensed to offer iGaming services, six applied for and received online / mobile poker licenses:
|Hollywood Penn National||IGT|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||(No Poker License)|
|Mount Airy Resort||PokerStars|
|Presque Isle||(No Poker License)|
|Stadium Casino||(No Poker License)|
|SugarHouse||Rush Street Interactive|
The most prominent online / mobile poker operator planning to enter the Pennsylvania online poker market is PokerStars, which announced its partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort last August.
PokerStars parent company The Stars Group was approved by the PGCB last November, and at the time, senior vice president of strategy and operations Matt Primeaux issued a statement on the company’s plans for PokerStars PA:
“We’re excited to take this next step as The Stars Group looks to broaden its presence in the United States. In partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, we believe we’re well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Commonwealth by bringing our world leading offerings to Pennsylvania players.”
In March of 2016, PokerStars launched its first regulated American-facing platform in New Jersey.
The Mount Airy partnership promised a second statewide market for PokerStars in the U.S.. But while most iGaming industry media outlets predicted a July 15 launch to gain first mover advantage, PokerStars has pumped the proverbial brakes.
Speaking to PokerFuse, a representative for The Stars Group offered a vague explanation regarding the site’s conspicuous absence on Monday:
“We’re working with our partners and the authorities to finalize plans and bring our leading brands to PA’s players as soon as possible. There’s a lot to look forward to, so rest assured we’ll be in touch with more details as soon as they’re available.”
And when a local player took to Twitter and asked the PokerStars account about its Pennsylvania launch plans, “Ben Long” received the following reply:
“We will get back to you with a response regarding this subject very soon. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.”