Two Weeks In, PokerStars PA Sees More Opportunity in Pennsylvania

The first few weeks of online poker in Pennsylvania have gone well for PokerStars PA.

The soft launch has come and gone, two sets of Sunday Majors have played out, the first major tournament series in the history of regulated online poker in Pennsylvania has been announced. And that’s just the first two weeks in the life-cycle of the first regulated poker site in Pennsylvania history.

PokerStars PA launched officially on November 6 after working through a two-day soft launch period required by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. While the soft launch was a necessary regulatory hurdle, for Matt Primeaux, President of FOX Bet/PokerStars USA, it offered an opportunity to get real-time feedback from players who haven’t been able to play on PokerStars for over eight years.

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“Generally speaking we tend not to soft launch with our full product offering, as was the case in PA. Instead, this is rolled out gradually over the period. So, although we learn a huge amount from a technical perspective, the real lessons from our customers begin once we’ve received full regulatory approval and we’re up and running with all games, stakes, and titles,” Primeaux said. “After that, the learning doesn’t stop. We’ll listen very closely to feedback, monitor play, and tweak things like formats, user journeys, structures and software features over time.”

In all likelihood, PokerStars PA will remain as the only choice for poker players in Pennsylvania through the end of the calendar year. Primeaux knows that being first is an opportunity to grab precious market share but also comes with some pressure to give a poker-thirsty market a top-shelf product right out of the gate.

“We know how passionate Pennsylvania poker players are and being first-to-market allows us to feed their passion and set the tone for online poker in the state. We’ve watched the comments on social media and we’ve been asked plenty of questions online and even at live events. When it came to us soft launching, the numbers spoke for themselves. It’s amazing to work with that level of enthusiasm and to be able to live up to our reputation by being the first site to bring online poker to Pennsylvania.”

The launch of PokerStars PA had a vastly different feeling to it than the launch in New Jersey where six other sites were already operational before PokerStars NJ went live. That presented a set of challenges that were new for Primeaux and the US-based team.

“When we arrived in New Jersey with we had months of online poker data and observations from other operations to draw upon and use to inform our offer,” Primeaux said. “So we had a head-start knowing which games and formats players preferred. For Pennsylvania, it’s a new set of fun challenges that we are tackling as we monitor player behaviour to serve a massive, engaged and avid fan base.”

With a population of 12.8 million, there are more people living in Pennsylvania than there are in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware – the three states combined their player pools to increase liquidity – have combined. Despite the fact that Pennsylvania and New Jersey share a border, the two states remain in separate player pools, largely because of the delayed opinion on the newest interpretation of the Wire Act, but Primeaux remains hopeful they can convince the necessary parties to combine into one player pool

“We have shared our views regarding the benefits of shared liquidity with various levels of government in Pennsylvania and those conversations are ongoing,” Primeaux said.

Gaming, whether or online or land-based, continues to be an issue for each state to deal with as their lawmakers see fit. Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang recently made it a point to bring up the possible benefits of offering federal legislation for online poker and allow states to opt-in to one larger network. Primeaux is cautious about not wanting to put support behind any one politician or party and would rather focus on furthering the process of educating regulators at all levels about the various benefits widespread regulation would bring.

“We support the regulation of online gaming, including licensing and taxation regimes and pooled poker liquidity, which we believe will promote sustainable online gaming markets that are beneficial for consumers, governments and the citizens of the regulating jurisdiction, operators and the gaming industry as a whole,” Primeaux said.