With over ten locations in the state of Pennsylvania to play live poker, it’s a natural fit for PA to jump on board the latest wave of states looking to bring online poker to the residents of their state.
On October 30, 2017 PA Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill that allowed for the legalization and regulation of online poker, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and interactive online gaming.
Throughout 2018, PA prepared itself to join Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in the growing contingency of states offering a full slate of poker cash games and tournaments to players located within the state borders.
Many in the industry thought that the state would begin to offer online poker either by the end of 2018 or in the first quarter of 2019, however the US Department of Justice issued a new opinion on January 24, 2019, that stated that the Wire Act applied to every type of online gambling, not just sports betting. This opinion, if enforced, would consider all online gambling illegal.
The new opinion has caused a delay in the launch of online poker in Pennsylvania. The PA Gaming Control Board needed to allow operators time to digest the opinion and examine their plan moving forward.
With the delay, online poker is expected to appear in the summer of 2019, around July 1.
With multiple operators ready to launch, here’s everything you need to know about online poker in The Keystone State.
Pennsylvania Online Poker Sites
Nine of Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos spent $10 million to apply for a license for the opportunity to offer online poker, as well as additional online casino games. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has, to date, approved seven casinos to operate online poker in the state.
The physical casinos will either be partnering with an established online poker operator or expanding a network they already have in operation, either in the United States or elsewhere in the world. This will give players to a wide variety of choices on where to play, what games they would like to participate in, and at what stakes they are comfortable with.
Seven casinos have been approved to provide online gambling and online poker in the state of Pennsylvania.
- Mount Airy Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Valley Forge Casino
- Parx Casino
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National
- SugarHouse Casino
- Sands Bethlehem
Of the seven casinos, six have strategic partnerships or available technology to launch online poker in the state. Three of the providers will have the ability to expand their network through shared player pools with their own sites in other regulated states.
PokerStars (Mounty Airy Casino Resort)
In August 2018, PokerStars announced a partnership with Mounty Airy Casino Resort so they could expand their U.S. online poker footprint.
The pairing brings together the largest online poker room in the world with Pennsylvania’s smallest live poker room. However, the partnership is important to PokerStars as it will be the first opportunity for the company to create a shared player pool network if they are able to merge PA with their already established New Jersey online room.
WSOP/888poker (Harrah’s Philadelphia)
Already the largest network in the United States, thanks to their presence in Nevada and New Jersey as well as being on the 888poker network, WSOP.com looks to expand their brand in Pennsylvania.
WSOP.com is owned by Caesars Entertainment, which also owns Harrah’s Philadelphia so the partnership was already in place. In fact, Harrah’s Philadelphia’s live poker room is branded a WSOP poker room.
Valley Forge Casino
Although it’s not set in stone just yet, Valley Forge Casino is owned by Boyd Gaming and has a strategic partnership with GVC, the parent company of partypoker.
It would be a natural fit for partypoker to have a footprint in Pennsylvania allowing them to join WSOP.com, 888poker, and PokerStars in creating a multi-state network for their players.
Parx Casino is one of the state’s leader in live poker boasting the largest poker room in Pennsylvania with 48 tables. Even though they do not yet have an online poker room with an already established brand as a partner, they do have their own well-establish name in the state.
They also have a technology partnership with GAN and Kambi that will help them build out every aspect of their online gaming strategy.
Like Parx Casino, Hollywood Casino does not have a brand name online poker partner but they do have a well-established technology partner in IGT. IGT not only has expertise in online slot machines, they also have a relatively new online poker platform that is currently being used for all of Canada’s state-run poker sites.
SugarHouse Casino has a natural online gaming partner in their own parent company of Rush Street Gaming (producers of the televised poker show Poker Night In America).
Rush Street Interactive will have a head start over some of the competition when it comes to online gambling outside of poker, as they already have that technology up and running in New Jersey.
Sands Bethlehem does not have an announced partnership but is likely to be sold to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians within the year and the application for an online poker license was conditional to the sale.
Live Poker In Pennsylvania
There are plenty of live poker options for players to choose from in the state of Pennsylvania. There are more than 10 properties that offer a variety of cash games as well as a full slate of tournaments.
Harrah’s Philadelphia – 28 tables full of cash games with regularly run tournaments.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National – A full offering of cash games and tournaments in a 17-table room.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino – A 16-table poker room with cash games and twice daily tournaments.
Mohegan Sun Pocono – The room provides 18 tables worth of cash games and daily tournaments.
Mount Airy Casino – One of the smaller rooms with nine total tables.
Parx Casino – The largest poker room in the state with 48 tables and some of PA’s biggest tournaments of the year.
Presque Isle Downs – A 7-table room that has operating hours starting at 10am daily.
Rivers Casino-Pittsburgh – One of the larger rooms in the state with 30 tables of action.
Sands Casino – A large 30 table poker room.
SugarHouse Casino – The 28 table room is home to Poker Night In America.
History of Online Poker In Pennsylvania
Like the rest of the United States, players in Pennsylvania enjoyed the rise of online poker during the ‘poker boom’ of 2003. Players flocked to a number of online sites to compete in the worldwide pool of players. Online poker companies flooded the U.S. market with advertising dollars and sponsorship deals as it looked like the newfound popularity of poker would never slow down.
Even after the US Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, which stifled offshore online poker rooms, like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, from processing transaction – online poker continued to grow to new heights.
Then on April 15, 2011, the day poker players refer to as Black Friday, the U.S. government officially put a stop to the online poker phenomenon in the U.S. by shutting down the three largest online poker operators and charging officials at each with illegal gambling and money laundering charges.
Later that year, in December of 2011, the Department of Justice released an opinion that the Wire Act was only applicable to sports betting which kept the door open for states to try and legalize their own online poker, which they did.
Although Pennsylvania was not one of the first, over the next several years Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have all brought back online gaming and have successfully launched their own online poker sites. Additionally, they have agreed to share a player pool so players from each state can compete against the other provided they are on the same network.
While those states were building the groundwork for online poker’s return, in 2013 Pennsylvania officials were beginning to look into online gambling of their own. In 2014 the PA Senate commissioned a study on the issue of online gambling. Legislation was considered in 2014 and again in 2015 but it stayed in the arena of continued conversation.
In 2016, Pennsylvania failed to bring online gambling back to the state. Only when faced with a budget deficit in 2017 was online gaming considered. In May of 2017, the Senate passed a bill and the House expanded on it. By the fourth quarter of 2017 the plan to legalize and regulate online gambling was approved which meant that online poker was on the road to return to the residents of PA.
Pennsylvania Online Poker FAQ’s
Is online poker legal in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, a bill has been passed that has cleared the way for regulated online poker to begin. Online operators have applied for state licenses and a number of them have been granted. When online poker goes live, which is expected sometime in the summer of 2019, those online sites will be sanctioned and the poker played on those sites will be completely legal.
Which online poker sites will be running in PA?
Seven casinos have been approved to provide online poker and the offerings will very likely include PokerStars, WSOP.com, partypoker, an online room for Parx Casino, SugarHouse Casino and Hollywood Casino. More may be announced in the future.
Can I play online poker on PA sites even if I don’t live in the state?
In previous instances where online poker has been regulated, anyone who is inside the state’s borders is allowed to play on that states online poker sites. You do not need to establish residence as a players location is determined by geolocation tools. So, when you are in the state of PA, you will be able to play on any regulated site.
What payment methods will be available?
It is in the best interest of every online poker operator to make every available deposit and withdrawal method available to their customers. Standard deposit options include credit cards, e-wallets and, in some cases, even wire transfers.
Which poker games are available online?
Every online operator will be allowed to offer whatever poker games their customer base is most interested in but one can generally expect No Limit Hold’em as the staple of the offerings. Both cash games and tournaments are also regularly offered and many sites include Sit & Gos in their lobbies as well.
Will other online gaming be available in PA?
The recently passed legislation was a complete regulation of all online gaming activities, not restricted to online poker. So online operators will have the option of offering additional gaming types (i.e. online slots, blackjack) at their discretion.
In order to participate in online poker in Pennsylvania, the requirements are likely to include players to be 21 or older with a valid, submitted identification. Players will be required to be inside of the state’s borders and allow for the use of geolocation to verify their location.
Who can I play poker with in PA?
The thought is when Pennsylvania online poker goes live, players in the state will (at first) only be able to play against other online players from Pennsylvania. However, as demonstrated in other states such as New Jersey and Nevada, agreements have been made that allow players in other states to play against one another. Once online poker in PA gets up and running, officials will likely look to make a similar agreement, extending the United States player pool to include PA in a multi-state pact.
Can I play poker with players from all over the world?
Currently, online poker players in the United States are prohibited from playing with players outside of the U.S. If Pennsylvania joins the current coalition of states that are currently sharing a player pool, then PA players will be able to play with and against players from the other US states where online poker is legalized.
How does the new opinion of the Wire Act affect Pennsylvania online poker?
It remains to be seen if the U.S. Department of Justice’s revised opinion on the Wire Act will dramatically effect PA online poker. It has delayed the launch of online sites so operators can understand what the opinion means for their plans to offer online poker.
Do I have to download anything in order to play online poker?
While there are some online poker sites that operate directly in a browser, the majority of poker sites require the downloading and installation of a poker client which they continue to keep updated with the latest upgrades and offerings.
What are loyalty programs?
Online poker sites offer their customers loyalty programs that provide rewards for playing on their site. A player will earn points in every real money cash game that is raked and every tournament that takes a fee. These points are then able to be redeemed for items such as tournament tickets, consumer goods and sometimes even cash back.
What is a deposit bonus?
A deposit bonus is given by the online operator as an incentive for players to make their first deposit on their site. Often they will match a player’s deposit up to a certain amount and then release the bonus in increments as the player plays on their site.