PA Gaming Review: Online Poker & iLottery Peaking Amid Casino, Track Reopening Talk

Written By Kevin Shelly on May 27, 2020
Online gaming flourishes as live casinos look to reopen

Recent news in Pennsylvania underscores that players have adapted to buying ilLottery products including Mega Millions and Powerball tickets online, and poker players have similarly adapted.

Online casino apps continue their popularity in the state, and one lucky PA lady has plenty to celebrate after hitting the biggest Divine Jackpot to date.

Meanwhile, retail casinos and regulators hoping to reopen have a long list of safety protocols to guide them when the time comes.

And there’s finally talk between the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf and the horse racing industry about safely resuming racing without spectators.

Numbers speak for Mega Millions and iLottery

With no jackpot winner again for Mega Millions, the top prize for this Friday is now estimated at $336 million as players have adapted to purchasing tickets online in addition to via retailers who have remained open. And the cash option for Friday is $265.6 million.

From May 19 to May 22, the Powerball jackpot jumped $24 million.

If you live in PA, you may buy Mega Millions and Powerball tickets, plus other PA iLottery online lotto products, from home.

In fact, Lottery sales in Pennsylvania hit the $1 billion mark just before its second anniversary. The sales milestone makes it the most commercially successful iLottery launch in North America.

Online poker makes history

While it was only last November that PokerStars PA launched, history’s been made with the Pennsyl-MANIA event, the site’s largest tournament prize pool ever. The site remains the Keystone State’s only operating online poker site.

Pennsyl-MANIA had a $200 buy-in with up to five re-entries allowed per player. The guaranteed prize pool of $250,000 was the largest ever for a tournament at PokerStars PA.

The whopping 2,774 total entries (1,760 entries, 1,014 re-entries) meant a $515,964 prize pool, more than double the guarantee.

The site’s previous record prize pool was $368,200 for the Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker Main Event last month.

Talk of safely resuming racing is still mostly just that

The virus pandemic closed Pennsylvania’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos in mid-March, as well as six horse tracks tied to casinos.

There’s a meeting Thursday between the pony people and the Wolf administration about restarting racing. Tracks have already developed protocols approved by the PA Horse Racing Commission.

And meanwhile, the bi-partisan-sponsored billHB 2544 – is moving through the PA house aimed at forcing a resumption of racing.

For now, horse racing is a waiting game.

PA casinos get some direction on safely reopening

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released “COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols.” The 10-page document details the minimum safety and health-related requirements mandatory before reopening.

They are subject to amendment as casinos get closer to reopening.

Guests visiting a casino in Pennsylvania will be required to wear a mask. For security reasons, patrons must temporarily remove hats or lower their masks as they enter.

Other main points include:

  • Markings on the floor to promote six-feet social distancing.
  • Occupancy rates must support social distancing guidelines.
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes available throughout the gaming floor.
  • Enhanced cleaning.
  • Poker rooms are not authorized to operate.
  • Each casino needs to identify an employee as a pandemic safety officer.
  • The casino staff stationed at entryways will receive training on recognizing possible signs of illness.
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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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