During the Wednesday’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting, when asked about online poker coming to PA, (PGCB) spokesperson Douglas Harbach told PlayPennsylvania:
“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.”
What does this mean for PA online poker players?
Before you get too excited, this does not mean there is suddenly an online poker free-for-all in the Keystone State. Since this is the start of a new industry for Pennsylvania, here are the answers to some important questions.
Who will I be playing against? New Jersey players? The other countries with PokerStars?
Online poker in Pennsylvania is only legal on the intrastate level. That means you will only be playing against other players within Pennsylvania.
You will not be able to take part in the big multi-table tournaments PokerStars hosts like the Sunday Million. However, you can expect a nice slate of Sunday tournaments specifically for PA players similar to what is available in New Jersey.
How old do I have to be to play online poker?
In order to play in Pennsylvania, you need to be at least 21 years old. When you sign up for an account, the sites will ask you for pieces of personal information, like the last four digits of your Social Security number. This is used to verify both your age and your identity.
What do I need to start an online poker account?
Most sites ask for a few pieces of personal information, including:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security Number
Do I have to live in PA to play online poker?
No, you do not have to be a Pennsylvania resident in order to play online. So long as you are physically located within the state and can properly geolocate with the online poker site, you are able to play.
How can I get money on an online poker site?
Before you pull out your credit card, be aware that it is not the easiest way to get money on an online poker or casino site. There are some Visas and Mastercards that allow these transactions, but there is a relatively high decline rate.
Thankfully, there are several other options you can likely choose from, including:
- Instant e-checks
- PokerStars Play+ Card
- Cash at the cage
Does this mean I can legally play on America’s Cardroom or Bovada now?
No. Both of those sites are illegal offshore poker sites. They may say they take American customers, but they are not regulated within the United State and players have little to no recourse if they encounter problems on the site.
Only sites vetted and approved by the PGCB are allowed to legally offer online poker in the state.
How do I know PA online poker sites are safe?
There is a reason it took months and months for online poker to get going in Pennsylvania. The PGCB rigorously tests all elements of an online poker site before it is even allowed to begin testing. The regulators take extreme measures to ensure things like the random number generator that deals the cards is in order and that there are measures in place to detect collusion.
Nevada and New Jersey players can play together on WSOP.com. Why can’t we?
At some point, Pennsylvania might be able to play against players in other states. For now though, it is only Pennsylvania players.
The gambling expansion law of 2017 allows for online poker compacting with other states, so there is a legal option for players from PA to pool with NJ or NV in the future.
Based on how skittish the PGCB is about potential violations of the Wire Act opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier this year, compacting likely won’t be broached until there is a clear ruling one way or another on the validity of the new opinion.
The case the New Hampshire Lottery brought against the Department of Justice is currently on appeal. It will be well into 2020 before the court hears arguments in that appeal. There is always the possibility the DOJ drops its appeal, but that seems unlikely.
In the meantime, Pennsylvania is taking one of the most conservative approaches to the new opinion, which would suggest compacting with other states is not on the table at the moment.
PokerStars is the biggest online operator in the world and comes with a solid reputation among players. The company boasts a stable of team pros, the most advanced poker software in the industry, and one of the best rewards programs for regular players.
PokerStars spokesperson Rebecca McAdam Willetts told USPoker:
“We are very excited to be bringing our most popular brands to Pennsylvania next week, subject to regulatory approval. Stay tuned for details.”
Online gambling becomes bigger with addition of poker
July 15 was the official start date for Pennsylvania online casinos. Three online casinos launched within a couple of days of that date:
- Hollywood Casino
The online casinos debuted with a limited library of games and no poker. Three poker networks/companies have partnerships with PA casinos. They are:
Over the course of the summer and early fall, PlayPennsylvania was continuously told that online poker is “coming soon.”
Online Poker Report speculated that September might be poker’s magic month. The rumor mill said it “won’t be long before PokerStars unveils the state’s first online poker site.”
PA poker players are eager tweeters
The PGCB says they also receive many questions from eager PA online poker players via social media.
“There is no doubt there is a market out there for Pennsylvania poker players,” said Harbach. “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.”
Projecting online poker in PA
Pennsylvania poker players are eagerly sitting at the keyboard, waiting for online poker to launch.
But the launch may not make a big impact on the bottom line for PA. Take a look at New Jersey’s August online gambling revenue numbers:
- Casinos: $39.4 million
- Sports betting: $19.2 million
- Poker sites: $1.7 million
Not only do online poker’s revenue pale in comparison, but it’s also suffering from a slow decline since launch in New Jersey.
Still, Pennsylvania has a larger population and potential pool of poker players, so many are hopeful that PA online poker will shine.