[toc]Online poker giant PokerStars appears poised to push into Pennsylvania, as soon as the law will allow it to.
Pennsylvania legalized online poker and casino games late last month. It became the fourth state to legalize online gambling, behind Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
The new online gambling laws in PA allow for the state’s 12 existing land-based casinos to apply for one of 36 licenses. There are separate licences for online table games, online slots, and online poker operations. There is a $10 million licensing fee if applying for all three at once. After the first 90 days the licenses are on offer, the licensing fee will go up to $4 million each.
Outside entities will be allowed to apply for any of the licenses not taken up by PA casinos. However, this will only happen once the existing PA casino licensing period is over.
PokerStars aims to be one of PA’s first online operators
In this month’s third quarter earnings call, PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group expressed great interest in the new PA online gambling market.
“We aim to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its door to online poker and casino,” The Stars Group CEO Raft Ashkenazi said. “We are poised to take advantage of the positive momentum in the growth of online gaming globally and the continued march towards regulation.”
PokerStars NJ launched in the New Jersey regulated online poker and casino market in May 2016.
It quickly became the market leader among NJ online poker sites. In fact, it continues to hold on to the top spot in the market today. Total online poker revenues in New Jersey average around $2 million per month. However, New Jersey recently signed an agreement to share online poker player pools with Delaware and Nevada. There hope is the compact helps online poker finally grow again.
The growth of online gambling in the US
The new online gambling laws in PA also allow for the state to join the agreement in the future.
On the earnings call, The Stars Group CFO Brian Kyle sounded optimistic about the state-by-state growth of online poker and gambling in the United States.
“We are optimistic that Pennsylvania will be a catalyst for other US states to continue the momentum of iGaming regulation in the US. With a population almost twice the size of New Jersey, Pennsylvania is poised to become a significant marketplace for iGaming and a potential boost to our US poker business as Pennsylvania is expected to share liquidity with New Jersey and other US states as they regulate.”
Land-based partner or stand-alone operator?
The Stars Group Chief Legal Officer Marlon Goldstein said the company is excited to compete in PA as soon as possible. He also said it is still evaluating its options in terms of partnering with a casino or going it alone.
New Jersey online gambling laws dictate online operators must be associated with a land-based casino in Atlantic City. PokerStars operates under the Resorts AC online gambling license in the state. Mohegan Sun is the company that manages Resorts.
Mohegan Sun also owns the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino and racetrack property in PA. This makes it the most likely casino partner in PA for PokerStars.
However, there is no legal requirement to partner with a land-based casino in PA. Therefore, PokerStars could very well wait for an online poker operators license to become available and launch in PA on its own.