Online Poker Sites Likely to Operate in Pennsylvania
Online gaming legislation is moving steadily in a positive direction in Pennsylvania. As of February 2016, a bill stands on the Assembly floor, awaiting a path forward.
The original bill introduced by State Representative John Payne – HB649 – was a bill to legalize and regulate online poker. In the past months, however, amendments expanded the bill to include online gambling as well as other components that will enhance the entire gaming and casino industry in Pennsylvania.
The new version of that bill passed the House Gaming Oversight Committee by a vote of 18-8 late in 2015, and Payne then introduced the bill to the House floor, where it remains. He does expect that there is enough support to eventually pass the bill, whether as a standalone measure or part of a budget bill. He notes that Pennsylvania needs the additional revenue, and he expects the bill to pass in the summer of 2016.
Once passed, online gambling will be legal when licensed by a land-based casino already present in the state. Online poker and Internet casino games can be offered by operators who partner with the casinos. There is even a provision to allow interstate online gaming compacts.
One of the most likely companies to partner with an already-established land-based entity in Pennsylvania is 888 Holdings. It has a strong US presence and is a well-respected site with players around the globe.
888poker and 888casino already have strong relationships and a strong player following in New Jersey. The transition to Pennsylvania should be a smooth one, as 888poker PA has already formally announced that it is partnering with Mount Airy Casino.
In addition, 888 is a strong partner of Caesars in New Jersey and Nevada, which means that Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack is also likely to vie for the 888poker PA name. This type of partnership will also form an easy path to any interstate agreements that may be signed with states like New Jersey and/or Nevada.
The wildcard gambling in Pennsylvania is going to be PokerStars, only because the company has yet to launch in any regulated states in America since it exited the market on Black Friday in 2011. However, PokerStars was recently awarded a license to operate in New Jersey, and a lengthy investigation proved the company, now owned by Amaya, is fit for US operations.
As it stands, PokerStars is partnered with Resorts AC in New Jersey, which is operated by Mohegan Sun. Considering that casino has a sister property in Pennsylvania at Pocono Downs, this would be a likely deal for PokerStars PA to sign. However, there may be a conflict as Mohegan Sun also has a partnership with NYX Gaming, which runs the Resorts’ online casino in New Jersey.
Other possibilities for PokerStars PA include Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, Sugarhouse Casino, Penn National Race Course, Presque Isle Downs, and The Meadows.
This is another company that has a well-established following around the world, and many American players remember the company for its extreme popularity before it departed the US market.
PartyPoker was quickly approved for operations in New Jersey and partnered with the casino there with the largest poker room – Borgata. There is no Boyd Gaming-owned casino located in Pennsylvania at this time, so the path to partnership and interstate liquidity will be a bit more difficult.
However, bwin.party does have a relationship with Valley Forge Casino Resort. Whether that will stand with bwin.party’s new ownership by GVC Holdings remains to be seen, but the Philadelphia casino is a solid choice for PartyPoker PA, if all contracts stay in place once the legislation passes for legalization.
The site established by Harrah’s owned World Series of Poker has a strong presence in the burgeoning US market. It is the only viable online poker site operating in Nevada, and it is consistently growing in the New Jersey market.
WSOP PA is well suited to secure a license and begin operations in Pennsylvania when the law allows. Should it follow the same path it took in New Jersey, it could easily partner with 888 and offer online poker and gambling through a partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia.
Since Parx Casino has signed on to offer online gaming through GameAccount Network, WSOP PA will likely work with Harrah’s and leave other options alone. The key to its eventual landing place will be its existing working relationship with 888 and where it will take WSOP in Pennsylvania.