No Timeline Given for Online Poker in Pennsylvania
There is a mystery in Pennsylvania.
On Monday, July 15, regulated online gaming launched in the state by way of a law that was passed in October 2017. And though online poker was a part of that gaming expansion and is now legal in Pennsylvania, no online poker sites were a part of that launch.
According to state officials, poker operators were not ready for the launch.
However, several of said operators have launched online poker in at least one other state – and have done so successfully with much less time to prepare – and have offered ring-fenced online poker in other parts of the world.
The mystery surrounding online poker in Pennsylvania continues.
It's encouraging to see all the interest in online poker, but we're still a few months away from that launch in Pennsylvania. Sorry. pic.twitter.com/roOPzQjpdr
— OnlinePokerReport (@OPRupdate) July 17, 2019
Online Casino Games Available
Two online casino sites went live on Monday, July 15. Online Poker Report monitored the launches and reported on what Pennsylvania players could see and do on the first days of action.
The first site to launch was Hollywood Casino. Within the first hour of availability, players could sign up for new accounts via all desktops and Android devices, though there were initial problems with iPhone and iPad offerings.
Hollywood Casino offered 40 online slot games, video poker, and baccarat, though it is likely that more games will soon be added as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approves individual games.
Hours later, Parx Casino launched its online casino, and it was also available to players on desktops and Android devices but no iOS operations yet.
Parx showed up with 191 online slot games, video poker, a poker variation called PokerBet, and some slot tournaments. There were also a number of table games, such as blackjack and roulette.
Two days later, SugarHouse Casino made its online casino available to the public with 22 slot games online but no video poker or table games.
Where is Online Poker?
There are no direct answers.
Before the July 15 launch, when it remained unclear as to whether online poker would be available with casino games online, Pokerfuse obtained a vague answer. “We’re working with our partners and the authorities to finalize plans and bring our leading brands to PA’s players as soon as possible,” said a Stars Group representative. “There’s a lot to look forward to, so rest assured we’ll be in touch with more details as soon as they’re available.”
Hi Keith — We are not live in PA yet as we are still working with our partners and the authorities to finalize plans to bring our leading brands to PA’s players and will do so as soon as possible. We will be in touch with more details as soon as they’re available.
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) July 20, 2019
When it was clear that poker was not part of the Monday launches, Pokerfuse reached out to the PGCB for answers. As it turns out, they had none.
PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach was asked about online poker availability and commented, “We cannot predict a timeline on that right now.”
Harbach added, “Poker will be rolled out when operators are prepared to do so.” He also said that online poker sites will be able to launch individually when ready instead of waiting for any type of coordinated launch date.
Hi, unfortunately we don't have an exact date yet
— partypoker (@partypoker) July 20, 2019
Online Casinos in Court
An interesting side note to the online casino part of the new Pennsylvania market is that several sites were available to launch despite being engaged in a legal battle with the state’s lottery operator.
In May 2018, the Pennsylvania Lottery launched scratch-off lottery games available for purchase on the internet. The iLottery was immediately met with anger from casinos, though.
In August 2018, a group of seven Pennsylvania casinos headed to court to stop the iLottery program in its entirety, alleging that casinos have exclusive rights to offer any type of slot machine-style games of chance. The list of casinos included Parx, Hollywood, Harrah’s, Stadium, Valley Forge, and Mohegan Sun, all of which have been approved for online gambling.
A coalition of Pennsylvania casinos has filed suit in Commonwealth Court, seeking to stop the Pa. Lottery from offering casino-style online games. The casinos had warned in late June that they would take action if the games weren't stopped https://t.co/ZQkQL5bgvL
— Jon Harris (@ByJonHarris) August 22, 2018
Less than one week before the online casino launch date of July 15, Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer ruled against those casinos, denying their preliminary injunction request to shut down the iLottery. In essence, online lottery games and online casinos are now competing for gambling dollars.
The lawsuit continues despite the lack of an injunction, as the group of casinos continue to pursue remedies in the court system.
"Friday's decision in Commonwealth Court is a victory for the state lottery, although the casino owners' 9-month-old lawsuit will continue." https://t.co/bKaU9h42vK
— Ashley Cafaro (@WENYAshleyC) July 13, 2019
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