Pennsylvania Not Ready to Tackle Shared Online Poker
When Pennsylvania legalized online poker and casino games in the fall of 2017, those following the industry closely had numerous questions about which operators would be involved, which would partner with various land-based casinos, and when the sites would be ready to launch. But one question loomed rather large in all conversations: When would Pennsylvania sign the interstate online poker liquidity agreement to share player pools with other states?
Liquidity has long been recognized as the primary tool for growth in the new US online poker market. Individual states are limited as to the size of their player pools and resulting growth. It will be the combination of online poker sites across state lines that will enable sites to truly expand and create an industry that has the potential to reach its former heights.
Though the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has been quite busy establishing the online gaming framework, issuing licenses, investigating applicants, and preparing for the steps that will lead to the sites’ ability to launch, one poker media entity did ask about multi-state online poker.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) September 6, 2018
Online Poker Report took the question about shared online gaming liquidity straight to PGCB Director of Communications Doug Harbach. And his answer was short and noncommittal.
“While an interstate compact could certainly occur, at this junction I can’t predict or comment on the likelihood,” Harbach said.
— Pokerfuse News (@pokerfusenews) September 5, 2018
The reporter also reached out to Governor Tom Wolf’s office, since the governors are the ones who must sign the multi-state agreements, and received no response. In all fairness, though, the state is contending with recent storms and flooding, dangers to correctional facility employees, the nation-rocking grand jury investigation into sexual abuse in churches, ever-present budget difficulties, and the upcoming mid-term elections in which Wolf is facing a challenger for his seat.
Relationships Take Time
The Pennsylvania online gaming market is still in its infancy. Licensing windows remain open for online gaming applications, and the PGCB has only awarded three licenses thus far, with many more remaining to vet. Three more licenses are expected to be approved this month and another several in October.
Many of the land-based casinos have not even solidified their online gaming operator partnerships yet, either. And once business relationships are formed, sites must be built and tested and submitted for approvals. Even further, all of this will need to culminate in a coordinated online gaming launch that is looking more like it will happen in early 2019 instead of late 2018 as originally planned.
Realistically, all licenses must be awarded, testing completed, and sites launched before Pennsylvania’s governor can sign a multi-state online poker sharing agreement with other states.
Sites to Share
At this point, the only site able to share in the tri-state online poker liquidity network is WSOP/888, due to the presence in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. The site is one of the two confirmed to offer online poker in Pennsylvania as well, though the relationships among WSOP, 888poker, and the land-based casinos are not clear enough to know which casinos could participate in the sharing yet.
— LegalUSPokerSites (@legal_poker) August 23, 2018
PokerStars solidified its partnership with Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania and plans to launch in its second state, which will mean that PokerStars will eventually share player pools across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If all goes as planned, this means that PokerStars will finally be able to participate in online poker liquidity in America.
— LegalUSPokerSites (@legal_poker) August 12, 2018
There will likely be at least one other poker online launch in Pennsylvania that can partner with a sister site in New Jersey as well, but those details are still emerging as the months progress in 2018.
Most likely, serious talks about including Pennsylvania in the multi-state online poker network cannot truly begin until the spring or summer of 2019 when the industry is up and running smoothly in Pennsylvania.
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