Pennsylvania Gaming Board Approves 888 for Online Gaming

Pennsylvania Gaming Board Approves 888 for Online Gaming

The path of 888 and the WSOP.com poker site to the Pennsylvania internet gaming market has been a confusing one. And there has been no evidence of expediency whatsoever.

Nearly three years after Pennsylvania legalized online gaming and nearly one year after PokerStars became the first – and still only – poker site to launch in the state, 888 won approval for its interactive gaming manufacturer license. It happened at a virtual Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting.

It may finally be time for them to launch WSOP online poker for Pennsylvania players.

A Long and Mysterious Road

Pennsylvania took its time to consider the type of online gaming industry its lawmakers wanted. Years of various bills and discussions, hearings and amendments finally led them to a bill to pass in October 2017. And on October 30, 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law.

It became the fourth state to legalize online poker and the third to authorize online casino games.

Within the first two years, online poker and gaming providers signed partnerships with the land-based casinos in Pennsylvania. Some did so for sports betting, others wanted the option to launch online slots and table games. Of the dozen casinos, seven paid for online poker licenses as well: Parx, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Mount Airy, Hollywood, SugarHouse, Valley Forge, and Sands Bethlehem.

However, nothing materialized on the online poker front.

Finally, in November 2019, PokerStars and partner Mount Airy became the first duo to launch online poker for Pennsylvania players.

PokerStars subsequently reported millions in monthly revenue. While monthly numbers fluctuated due to a variety of factors, PokerStars was able to rake in millions each month during the coronavirus pandemic. It was the only poker site in Pennsylvania throughout 2020 thus far.

Many thought the launch of PokerStars last year would push other poker operators to follow, to provide competition to the sole poker site regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). But rumors and speculation through much of 2020 led to no official word from anyone – not the PGCB, WSOP.com, PartyPoker, or any other potential PokerStars PA competitor.

888 Receives Official License

Back in 2018, when the PGCB began awarding interactive gaming licenses, it seemed that WSOP.com and its partner Harrah’s would be the first to launch. At that time, Caesars Interactive Entertainment even noted that it would use its experience in Nevada and New Jersey to ensure a “smooth and successful launch” in Pennsylvania.

Caesars Interactive VP of Online Casino Melanie Gross added that they intended to “hit the ground running in Pennsylvania when online gaming commences in the state.”

WSOP.com even revealed information about the real-money online poker games that would initially be available for players. So, those players waited anxiously.

And they waited.

In April 2020, more than one month after the start of the pandemic-related shutdowns of casinos, Harrah’s and Caesars Interactive launched the Caesars PA online casino with virtual slots and table games. It seemed like the perfect time to launch in Pennsylvania, too, as PokerStars collected millions in increased revenue due to the unavailability of live poker.

Things were quiet again until September 2020. The agenda for the September 30 PGCB meeting showed 888 Atlantic Limited on the docket, awaiting approval for its license from the Bureau of Licensing. Since 888 is the platform upon which WSOP.com operates, hope rose again.

During the meeting (about 24 minutes into it), Director of Licensing Susan Hensel reported that the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement completed its investigative process and suitability report for 888 Atlantic. No one on the PGCB opposed the motion to grant the license, so it was official.

Ready for Launch?

It seems not.

Prior to the PGCB meeting, Communications Director Doug Harbach told Pokerfuse that the board had “no timeframe that has been provided to us for a launch of the poker app.” And requests to WSOP and 888 offered no information.

That was last week.

The approval of the 888 license is a huge step toward the launch of online poker, but 888 and WSOP.com must work with the PGCB to schedule the soft launch and testing that will lead to the final virtual opening.

With poker rooms in Pennsylvania still closed and a second wave of positive Covid-19 cases on America’s doorstep, the launch of an online poker room before winter would be a smart move. But years into the process, it remains unclear when it may actually happen.

 

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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