WSOP May Launch Online Poker in Pennsylvania Soon
For more than 14 months, PokerStars has been the sole state-regulated online poker website in Pennsylvania.
It’s not that PokerStars intended to hold a monopoly on the industry in the state. Several Pennsylvania-based casinos purchased online poker licenses and signed partnership deals with ipoker operators years ago. And after PokerStars PA launched in November 2019 with partner Mount Airy Casino, many anticipated a competitor to launch within months. Who was going to let PokerStars corner the market?
As it turned out, everyone else let PokerStars have it. The most likely sites to launch were PartyPoker/BetMGM and WSOP/888, but after numerous hints and bouts of speculation, PokerStars celebrated its one-year anniversary in Pennsylvania in November 2020. And the site crossed over into 2021, still the sole site in the regulated PA system.
For the first time, however, the World Series of Poker itself hinted at launching online poker in a new state this year. Perhaps the WSOP will provide competition for PA online poker players after all.
Partnership in Place
The WSOP’s foray into the online poker market in Pennsylvania is a logical one, complete with a paved pathway.
Caesars Entertainment owns the World Series of Poker and Harrah’s, the latter of which operates the aptly-named Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack. The partnership between Harrah’s PA and the WSOP.com poker site became formal as of August 2018. Harrah’s received one of the first three interactive gaming licenses and planned to offer online casino games and poker via WSOP.com and CaesarsCasino.com.
At the time of the announcement, Caesars Interactive VP Melanie Gross noted that the company was “very bullish on the offering online gaming provides our guests.” They planned to “hit the ground running in Pennsylvania.”
Nearly two years later, not long after the coronavirus pandemic shut down all land-based casinos across the United States, Caesars did launch its online casino in Pennsylvania. While that happened nearly one year after several other casinos, it was progress. Online poker is not far behind, right?
In September of this year, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) issued an internet gaming license to 888 Atlantic. That seemed like it was the missing piece of the puzzle. Since 888 provides the WSOP.com platform, the WSOP poker site could launch soon.
PokerStars then celebrated its one-year anniversary. And 2020 ended with still only one poker site in Pennsylvania’s regulated market.
🎉 Happy New Year from everyone at PokerStars. 🥂 pic.twitter.com/YmnxGJMrdf
— PokerStarsUSA (@PokerStarsUSA) January 1, 2021
New Year, New Hints
It is a new year. And the WSOP dropped a blatant hint about launching another WSOP.com site. In its announcement about a 2021 WSOP Circuit online series, the company announced its monthly lineup for the year for players in Nevada and New Jersey.
The press release also stated: “An additional 13th online circuit event is earmarked pending launch of the WSOP.com service in a newly regulated market.”
This could refer to Michigan, which legalized online poker and other games in December 2019 and just authorized interstate online poker last month. However, it seems more likely that the WSOP would launch its Pennsylvania site first and then move on to Michigan.
After the pandemic did so much damage to land-based gambling, Caesars might be ready to establish an online presence in as many markets and verticals as possible at this time. While no one expects another pandemic-related lockdown, anything can happen. And being able to reach customers online and generate revenue via those platforms is more important than ever. Especially after the pandemic dealt such a big blow to live poker rooms around the world.
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