WSOP Online Still Trying for PA and MI Launches
When online poker launched in Nevada, the now-defunct Ultimate Poker was the first to virtually open in April 2013. The WSOP’s site – WSOP.com – followed in September 2013. The most recognizable name in poker wasn’t the first but turned out to be the only one that could sustain itself in the new market.
Soon after, WSOP.com was one of the first sites to launch in New Jersey in November 2013.
That seems to be where the leadership in the new American online poker landscape ended for WSOP.com While the site is the only one with linked player pools in Nevada and New Jersey, it has yet to enter the Pennsylvania market. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania actually legalized state-regulated online poker in late 2017 and issued licenses in 2018 and 2019. PokerStars launched in November 2019 and was the first to do so. And it wasn’t until April 2021 that any other site launched to give PokerStars competition; that was when BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker opened their virtual doors, both running on the same partypoker platform.
Michigan moved faster after legalizing online poker and casino games in December 2019. PokerStars was again the first to launch, doing so in late January 2021. And BetMGM Poker followed in March 2021, several weeks before it opened in Pennsylvania.
WSOP.com was missing in action.
Executives claim that they will be opening the WSOP.com poker rooms online within the next few months in both Pennsylvania and Michigan. Players can only hope this is true, as they’ve been duped before.
More Frequent Messages in 2021
WSOP.com executives had been relatively positive in 2018 with regard to opening its online poker site in Pennsylvania, but they followed that with mostly silence in 2019 and 2020. At the very end of September 2020, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded an interactive license to 888poker, which is the platform on which WSOP operates.
Even so, the WSOP gave no information regarding its site launch.
One month into 2021, Pokerfuse secured an interview with 888 Holdings Senior VP and Head of US Yaniv Sherman. He said that the launch of WSOP PA was the priority with the hope of offering WSOP bracelet events this summer to players in Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey and Nevada.
“The plan is to go live with Poker 8,” Sherman said of the new 888poker platform. “We are working hard to go live in the first half of the year, hopefully sooner, but right now that is our plan – sometime during the first half of 2021 to go live.”
During the first week of May, 888poker affirmed that intent.
This week two online poker rooms went live in Pennsylvania ending PokerStars' 18 months long de facto monopoly.
But there is another room that is slated to go live this summer.
ICYMI, the screenshots for the WSOP PA new client has already been revealed👀👀 pic.twitter.com/6NF4y49sYf
— pokerfuse (@pokerfuse) May 1, 2021
First Half of 2021?
888 Holdings published its May 2021 corporate presentation last week, which acknowledged the license in Pennsylvania but not yet in Michigan.
In the section entitled “foundations laid for rapid scaling up,” the document noted that Poker8 will roll out in Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2021 following its recent multi-year extension with the WSOP brand for online poker in US regulated markets. And in the accompanying call with investors, 888 CEO Itai Pazner expressed excitement about launching the new poker platform via its partnership with Caesars and WSOP. “We’re planning to launch in the first half of this year, which basically means in the next couple of months.”
To make the self-imposed deadline of the first half of 2021, 888 and WSOP need to step it up because fewer than two months remain in that time period.
However, it should be noted that even an online poker launch in Pennsylvania and/or Michigan within the next month or so does not mean WSOP.com players will be able to compete for WSOP Circuit rings or World Series of Poker gold bracelets this summer. Once the sites launch, test, and receive final approval for real-money play, they cannot automatically share players with Nevada and New Jersey.
In fact, the governors of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – states already in the multi-state online poker liquidity agreement – must meet with governors of Pennsylvania and Michigan to enter and sign the agreement. This could take place before the WSOP site launches, as PokerStars is already in three states and ready to link its players, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It may take months from the signing of an agreement to actually sharing the player pools on sites across state lines.
The faster the parties take any steps in this direction, the faster they can proceed on the other necessary actions.
We've heard that it's "expected" this year, but no firm date as yet. Even if it were to launch before July 1 there would be no interstate poker at this time however, as that requires negotiations between the various state regulatory bodies and will take a year or more.
— Bonus.com (@BonusUpdate) April 16, 2021