Legal Online Poker in Pennsylvania
Last Updated January 29, 2020
In the fall of 2017, Pennsylvania became the fourth American state to legalize online poker. It took a little while but in late 2019 the first fully legal, regulated, online poker site opened for business in the state.
The state has been home to many famous poker players through the years, and with its burgeoning land-based casino market, more players than ever are flocking to the live poker rooms to play Hold’em or Omaha, cash games or tournaments…and now even tournament series. Due to the plethora of players in the state, online poker has remained popular through the years as well.
And in 2017, Pennsylvania followed New Jersey into the world of legalized and regulated online poker and casino games. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is currently accepting license applications from online gaming operators and partners, and the websites are expected to launch in the third or fourth quarter of 2018 and will join the other poker sites operating in PA.
Latest Updates for PA Online Poker
After online poker was legalized by the Pennsylvania legislature and governor in October 2017, there was a 60-day waiting period before regulations could be announced or implemented. After the holidays passed and the new year began, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board began to make announcements in February and March of 2018.
The entire process took much longer than most people anticipated, much to the dismay of players anticipating the launch of Pennsylvania online poker. There were few updates throughout 2018, with the exception of some comments about the future of the industry. One of the most notable came from Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Director of Communications Doug Harbach, who said that the poker sites will launch individually at first. The notion of entering the multi-state online poker liquidity agreement with New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada would be considered in the future. The other major 2018 event was the awarding of an online gaming license to PokerStars.
During a February 2019 meeting, PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole noted that the gaming sites in Pennsylvania were “close” to launch, but the licensing process was nearly completed. At that time, he said sites could be running by the end of June 2019.
In April 2019, O’Toole revealed that there was a launch date of July 15 for interactive gaming sites. He said that all 10 online gaming certificate holders and three operators were informed about a coordinated live launch set for July 15.
However, as that date neared, it became clear that only a few of the internet gaming sites would launch on that date, and none of them would be poker sites. Three sites did launch – Hollywood Casino, Parx Casino, and SugarHouse Casino – with online casino games only. No poker sites launched, and little information was available as to their potential launch dates.
Finally, at the end of October, PokerStars announced that it would launch its online poker and casino product in Pennsylvania on November 4. Along with its land-based casino partner, Mount Airy Casino, the launch did happen on that day. And after only two days of limited-hour testing during the soft launch, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board gave its final approval for full operations.
On November 6, PokerStars PA opened for 24-hour online poker action. More than 500 players were in action during the first few hours, and the numbers grew quickly to eclipse the number of players online at the PokerStars New Jersey site.
The initial cash games offered NLHE, LHE, and PLO from $0.01/$0.02 to $25/50 ($50/$100 for LHE). Players eventually began to also try out more Omaha options, some Stud and Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, and mixed games. Initial SNGs began with $1 buy-ins and NLHE and PLO tournaments at $3. There was also a Sunday MTT schedule established for the first weekend, and nearly every tournament significantly eclipsed the set prize pool guarantees.
Within two weeks of the site’s launch, PokerStars PA had already announced its first Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) for early December. The site is drawing significant players and consistently increasing offerings to meet the customer demand.
Despite PokerStars success in the state, no other online poker operator has announced their intention to launch in Pennsylvania. There will likely be announcements to that effect in 2020 but it remains in question whether PokerStars will get any competition for the PA market.
Pennsylvania Online Poker Rooms
The online poker operators and casino partners revealed as of early 2020 are as follows:
–Parx Casino via Greenwood Gaming (poker partner: GAN/Kambi)
–Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack via Chester Downs (poker partner: 888poker/WSOP)
–Mount Airy Casino Resort via Mount Airy #1 (poker partner: PokerStars)
–Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course via Mountainview (poker partner: IGT)
–SugarHouse Casino via Sugarhouse HSP Gaming (poker partner: Rush Street Interactive)
–Valley Forge Casino Resort via Valley Forge (poker partner: PartyPoker)
–Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem via Sands Bethworks Gaming (poker partner: unknown)
It is likely that Mount Airy/PokerStars will be the first site to launch, though Harrah’s/888 could be preparing for an early launch as well. Valley Forge/PartyPoker is another likely candidate. However, no sites are confirming launch dates or plans as of August 2019.
Pennsylvania Online Casino Launches
The following casinos have paid for initial internet gaming licenses, though some have yet to even reveal their partners for online casino slots and table games. What is known thus far is as follows:
–Parx Casino via Greenwood Gaming (partner: GAN/Kambi) – LIVE
–Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course via Mountainview (partner: IGT) – LIVE
–SugarHouse Casino via Sugarhouse HSP Gaming (partner: Rush Street Interactive) – LIVE
–Mount Airy Casino Resort via Mount Airy #1 (partner: PokerStars/StarsCasino) – LIVE
–Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack via Chester Downs (partner: 888/Scientific Games)
–Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem via Sands Bethworks Gaming (partner: unknown)
–Valley Forge Casino Resort via Valley Forge (partner: IGT/GAN/GVC/PartyCasino)
–Presque Isle Downs Casino via Presque Isle Downs (partner: SBTech)
–Mohegan Sun Pocono via Downs Racing (partner: Scientific Games)
–Live! Philadelphia Casino via Stadium Casino (partner: unknown)
As noted, Parx, Hollywood, and SugarHouse casinos launched their online casino games, all on July 15, 2019.
Parx PA already offers more than 200 online slot games, along with a few table games like roulette, baccarat, and blackjack.
Hollywood Casino offers more than 60 online slots, video poker selections, and table games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat.
SugarHouse launched the largest online casino with more than 300 slot games and a plethora of table games, such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and three-card poker.
Land-Based Casino – Supplier – Launch Date
- Harrah’s Phildelphia – 888 Casino, Scientific Games – July 15, 2010
- Hollywood Casino – IGT – July 15, 2019
- Mount Airy Casino – 888 Casino – Mid-Summer 2019
- Mohegan Sun Pocono – Unibet (Kindred Group, Pala) – July 15, 2019
- Parx Casino – GAN (Game Account Network) – Still Undisclosed
- SugarHouse Casino – Rush Street Interactive – July 15, 2019
- Valley Forge Casino – IGT/GAN – July 15, 2019
- Sands Bethlehem – Unknown – Sometime in 2020
Pennsylvania Online Sportsbooks
The online sportsbook partnerships known thus far are as follows:
–SugarHouse Casino via Sugarhouse HSP Gaming (partner: Kambi) – LIVE
–Valley Forge Casino Resort via Valley Forge (partner: FanDuel) – LIVE
–Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (partner: Rush Street Interactive) – LIVE
–Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack via Chester Downs (partner: 888)
–Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course via Mountainview (partner: William Hill)
–Mount Airy Casino Resort via Mount Airy #1 (partner: Fox Bet/BetStars)
–Mohegan Sun Pocono via Downs Racing (partner: Kindred)
–Parx Casino via Greenwood Gaming (partner: GAN)
–Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem via Sands Bethworks Gaming (partner: unknown)
The three sportsbooks listed atop the above list launched in May 2019. The online sports betting options now complement more than a handful of land-based live sportsbooks in casinos around Pennsylvania.
Land-Based Casino – Supplier – Launch Date
- Harrah’s Phildelphia – 888 Sports – Late Summer 2019
- Hollywood Casino Sportsbook – William Hill – Late Summer 2019
- Mount Airy Casino – Fox Bet (Stars Group) – Late Summer 2019
- Mohegan Sun Pocono – Unibet (Kindred Group, Pala) – Before NFL Season Begins
- Parx Casino – GAN (Game Account Network) – Could Launch Anytime
- SugarHouse Casino – Kambi Gaming – Before NFL Season Begins
- Valley Forge Casino – FanDuel Group – July 2019
- Sands Bethlehem – Unknown – 2020 or Later
- Rivers Casino – No Online Sportsbook – Note: SugarHouse is a sister site.
Pennsylvania Gambling Laws
Pennsylvania gambling laws have undergone a radical change since October 2017. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law which approved online poker, online casinos, daily fantasy sports, truck stop video lottery terminals, airport tablet computer betting, and satellite casinos. In 2018, sports betting and online bookmaker sites were approved. Here’s a full rundown of the laws.
|State Code Section(s)||58.161-190; 58.401-1209; 61.901; 61.1001|
|Definition of Interactive of Game||A gambling game offered through the use of communications technology that allows a person utilizing money, checks, electronic checks, electronic transfers of money, credit cards or any other instrumentality to transmit electronic information to assist in the placement of a bet or wager and corresponding information related to the display of the game, game outcomes or other similar information.|
|Definition of Interactive Gaming||The placing of wagers with an interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator using a computer network of Federal and non-Federal interoperable packet switched data networks through which an interactive gaming certificate holder may offer authorized interactive games to registered players. The term includes the placing of wagers through the use of a multiuse computing device.|
|Definition of Interactive Gaming Device||The hardware, software and other technology, equipment or device of any kind as determined by the Board to be necessary for the conduct of authorized interactive games.|
|Definition of Interactive Gaming Operator||A person licensed by the Board to operate interactive gaming or an interactive gaming system, through the provision of an interactive gaming platform, on behalf of an interactive gaming certificate holder.|
|Definition of Interactive Gaming Skin||The portal to an interactive gaming platform or interactive gaming web site through which authorized interactive games are made available by an interactive gaming certificate holder or interactive gaming operator to registered players in this Commonwealth or registered players in any other state or jurisdiction which has entered into an interactive gaming reciprocal agreement.|
|Definition of Multi-state Agreement||The written agreement, approved by the Governor, between the Board and regulatory agencies in other states or jurisdictions for the operation of an interactive multistate wide-area progressive system.|
|Definition of Peer-to-Peer Interactive Gaming||An authorized interactive game which is nonbanking, in which a player competes against one or more players and in which the interactive gaming certificate holder collects a rake.|
|Online Poker/Gambling||Pennsylvania became the fourth state in the US to legalize online poker. It happened in late 2017 when the legislature also authorized online casino games as part of a larger gambling expansion package. Online poker is scheduled to launch in late 2018 or early 2019.|
|Live Poker||Most of the major casinos in Pennsylvania do host poker rooms, which offer live cash games and tournaments.|
|Casinos||There are more than a dozen land-based casinos in Pennsylvania, all of which are fully-functional casinos or racetracks turned into casinos with the capability to offer slots and table games.|
|Sports Betting||Sports betting was legalized in late 2017 with other forms of online gaming. Once the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2018 to allow states to pursue sports betting, Pennsylvania began to establish regulations and move forward with its new industry.|
|DFS||Daily fantasy sports was a part of the 2017 bill that expanded gambling in Pennsylvania. It is now legal and regulated.|
|Other Forms of Gambling||Lottery, bingo, charitable gambling, video gaming terminals, horse and harness racing, on-track and off-track pari-mutuel betting, pull-tab games, tavern raffles.|
Pennsylvania Online Poker Sites
Everyone and their mother has lists of the “best” online poker rooms for Pennsylvania, but no one wants to tell you what their lists are based on. We don’t have any problem telling you how we generated our list of Pennsylvania’s top poker sites online; the formula is a combination of the site’s reputation (including holding a legal license), the value a site offers to players (through things like deposit bonuses and VIP programs) and the game variety at the room (number of games in terms of both volume and type).
After all, isn’t that what poker players are looking for? We think so, and that’s why we used this model to construct our top-ranked poker rooms for Pennsylvania players.
|Bovada||$500 Bonus||3-4 Day Payouts||Accepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires|
|Ignition||$2000 Bonus||3-4 Day Payouts||Accepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires|
|Intertops||$600 Bonus||5 Day Payouts||Accepts Visa, Wires|
|BetOnline||$2500 Bonus||5-7 Day Payouts||Accepts Visa, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Wires|
|Sportsbetting||$2500 Bonus||5-7 Day Payouts||Accepts Visa, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Wires|
Can Poker Players from Pennsylvania Play Online Poker?
Can Rocky run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum? If you’ve never seen the movie, the answer is yes. Same for aspiring online poker players from PA; you can charge right on up those stairs. In fact, it would probably take you less time (depending on what kind of shape you’re in) to get your PA online poker account set up, funded and to sit in at your first game of poker online than it would to struggle your way up the multiple flights Rocky made famous.
Real Money Poker and Pennsylvania Law
Gambling laws are complicated. Each state in America has its own language and code for gambling activities, so any questions about the legality of any particular activity should be directly addressed to a legal professional. None of us here are that person.
As far as poker and Pennsylvania law, however, we can give you a basic understanding of what is legal and not legal. And as of 2017, live and online poker are now both legal.
Progress for Pennsylvania online poker sites began to gain momentum in 2016 when a bill passed the House of Representatives to expand gambling with a number of measures, including internet poker. The estimated revenue was even put into the budget that year, but the Senate allowed the bill to die.
More momentum came in 2017, as casino operators, lottery officials, and legislators began talking as early as January. Several bills were introduced by March, though one of them – HB.271 – was the primary target. As the bill moved around through committees, State Senators wrote the details of the bill to include online lottery sales, daily fantasy sports (DFS), and online poker and casino games. Several problems impeded progress at various points, however, as tax rates were very high and controversial video gaming terminals (VGTs) were pushed by the Senate.
That bill went back and forth, from the House to the Senate and back, with VGTs remaining the most contentious part of the bill. Debates continued through the summer, and gambling expansion was again added to the state budget. This time, however, the state was in dire need of a passable budget and additional revenue. Throughout the month of September and October, a flurry of activity surrounding that legislation made it difficult to follow, but the bill ultimately passed with a compromise on VGTs in October.
Which companies hold online gaming licenses in Pennsylvania?
The first licenses for online gaming in Pennsylvania were awarded in August 2018, with more awarded through October 2018. The list of casinos with internet gaming licensees is:
–Parx Casino via Greenwood Gaming
–Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack via Chester Downs
–Mount Airy Casino Resort via Mount Airy #1
–Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course via Mountainview
–Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem via Sands Bethworks Gaming
–SugarHouse Casino via Sugarhouse HSP Gaming
–Valley Forge Casino Resort via Valley Forge
–Live! Philadelphia Casino via Stadium Casino
–Presque Isle Downs Casino via Presque Isle Downs
–Mohegan Sun Pocono via Downs Racing
While most have yet to launch online gaming sites, there is no deadline to prepare and launch their gaming platforms in Pennsylvania.
What games are available?
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has authorized online poker, online casino games like slots and video poker, and table games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. There will likely be a plethora of casino games available. As for online poker, it will be available in cash game and tournament formats, likely starting with Hold’em and Omaha games with more variants in the future.
What are the taxes, licensing fees, etc.?
Initial applicants for online gaming licenses had the opportunity to apply for a bargain rate of $10 million, which pays for online poker, online casino and table games, and slots. The three categories of licenses cost $4 million when sold separately, but operators applying for all three licenses at the start of the process in 2018 were able to obtain a $2 million discount. Each license will be valid for five years.
Gross gaming revenue from online poker and online table games will be taxed at 14% as a state tax, plus an additional 2% local tax. The online slot games tax is much higher, though, at 54%. The high rate matches that of the land-based casinos, but operators have been lobbying to reduce the rate for online gaming providers to give the industry a better chance for growth and overall success.
All Poker and Gambling Laws by State
- December 1st, 2018
After a year of waiting and watching the Pennsylvania online gaming market come together, the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fit. PokerStars, partnered with Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, received its license to offer online poker. The awarding of the license happened at a Pennsylvania GamingRead Full
- November 30th, 2018
Online poker isn’t the big selling point for internet gaming that it once was. Not only has it been showing in the New Jersey revenue numbers each month, where statistics show online casino games growing continually and poker declining nearly every month, it is becoming evident in the upcoming PennsylvaniaRead Full
- November 28th, 2018
PokerStars has taken its time returning to the US market. The company painstakingly follows the gaming rules of each state, especially after its return via New Jersey to offer online poker to Americans – some of them – once again. And it plans to enter the new Pennsylvania market asRead Full
- November 1st, 2018
In the several weeks since our last Pennsylvania online poker update, several things have taken place. Some land-based casinos inked deals with online poker and gaming partners, while other licenses were approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Online poker has been included in some of these plans, butRead Full
- October 7th, 2018
The road to Pennsylvania online gaming has been paved with some confusion, at least for the general public. In the offices of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, it is likely running like a well-oiled machine. There are essentially three types of licenses available for new industry participants: online poker, onlineRead Full
- September 18th, 2018
Last month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the first three online gaming licenses for its new internet market. As of mid-September, two new companies can be added to that list. As of September 12, Hollywood Casino and SugarHouse Casino each received their approvals and can officially move forwardRead Full
Pennsylvania Gambling Research: Additional Resources
AGA State Guide: Pennsylvania . Get all of the basics on Pennsylvania’s regulated gambling industry in this resource from the leading national trade group for commercial casinos.
PA Council on Compulsive Gambling Resources (in multiple languages) for helping problem gamblers, along with links to additional sites and information regarding gambling in the Keystone State.
Sands Bethlehem. One of the more unique intersections of gambling and Pennsylvania history, the Sands Bethlehem (the only remaining casino in the US to bear the Sands name) sits on the site of former industrial powerhouse Bethlehem Steel.