Legal Online Poker in Pennsylvania
Last Updated December 31, 2018
In the fall of 2017, Pennsylvania became the fourth American state to legalize online poker.
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 from Pennsylvania’s Online Poker Market
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 timeline for applications is now official. The PGCB website notes that interactive gaming certificates can be submitted starting on April 16, 2018. Casinos can apply for licenses to offer online poker (peer-to-peer games), other table games (non-peer-to-peer games), and online slots (non-peer-to-peer games that simulate slot machines). The details for licensing are:
- Existing land-based Pennsylvania casinos can petition to offer all three sets of games for a $10 million fee. That window is open for 90 days, from April 16 through mid-July.
- Existing land-based Pennsylvania casinos can petition to offer singular categories for a $4 million fee per category. That window is open for a subsequent 30-day period, from mid-July to mid-August.
- At the end of the 120 days, other qualified entities can petition the board for a license after undergoing an investigation to determine suitability.
There are 13 licenses for each category to be awarded, putting the maximum number of individual licenses at 39. Once licenses are issued, casinos and their online content providers can begin working on the technology to launch the poker and casino sites.
At this point, experts predict that sites may not launch in Pennsylvania until October or November. Updates to come throughout the spring and summer of 2018.
The latest information from the PGCB is a temporary decision regarding skins. There will be no limitation on the number of skins per licensee in the new online gaming market, but every skin must make clear which licensee they represent. Beyond the identification required, there is a controversial portion of the regulation that limits players to only one account per licensee. This may be up for renegotiation before final regulations are issued.
Two months into the first licensing window, not one application had been received by the PGCB. While the window was to remain open through mid-July of 2018, it was concerning that none of the land-based casinos in Pennsylvania applied for a combination license to offer online poker and casino games. It is unclear if any online poker operators have inked formal deals with casinos yet. More information will likely come to light over the summer months when more licensing opportunities open.
In the last days of the licensing window, however, nine casinos submitted their applications. And by mid-August, the first three of them were approved. Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia received its license and will partner with WSOP.com for its online poker, and Mount Airy Casino received its approval to operate with PokerStars. Parx Casino was also approved but has yet to announce a decision for its poker client.
At the same time, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Director of Communications Doug Harbach announced that there will be a singular launch of all online gambling operators. However, the next approvals for licenses won’t happen until September and October, and other applicants must be considered as well. This points to the most likely launch date of sometime in early 2019. Harbach also noted in September that the prospect of entering the multi-state online poker liquidity agreement with New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada is something to be considered in the future, but it is too early to predict what will happen or when it might be.
In September and October 2018, several more casinos were approved to offer online poker. Hollywood Casino and SugarHouse Casino both received their licenses, though neither has announced a selected operator for online poker services. Two more followed. One unlikely recipient of a license to offer all types of online gaming was Sands, unlikely because Sheldon Adelson is the CEO of Sands. However, the casino is in the process of a sale to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, so the license was obtained on its behalf. Valley Forge is also now licensed, and when its acquisition by Boyd Gaming is complete, it is likely that PartyPoker will provide its online poker site.
As the year progressed, it became apparent that some casinos had no interest in online poker, as entities like Mohegan Sun opted out of the online poker licenseand chose only the online slots and table games licenses. In the end, out of 13 online poker licenses available, only seven were issued to the following casinos: Harrah’s Philadelphia, Mount Airy Resort, Parx, Hollywood at Penn National, SugarHouse, Valley Forge, and Sands Bethlehem.
On the bright side, a meeting of the Gaming Control Board in late November resulted in PokerStars being awarded its licenseto offer online poker in conjunction with partner Mount Airy Casino. Technically, the license went to TSG Interactive Services US under The Stars Group. The company will also offer online casino games via PokerStars Casino with Mount Airy. No launch dates have been announced, but most analysts expect sites to be prepared to launch their sites in the first quarter of 2019.
|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.
Current Regulated Gambling Options in Pennsylvania
As of late 2017, online poker and casino games are now legal and will be available to residents of and visitors to Pennsylvania by the end of 2018. Daily fantasy sports will also be launched for Pennsylvanians in 2018.
Which companies hold online gaming licenses in Pennsylvania?
The licensing application window opened for the first time in April 2018, and the first licenses were awarded in August 2018. By the middle of October, there had been several licenses awarded with more likely to be dispersed in late October and beyond. As of October 10, the following entities held licenses:
- Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia through Chester Downs and Marina, partnered with Caesars Interactive and WSOP for online poker
- Mount Airy Resort Casino, partnered with PokerStars for online poker
- Parx Casino through Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course through Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association
- SugarHouse Casino through Rush Street Gaming
- Valley Forge Casino Resort through Boyd Gaming
- Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem through PCI Gaming (Poarch Band of Creek Indians)
Sites are not likely to launch until late 2018 or early 2019. As that time nears, the URLs of the gaming websites attached to each casino and operator will be revealed.
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.