PokerStars in Pennsylvania – Will It Happen?

PokerStars Pennsylvania - First PA Room?

Last month, Pennsylvania became just the forth state to regulate online gambling. This week, one of the biggest online gambling sites in the world, PokerStars said that it hopes to be the first online poker site to launch when the Pennsylvania market opens up.

If all goes well, many industry observers believe that Pennsylvania could launch games by the middle of 2018. PokerStars CEO Rafi Ashkenazi thinks they can be part of that.

We are poised to take advantage of the positive momentum in the growth of online gaming globally and the continued march towards regulation, including in the United States where we aim to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its door to online poker and casino

But it’s as easy as applying for a license in Pennsylvania. The new Pennsylvania gambling law allocates 13 operator licenses in the state — equal to the number of brick and mortar casinos (this includes Philadelphia Live, which was recently announced would be built over the next few years).

That means PokerStars will need to partner with an existing Pennsylvania casino to offer games in the state, something that they have accomplished in other states while having obstacles in others.

PokerStars in New Jersey

Due to bad actor concerns, PokerStars did not launch with the rest of New Jersey when they went live in November 2013. Not until Amaya Gaming acquired PokerStars in August of 2014, did momentum build for the world’s largest online poker brand to launch in New Jersey.

After concerns were addressed, PokerStars New Jersey eventually went live in March of 2016.

They are currently the number one cash game poker room in the state, despite going live nearly 3 years after the market opened up. PokerStars New Jersey does not share the player pool with the rest of the world — this is true of every regulated U.S. poker room — but there are still over 200 real money cash game players on average who play once time.

Although PokerStars are the number one in the state, they do not have the dominance that does –which represents around 50% of the global market.

PokerStars in Nevada

PokerStars is not available in Nevada four years after the online market launched in early 2013. This is due to the so-called bad actor clause which restricted operators that had previously offered games to Nevada residents from applying license for five years after Nevada went live.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost five years, but it seems that PokerStars will be eligible to apply for a license sometime in 2018. Whether they apply or not (or even can) remains an open question. They may not even desire to apply for a license in the small Nevada market with the fear that if they were rejected, it could potentially harm efforts to regulate elsewhere.

PokerStars in Delaware

Online poker is barely a factor right now in Delaware, but will be once the three states merge player pools (Nevada and Delaware already share a player pool in 2017).

For now, three casinos in the state — Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Racebook — offer online poker through a single network, which is shared by in Nevada.

We don’t know exactly when the three states will merge but it can’t come soon enough for Delaware. But for now, no PokerStars Delaware.

The Outlook of PokerStars in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania joining the 3-State player pool

Another lingering question is how the 3-state player pool changes the calculus of the Pennsylvania market.

It seems almost inevitable that Pennsylvania will join the shared player pool that already includes New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

PokerStars is already in New Jersey, so if Pennsylvania were added to the player pool, you could see a situation in which PokerStars New Jersey and PokerStars Pennsylvania could merge. With nearly 20 million potential customers — the population of New Jersey and Pesnnsylvania — PokerStars would be in an excellent position to expand elsewhere in the United States, if and when other states go live.

And who knows — maybe that player pool would make it easier for PokerStars to enter the markets in Delaware and Nevada. We shall see.


Author: Craig Klinski