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Breaking: PokerStars Gets Approval to Offer Online Poker in Pennsylvania


Online poker giant PokerStars took a big step toward opening its doors to poker players in Pennsylvania this week.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board gave PokerStars the green light to offer online poker, slots and table games in the state. PokerStars partnered with land-based casino group Mount Airy to help gain approval from the gaming board.

For now the license is limited to online poker and casino games but there’s a good chance PokerStars will look to launch BetStars, its sports betting site, if given the opportunity.

PokerStars on Schedule for Early 2019 Launch

Poker industry experts originally estimated that PokerStars might be ready to launch in Pennsylvania in late 2018 but it’s looking likely that players will have to wait until early 2019 to log on.

It’s been a long wait for Pennsylvania-based online poker players who have been deprived of PokerStars since 2011 when the Department of Justice indicted the three major poker operators (PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute) in an event subsequently referred to as Black Friday by the online poker community.

Fortunately PA-based players didn’t have to go far to get their PokerStars fix as neighboring state New Jersey approved the site for business in 2016. NJ also offers 888poker and WSOP.com.

Pennsylvania will be just the fourth state in the USA to allow regulated online poker, following in the footsteps of New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.

Here’s a brief look at the timeline of the rollout of legal online poker in the USA:

  • Aug. 21, 2012: Nevada becomes first state in America to officially allow online poker.
  • Oct. 30, 2012: Delaware follows suit and allows both online poker and casino games.
  • Sept. 19, 2013: WSOP.com launches in Nevada.
  • Nov. 21, 2013: New Jersey becomes third state to officially allow online poker and casino games.
  • March 22, 2016: PokerStars launches in New Jersey with a self-contained platform.
  • Oct. 30, 2017: Pennsylvania passes online gaming legislation.
  • May 2, 2018: New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada poker sites begin sharing players across state lines.

Pennsylvania has always been a hotbed of poker activity and some of the world’s most prominent poker pros including Jake Schindler, John Hennigan and Matt Glantz hail from PA.

North Wales, PA, native Joe McKeehen famously won the $10,000 WSOP Main Event for $7.6 million in 2015.

Pennsylvania a Huge Market for Online Poker

When online poker goes live in Pennsylvania, it will instantly become the biggest market for online poker in the USA. Pennsylvania has roughly 12 million people, which edges out the roughly nine million that reside in New Jersey.

The population of Pennsylvania is pretty close to New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware combined. You could argue that when online poker launches in Pennsylvania, it will effectively double the entire U.S. market.

That’s not entirely true, however, as Pennsylvania will be a closed market at launch, meaning it won’t share players with other U.S. states. Currently sites like WSOP.com and 888poker share players between New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

If Pennsylvania ever does join the three-state compact, it could have potentially huge ramifications for online poker in the U.S. A market of roughly 25 million players is nothing to scoff at. Online poker needs a certain number of players to sustain itself and a combined market of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware seems like it would be more than enough to offer huge value to players.

That’s not even addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is New York state. For years various politicians in New York have expressed interest in allowing online poker sites to operate in the state. New York is home to roughly 20 million people and would be — by far — the biggest online poker market.

PokerStars Eyes 11 More States with Eldorado Deal

PokerStars has been exceptionally busy lately and signed a 20-year partnership with Eldorado Resorts last month.

The goal of the partnership is to bring online poker, casino and sports to 11 different states, pending license availability.

Eldorado operates resorts and casinos in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and West Virginia.

It may take a significant amount of time for online poker to become legal in each of the 11 aforementioned states, however.

PokerStars also has partnerships in place with Mount Airy in Pennsylvania and Resorts Casino Hotel in New Jersey. It’s clear the online gaming giant has a massive land-based partnership strategy plan for the U.S.