Real money online poker games will soon be a reality in the Keystone State, but several questions remain as to how the market will launch and develop in the existing statewide regulated environment.

Commissioners from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board met Wednesday to discuss various matters related to licensed online poker and casino games.

PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’ Toole informed the Board that MGM Grand will operate online poker games as a Qualified Gaming Entity (QGE) (as stipulated in Act 42 of 2017 signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last October), but did not specify a launch date for real money statewide iGaming products.

With the pending launch of real money Pennsylvania online poker games expected in upcoming months, here is a look at some of the questions that Keystone State poker players are seeking answers to.

Will Pennsylvania Compact with Other States?

The question over whether Pennsylvania will eventually link its iGaming offerings to the existing tri-state compact between New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware (MSIGA) is of critical importance to United States online poker players.

Lack of player liquidity has been a major deterrent to realizing online poker’s potential in ring-fenced markets, but a Pennsylvania link-up would effectively double the available player pool for licensed online poker games in the U.S.

Pennsylvania’s population of 12.8 million is roughly equal to that of NJ/NV/DE combined.

Despite the obvious benefits a licensed, four-state market would have for American online poker players, any decision to enter into such an agreement would have to be approved by lawmakers/regulators in all four states before becoming a reality. Until an agreement is reached, Pennsylvania online poker games will not share liquidity, and therefore will operate in a ring-fenced environment separate from NJ/NV/DE players.

UPDATE: On January 14th, the United States DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel reversed its 2011 opinion that restrictions on interstate commerce derived from the 1961 Wire Act applied only to sports betting. The following day, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released a memo stating that the DOJ should adhere to the new OLC opinion, while providing a 90-day window for companies to “bring their operations into compliance with federal law.”

Memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (Jan 15, 2019)

Due to this new chain of events on the federal level, it is now unclear whether shared player liquidity will remain a possibility for statewide, regulated online poker sites that currently operate in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. The reversal could also hamper any potential compact between Pennsylvania and other states to share online liquidity.

Why No Online Poker at Land-Based Casinos?

The fact that regulated online poker and internet casino games will be cordoned-off via geolocation technology has been widely communicated, yet is likely to still cause some amount of confusion once Pennsylvania online poker games go live.

The reason for this is because other statewide markets (such as Nevada and New Jersey) openly encourage cross-play between online and live patronage, particularly if the land-based casino offers iGaming alongside its brick & mortar services.

Unfortunately for online poker enthusiasts, some Pennsylvania land-based casinos may believe its in their best interests to restrict the access on-site customers have to competitors’ iGaming products (or even their own).

It’s ironic that such restricted access may broaden the exposure that offshore, unregulated online gambling services obtain, as there has been no word on whether the same geolocation technology will be used to effectively ban those sites.

What Established Online Poker Brands Will Be Available?

PokerStars will operate under the Mount Airy license. WSOP, Caesars, and 888 Poker games will be available through Harrah’s, and Partypoker games will be sub-licensed by Valley Forge.

There will also be relative newcomers to the market that many online poker players may not be familiar with, but the actual branding for Pennsylvania land-based and online partnerships has yet to be seen.

Pennsylvania regulations state require iGaming site branding to customers revolve around the main, brick & mortar slot machine license holder, and not the companies it contracts with to provide software.

Therefore, players who are competing via a PokerStars or 888 platform will likely do so under than Mount Airy and Harrah’s banners respectively. With that said, it is still unknown exactly how main brands will be advertised in terms of promotional signage or website domain names.

What Deposit and Withdrawal Methods Will Be Available?

There is no information on which deposit and withdrawal methods will be available for online poker players in Pennsylvania. These options will be relayed to customers once real money online poker games have launched in the Keystone State.

Read More Pennsylvania Coverage from Part Time Poker

PokerStars Pennsylvania Confirmed (Aug 13, 2018)
Pennsylvania Poker Revenue for Fiscal Year 2017/2018 (Jul 31, 2018)
PA Gaming Control Board Meeting Timestamps (Nov 2, 2018)

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