WSOP/888 Looking to End PokerStars’ PA Online Poker Monopoly

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PokerStars’ one-man show in Pennsylvania could soon be over as another operator is looking to enter the state’s online poker space.

World Series of Poker (WSOP) officials last week confirmed that they await regulatory approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to go live with online poker in the Keystone State.

Through its partnership with international online gambling powerhouse 888 Holdings, WSOP is currently live in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The timeline for WSOP’s launch in Pennsylvania is still unclear, but the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said last week that the 888poker platform was ready to go, but there were certain things that needed to be ironed out before the poker operation is given the green light to go live.

According to Doug Harbach, Director of Communications at the state gambling regulator, some background work was still being done by the Gaming Control Board’s investigative team to ensure full compliance with state laws and regulations.

A first indication of WSOP’s plans to soon go live in Pennsylvania came in April when 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner said during an earnings call that the WSOP poker site was gearing up preparations for entering the Keystone State’s market.

Second Online Poker Site
WSOP could become only the second operator to be running online poker operations in Pennsylvania, with PokerStars being the other one.

PokerStars launched its PA site in November 2019. The major poker operator was able to enter Pennsylvania through a partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort. As the lone licensed poker website, PokerStars has enjoyed stable growth since its entry into Pennsylvania.

In April, the poker room generated record online poker revenue for any US state where the practice is legal. PokerStars reported revenue of $5.25 million that month. Its traffic in Pennsylvania bumped due to the statewide closure of land-based casinos.

Being a division of Las Vegas casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp., WSOP will go live in Pennsylvania with Caesars-owned Harrah’s Philadelphia as its brick-and-mortar partner.

A total of seven land-based casinos in Pennsylvania have obtained a license to operate online poker as part of a package deal that also permits them to offer online casino-style gaming. However, it is yet to be seen how many of them will eventually launch online poker.

And aside from the WSOP and PokerStars, GVC Holdings’ partypoker online poker brand has also been eyeing entry in the Pennsylvania market. According to reports from last year, partypoker will likely launch an online poker operation through a partnership with Valley Forge Casino Resort. GVC’s poker brand is already available in neighboring New Jersey.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear when exactly Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos and three off-track betting parlors will reopen after they were closed in mid-March in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The state Gaming Control Board issued last month a 10-page document containing minimum protocols for the gambling venues to follow as they begin to reopen.

Under Governor Tom Wolf’s three-phase reopening plan, casino and other indoor entertainment facilities can resume operations only when the counties they are located in move into the green phase. In other words, the state does not have a universal casino reopening date.

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