PA Poker Players Shut Out When WSOP Online Bracelet Events Begin July 1

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This is not meant as a critique, just a statement of fact: Pennsylvania has proven itself extremely deliberate in its rollout of online gaming options.

Compared to neighboring New Jersey and other states, the gap between when sites can go live in the Keystone State — and when they actually do — has been pronounced. That’s been true of mobile sports betting, it’s been true of online casino, and it’s been very true of online poker.

It was in 2017 that Pennsylvania lawmakers passed H 271 to expand gambling, and in November 2019 PokerStars finally launched the first regulated online poker site in the state. Seven months later, ‘Stars still has a monopoly in the state (and has capitalized to the tune of nearly $10 million in revenue over the last two months of coronavirus-shutdown-related increased online poker play).

That’s been a source of frustration for PA poker players who like to have options — particularly when live poker at casinos is not currently available to them.

And it will become even more frustrating to those poker players come July 1.

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A bracelet a day

Every day in the month of July, the World Series of Poker, having postponed its live action to at least the fall due to COVID-19, will host a tournament as part of its “WSOP Online” series.

WSOP.com is only available in Nevada and New Jersey, however, meaning only players geo-located in those two states will be able to play for these 31 online bracelets.

Pennsylvania residents who live within reasonable range of New Jersey will have the option to drive across the border and play (although that’s a little more complicated than it used to be, when you could safely sit in any ol’ business with WiFi or convince friends who live in Jersey to let you crash on their couch).

But they won’t have the option to play these WSOP online bracelet events in Pennsylvania — at least not when the series begins on July 1, and probably not before it’s over on July 31.

WSOP.com will, eventually, enter PA in partnership with the 888 network and land-based casino partner Harrah’s Philadelphia. But it’s not happening yet.

“888 has yet to be licensed,” Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Communications Director Doug Harbach told Penn Bets, “and our next [PGCB] meeting in which it could be approved is not scheduled until July 8.”

Interstate issues too

Based on the recent history of online gaming site launch procedures in PA, it seems reasonable to predict that, even if WSOP.com receives approval on July 8, checking off all the boxes necessary to complete soft launch before the end of July is an extreme long shot.

And that’s to say nothing of the uncertainty surrounding shared liquidity in Pennsylvania. In theory, PokerStars could be pooling players in NJ and PA. But it isn’t yet, and continued debate over the applicability of the Wire Act of 1961 to interstate online poker isn’t helping.

“I have no updates on shared liquidity,” Harbach told us this week.

WSOP.com and PartyPoker appear to be the frontrunners to launch next in PA, but it’s a near certainty that “next” will come sometime after the WSOP Online series concludes with its $1,000 no-limit hold’em “championship” event on July 31.

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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