Which Online Poker Brands Will Set Up Shop in Pennsylvania?

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Pennsylvania’s recent legalization of Internet poker will provide a shot in the arm to the faltering regulated US online poker industry, if an expected agreement to share player pools across state lines comes into fruition.

Already, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have struck similar compacts, but their relatively small respective populations are barely sufficient to sustain more than a handful of online poker sites. With a population of 12 million, PA is bigger than all three combined, and could finally provide the liquidity the industry needs to thrive.

While some of the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos have already struck partnerships with online gambling brands to provide their casino software, questions still remain as to which operators will take the plunge and offer online poker as well. But based on information already released by PA casinos, coupled with what we know about poker partnerships in other states, we can deduce which brands will likely be present in the Keystone State.

888/WSOP.com

888, which has spent considerable resources laying the groundwork to dominate the US online poker industry through its All American Poker Network and Multi-State Poker Network, likely breathed a sigh of relief when Gov. Wolf signed the state’s online gambling bill into law last week.

The company runs its own branded poker site in New Jersey and provides the platform for WSOP.com. The two sites feed players into the same network and are both licensed through Caesars Interactive Entertainment. 888 similarly powers WSOP.com in Nevada, along with three small racino poker sites in Delaware.

Therefore, it’s all but certain that 888 will be involved with Internet poker in the Keystone State. The company has already announced a partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, but it’s unknown if the brand will launch its own poker offering there or just provide casino software.

In all likelihood, 888 will also continue its relationship with Caesars and partner with Harrah’s Philadelphia to offer its own branded poker site and/or provide the poker platform for WSOP.com.

PokerStars

PokerStars path to securing its online gambling license in New Jersey was long and torturous, and demonstrated the extreme lengths to which it was willing to go in order to regain its foothold in the US. In addition, the site has spent considerable time working to expand online poker in the country by lobbying in states like California and New York.

The poker giant, which is banned from from even applying for a license in Nevada until February 2018, will surely seek to gain entry to the PA market.

But with which casino will it seek to partner? One possibility is that Stars teams up with Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. In New Jersey, PokerStars and Mohegan Sun Online Casino are licensed through Atlantic City’s Resorts, which is also managed by Mohegan Sun. It would be natural for that agreement to carry over into the Commonwealth.

It’s also a strong possibility that PokerStars forges a deal with a casino that has an existing poker room. In New Jersey, PokerStars has tried to spread brand awareness via live tournament events at Resorts Casino, with whom it is partnered. But turnouts have been underwhelming, presumably due to the lack of a permanent poker room in Resorts.

Should PokerStars latch on with a Parx, SugarHouse, or dare we even say it, Sands — three casinos with already popular rooms — it stands to reason that more players will get involved.

Party Poker (GVC)

Party Poker was once the undisputed king of online poker in the US, but decided to pull out of the country after the UIGEA was passed in 2006. In 2013, the site teamed up with Borgata, New Jersey’s top grossing land-based casino, and reentered the market.

The two operators currently run their own branded poker sites, feeding players into a central network. The partnership was once the biggest online poker revenue generator in the state, but has since been overtaken by PokerStars. The addition of playMGM to the Borgata/Party network this summer did little to move the needle.

Setting up shop in Pennsylvania would give the site a shot of boosting its player pool in the Garden State and revitalizing its network. But while the site is likely to pursue an online poker operation in the Commonwealth, we’re not entirely clear on who will be its partner.

Back in 2015, bwin.party (now GVC) did forge a deal Valley Forge Casino, but now that the brand has changed hands, it’s unclear whether that arrangement is still in place. What we do know, is that Valley Forge recently paid $1 million to allow “off the street” patrons to play at its casino. The removal of the amenity fee also paves the way for the site to offer online gambling, so we’re presuming Valley Forge will get involved, at least in some capacity.

Pala Poker

Pala Poker only recently launched in New Jersey, where it faces seemingly insurmountable competition from the well-known brands already established there. The company’s likely aim is not to dominate the NJ market, however, but to test its newly developed proprietary poker software.

The fact that Pala has gone out of its way to create its own poker platform is a sure sign that it will get involved in other states to legalize online poker, such as PA.

In New Jersey, the site is partnered with Borgata, but does not feed into the Borgata/Party network. It’s unclear which casino it would favor in a potential partnership in Pennsylvania.

Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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