GETTING CLOSE: First Pennsylvania Poker Room Set to Reopen Friday

Sean Chaffin October 13, 2020
Pennsylvania's first poker room reopens on Friday.

Live poker has been on hold for months in Pennsylvania but that may be changing soon. The first of the state’s live poker rooms is expected to reopen on Friday.

Mount Airy Casino, PokerStars’ land-based partner in PA, is set to be the first to get the tables back open. The move comes as other properties in the state are also working toward reopening.

With other states allowing live poker for months, many poker players in PA are ready to return to the action.

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Mount Airy looks to be first back in action

The reopening is welcome news to many poker players in the state. PlayPennsylvania reported last week that some properties had submitted safety protocol plans to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

Mount Airy seems to be the first heading to reopen. USPoker spoke with a poker room representative on Tuesday.

mount airy casino PA

The property hopes to reopen its 12-table room on Friday at noon and is expecting a big player turnout. However, the representative noted that plans could change depending on negotiations with the PGCB.

The property has numerous safety efforts in place including:

  • Only seven players to a table
  • Masks required
  • Plexiglass partitions in place between players

Poker room officials will stick to cash games for now. Adding tournaments back to the mix is expected sometime in the future.

Others hope to shuffle up and deal soon

All live poker has been paused in the Keystone State since mid-March. That predicament led to many players moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state has seen record online poker revenue since then and PokerStars remains the only operator in the state. The site just completed a huge Pennsylvania Online Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) series.

However, 888poker and Caesars have also now been approved and expected to launch in the coming months.

Those looking for live action have been out of luck. That appears to be changing and others are considering reopening as well.

USPoker has learned that the Parx poker room is expected to open within the next five weeks. Poker rooms were left out of casino reopening plans from the PGCB in May. Several others are also submitting safety plans to the board.

States such as Nevada, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina have already reopened poker rooms. Some properties and tour operators have also begun slowly reviving the live tournament scene.

Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey poker rooms have yet to reopen.

PA players ready to get back to the tables

While safety is important in the current environment, some players are ready to resume live poker. Some wonder why PA is so far behind other states in getting back to the tables.

Bryan Carter, 35, lives in Monongahela, about 20 miles from the Meadows and Rivers casinos just south of Pittsburgh. He’s a recreational player and works at a plastic production facility.

Poker is a fun pastime for Carter, and he usually takes about five trips a year to play major tournaments. He’s frustrated live poker has been closed so long but glad to see at least a start in returning.

“I’m a much bigger fan of live poker and would play regularly again as soon as the poker rooms open up,” he says. “I have a lot of friends in Cherokee, North Carolina, and they are playing five-handed with dividers.

“Seems like it should be everyone’s own choice on what they feel is safe and make their own decision on if they want to play and go to a poker room when they feel comfortable. I’m ready and feel safe enough to play, that’s for sure.”

Carter is also ready for major poker festivals to return as well.

“Bring back big live tournaments,” he added. “I’m ready to travel after being inside for 10 months.”

Pittsburgh’s Matthew Anderson, 36, works as a CrossFit coach, personal trainer, and Uber driver. He’s also a recreational poker player and echoed some of those comments about reopening poker rooms.

“Honestly, I wish they were open already,” he says. “Even if they choose to take precautions it would be nice to play again.”

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