ON A ROLL: US Online Poker Receives Good News in Pennsylvania, Michigan

Sean Chaffin October 5, 2020
The US online poker industry received some good news last week in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The US online poker market received some nice news in two legal states last week. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved 888 Holdings for an interactive manufacturer’s gaming license in the state on Wednesday.

The same day, the Michigan Senate also passed legislation allowing legal online poker operators to enter into interstate compacts.

The two moves come as the US online poker market has seen record revenue numbers in recent months. While some obstacles remain in the US market, the two moves add to some recent positive momentum.

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888 approval moves PA closer to second poker operator

The 888poker news came after a quick unanimous approval as part of last week’s PGCB meeting. The company is Caesars’ longtime online poker partner for the online arm of the World Series of Poker.

WSOP.com makes use of 888 software in Nevada and New Jersey. Those two states, as well as 888poker in New Jersey and Delaware, also make up the country’s only shared liquidity compact.

The WSOP.com/888 brand is the top US online poker site in terms of revenue on a monthly basis. The new approval by the PGCB gives 888 the go-ahead to launch real money online casino games and poker in the state.

In New Jersey, 888 offers poker as well as online casino and sports betting. Caesars launched online casino gaming and sports betting in PA in April.

888’s approval now offers the opportunity to add WSOP.com online poker. 888 and WSOP oficials declined to comment on when they may actually launch in PA.

PokerStars may soon have competition

The entrance of 888/WSOP.com means a competitor to PokerStars in Pennsylvania. Stars launched in November 2019 and remains the only real money poker site in PA so far.

Like other US online poker sites, PokerStars has seen nice revenue numbers during the Coronavirus pandemic. That included $2.7 million in August and $2.9 million in September.

Pennsylvania is the most populous state of those offering legal online poker with almost 13 million people.

Online poker in Michigan and online poker in West Virginia have also been legalized along with other forms of iGaming, including sports betting. While online poker hasn’t launched in either yet, casino gaming recently launched in WV.

PokerStars also offers online poker in NJ, but Pennsylvania doesn’t allow interstates compacts as of now. The continuing legal controversy surrounding the Wire Act also affects that possibility.

Because of that, a WSOP.com/888 entrance into the PA market would face the same obstacle. Like Stars, 888poker would offer a “fenced-in” market until the compact issue is resolved.

Michigan moves closer to approving interstate compacts

While Michigan online poker remains in the licensing and approval stage, the state also made some news last week. The future of interstate online gaming compacts remain tied up in court because of the Department of Justice’s changing view on the Wire Act.

The DOJ now argues that it applies to other forms of gambling other than sports betting. That view has been a hindrance to the industry. However, that didn’t stop the Michigan Senate from moving forward on allowing interstate compacts. The body approved Senate Bill 991 in a vote of 389-36.

As Online Poker Report notes, the bill “amends last year’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act (LIGA) to add a clause permitting the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to enter into compacts for purposes of online poker with regulators in other states, as well as with tribal gaming authorities.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D) expects the House will also approve but won’t vote on the issue until November.

“I think the bill is a common-sense thing all agreed to and it should move on,” Hertel told Play Michigan. “I don’t think there’s any controversy. How fast, I don’t know. I don’t think it will be before the election. Probably right after.”

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Online poker gains some momentum

The moves in Pennsylvania and Michigan offer some added good news for US online poker players. States have been much slower to legalize online poker compared to sports betting.

However, many in the industry hope online poker can be added as states successfully add sports betting.

The Wire Act issue is currently in federal appeals court after the Delaware lottery won the first round in court. A positive ruling for the gaming industry might also spur more states to get on board.

Shared liquidity offers the chance for increased player and prize pools. Rural, less-populous states like West Virginia would need interstate compacts to create a successful online poker effort.

At least for now, the Michigan and Pennsylvania news offer hope that things are moving in the right direction.

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