We learned early last week that Pennsylvania will be entering the online casino market soon. Now, we’re left to wonder which online poker sites will be the ones to launch in PA first. At this point, it’s likely that there will be four.
This scramble came about during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). During the meeting, Executive Director Kevin O’Toole declared July 15 as the action date for the launch.
“Staff has reviewed the estimated time that it would take for us and the industry to complete all necessary steps, and it is our view that 90 days would be adequate,” O’Toole said. “Accordingly, I have advised the 10 iGaming certificate holders and three iGaming operators that a coordinated go-live period for interactive gaming will commence on July 15, 2019.”
Based on available evidence, USPoker believes that the following four sites will be first to launch.
World Series of Poker (WSOP.com)
The most obvious site to launch will be the one from World Series of Poker. WSOP.com is the most famous brand in the history of poker, and it stands to reason that it will enjoy plenty of name recognition in Pennsylvania.
WSOP is also the market leader in New Jersey. Since New Jersey and Pennsylvania border each other, it seems likely that WSOP.com’s name will bear fruit for players who already cross into New Jersey to play their games.
PokerStars PA will likely launch on July 15 as well. The worldwide leader must enter the market to remain as relevant and active as possible.
PokerStars has already tipped its hand a bit, so to speak. The Stars Group has had a relationship with Mount Airy Casino for several months now.
PokerStars is also the strongest arm of the Stars Group. So, with online sports betting and online gambling in the offing, PokerStars is also the best chance that BetStars and PokerStars Casino has to become profitable in the desert. The hope is that the global champion that is the poker side will drive traffic to those other endeavors.
Partypoker will probably come along at the same time for one simple reason. Namely, the company is seeking to replicate and outrun everything that PokerStars has done in the past.
Many of partypoker’s recent innovations are virtual counterparts to Stars’ programs. For instance, its Diamond Club and Diamond Club Elite player rewards systems closely mirror the bygone Supernova and Supernova Elite programs at PokerStars.
Partypoker has also declared war on predatory play, banning HUDs and other third-party software. These actions would not be unusual if the news weren’t concurrent with a PokerStars ban of seating scripts.
Also, partypoker already has a deal in place with Valley Forge Casino. So, a simultaneous launch with its bitterest rival makes sense.
888 Poker might be the fourth site to launch for a very simple reason. Quite simply, 888 may launch because it’s just convenient to do so.
888 powers the WSOP client software, and works very closely with WSOP. As a result, it really wouldn’t be much of a stretch for 888 to go through preparing the launch with WSOP and launch its site concurrently.
888 also has a deal with Harrah’s, so there aren’t any license partner issues. The PA law allows Harrah’s to have as many skins as it wants, so there’s no problem there, either.
In other words, 888 may have the shortest path to launch of any site … so the company might just decide to move a step forward.
Of course, to say that all these sites will launch is a guess. There could always be a surprise on the July 15 deadline.
However, these four sites seem to be best-prepared to launch that day. We’ll have to see.