On July 15, when the first two Pennsylvania casinos went live online, online poker was missing from the lineup.
Now weeks later, with three online casinos and still more coming, online poker remains a no-show among the various online offerings.
Hold on to your virtual chip; That won’t change anytime soon.
Don’t hold your breath for online poker in PA
Doug Harbach, the spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), said when it comes to online poker, there still is “no firm timetable.”
He added, “We could see one up and running before the end of summer.”
Matt Glantz, a poker pro for 14 years, talks about why no one is rushing forward to operate online poker in Pennsylvania.
If they thought they were going to make a billion dollars, they’d be running now.
According to Glantz, the opposite is true. And he knows of what he speaks.
Glantz has advised multiple PA casino companies including, Parx Casino and Rush Street, which operates Rivers and SugarHouse casinos. As a player and a consultant, he has a unique perspective on the market.
Online poker just doesn’t make money
In general, there’s little money to be made from the poker room at a casino, Glantz said.
Across PA there are 10 brick-and-mortar poker rooms with just 224 tables combined. That translates into a small slice of the casino revenue pie.
Unlike other games which are based on the casino participating as the house, the casino’s cut in poker comes from the rake, a predetermined percentage taken from each winning pot.
The year-over-year rake is down 3.8% across the state. While results in individual poker rooms vary, declines in revenue have generally been the norm across the state.
According to Glantz, online versions of the games offer even less revenue.
“There’s not much money behind it. It really hasn’t been pushed.”
Despite the low revenue return for physical poker rooms, casinos often offer poker simply because it is seen as a “sexy” game that can help with marketing, advertising, and branding, Glantz explained.
Online poker is ‘just boring’
Poker lends itself to becoming a marketing tool for a casino brand. Glantz explains that with online poker, there is no glitz, no glamour, no real marketing opportunities. US online poker just isn’t much fun.
All the romantic aspects are lost. Poker, at least recreational, is a social game. That’s hard to replicate playing online. Poker is dead online. It’s just boring.
In his view, online poker games are strictly about statistical math and game theory, said Glantz, a former securities dealer with an MBA. Math and game theory do not exactly spell fun for an average online casino patron.
While Glantz has not worked for Pennsylvania gaming operators for the past two years, he doubts casinos and PA regulators will move ahead with launching online poker until more lucrative online casino games are up and running.
There are other reasons for the slowness, too, said Glantz.
Those could include startup costs – an online poker license costs $4 million, plus making a deal with an online poker provider for software, equipment, and management.
A recent social media buzzstorm over delayed cashouts via PayPal on the WSOP online poker site, which operates in New Jersey and several other jurisdictions, including Nevada, could also have a negative effect.
“That’s not a good look for a huge publicly-traded company,” said Glantz of WSOP, which seems likely to get into the Pennsylvania market.