Players in Pennsylvania welcomed the official arrival of online poker on Monday. The launch of PokerStars marks the fourth state in the US with legalized online poker.
The company is also launching the PokerStars Casino, with both now available in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The launch also comes in conjunction with the Fox Bet sports betting app, which is available in both states.
It’s a major effort for the company moving into the Keystone State, and PokerStars is all in. The site was set to go live at 2 p.m. EST on Monday.
“We’re excited to launch PokerStars as the first and currently the only online poker option available to players in Pennsylvania,” Fox Bet president Matt Primeaux said.
“Including today’s launch of our highly rated casino product, which is now available in the Fox Bet and PokerStars apps, we’re proud to say we’re currently the only online provider offering all three forms of regulated gaming in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
What to expect from PokerStars Pennsylvania
In an interview with USPoker.com, Fox Bet CEO Robin Chhabra spoke about the Pennsylvania PokerStars’ launch. Chhabra worked previously as The Stars Group chief corporate development officer and has insight into the company’s online poker plans.
Chhabra noted that becoming successful in Pennsylvania won’t be easy, even as the first platform in the state. The company plans to test the water with games and tournaments that best fit the market.
“To be the first operator to bring online poker to Pennsylvania is something we’re very proud to do for our players,” Chhabra said. “But being first to market brings its own challenges. New Jersey has its own character, and from what we’ve seen from Fox Bet, we expect the same to be true of PokerStars in Pennsylvania.
“This was never going to be a cut-and-paste exercise so our focus, as always, will be on reviewing and adapting our offering to offer the games, stakes and formats that Pennsylvania players enjoy most. Basically, we’ll go out with the offering we think players will enjoy and then listen closely from there.”
Poker players, who have grown to love PokerStars’ major Sunday tournaments and cash games, will find plenty to like about PokerStars PA, Chhabra said. However, look for some exclusive offerings in the Keystone State.
“We’ll be bringing some of our most popular games and tournaments, enjoyed by players around the world, and tailoring them for the Pennsylvania market,” he said.
“It’s a fresh start, so we’ll have a new tournament schedule designed specifically for the market, and we’ll aim to be flexible with that in response to player demand. Anyone who has made the trip to play on PokerStars in New Jersey will see a lot of similarities — and some key differences — in our Pennsylvania offering.”
PokerStars Live plans in Pennsylvania
With the company now hosting online poker in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, added live tournaments seem to be a possibility. The company curtailed its live tournament scene in NJ after expanded legalization stalled in the US.
Now there’s a chance that more PokerStars Live events might be on the horizon. Chhabra hinted that may be a possibility in the coming year.
“We’re still working on our live events schedule for 2020, but we have some interesting plans and we’re getting great feedback from tours like Moneymaker’s Road to the PSPC,” he said. “There’s plenty more to come in Pennsylvania.”
As of now, however, that doesn’t include a PokerStars-branded poker room. The company is partners with Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania, but Chhabra doesn’t believe it will be Stars-branded.
“The poker parlor at Mount Airy features 12 tables and is now live,” he said. “There are currently no plans to launch a PokerStars-branded live poker room at Mount Airy.”
Plenty of promotions for new PokerStars PA players
As part of its entrance into the market, PokerStars plans numerous promotions and events for Pennsylvania players. The first two days are expected to be officially still in the testing stages.
To celebrate the launch, players can expect some added value in the coming days. Here’s a look at a few promotions:
- Free Money Tournaments: Daily $1,000 welcome freerolls from Nov. 7-16.
- $20,000 Welcome Freeroll: Open for all players on Nov. 17.
- First Deposit Bonus: The offer features $30 in free play.
- Deposit Bonus: Earn a 100% deposit bonus up to $600.
Chhabra promised more in the coming months, with additional welcome offers and tournaments for players of all levels. PokerStars ambassador Jennifer Shahade is pleased to see online poker live in her home state.
“Finally, PokerStars is available in my hometown and I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said. “Players in Pennsylvania have been looking forward to this day, and I can’t wait to be a part of all the action.”
— Jennifer Shahade (@JenShahade) November 3, 2019
Some needed momentum for online poker in the US
For the time being, Pennsylvania will be a closed market. The continued battle involving the Wire Act means it won’t join a shared player liquidity pool with New Jersey.
That could change if the Wire Act issue is cleared up. The Department of Justice has argued it applies to other forms of gambling beyond sports betting.
The New Hampshire lottery sued to block that opinion and won the first round in court. The DOJ has now appealed that ruling.
Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state with almost 13 million people. It borders New Jersey and Delaware, becoming a three-state block of legalized jurisdictions.
Shared liquidity among the three and Nevada could offer a nice player pool and hope for others. Adding New York to the north could add even more punch.
West Virginia also legalized online gaming this year, including poker. A launch couldn’t occur until sometime in 2020, however. As a smaller populated state, with only 1.8 million people, a shared liquidity pool would be needed for significant player numbers.
Poker certainly isn’t showing the breakneck pace of legalization that sports betting has experienced. But being in the spotlight and seeing more states come on board can only help the industry.
Stars Rewards to debut in Pennsylvania with casino and sports betting
In Pennsylvania, bettors will now also be able to sample PokerStars Casino and Fox Bet offerings as well. Players using all three will be able to earn points in the Stars Rewards loyalty program.
Beyond just online poker, players can earn Stars Rewards in their account through Fox Bet, PokerStars Casino, and PokerStars Live events.
“The whole idea behind Stars Rewards is that it rewards players for all their play, every time they play,” Chhabra said.
“Rewards are completely personalized to the games players like to play, and this means players will be able to accumulate rewards to place bets with Fox Bet, as well as enjoying our casino and poker games. It’s an entirely new experience for Pennsylvania.”
That goes for online poker as well – a completely new experience. Many in Pennsylvania can’t wait.