Pennsylvania poker update

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: August 07, 2020 04:46 PDT

The latest on the potential reopening of live poker rooms; launch of new online platforms

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) meeting from August 5 yielded no new information on a couple of burning topics for Pennsylvania poker players. Those issues include the intended date for live poker rooms to reopen in Pennsylvania.

After a four-month shutdown, Rivers Casino Philadelphia reopened for business July 17, making it the last of Pennsylvania's 12 major casinos to resume operations. While most of the casino gaming floor is back in the action, the Rivers Philadelphia poker room remains closed.

In mid-May, the PGCB issued guidelines for casinos to reopen. Conditions for state casinos to reopen included limiting capacity to 25 percent, requiring masks for all patrons, and enforcing social distancing.

The protocols laid out by the PGCB explicitly stated that live poker rooms can't operate until further notice, however.

"Poker rooms are not authorized to operate due to players handling cards and chips. Poker room operations will be re-examined based upon changing CDC and PA DOH guidance," stated the PGCB in the Casino Reopening Protocols.

Table games open, but poker remains closed

Other table games at Rivers Philadelphia went back in action when the casino reopened, but players saw a much different setup in the midst of the COVID-19 era. Blackjack tables can only seat three players maximum, for example.

Slots and table games all now operate with plexiglass in place, partitioning the players from the dealers, as well as each other. Similar plexiglass partitions are currently in use at many US live poker rooms that have reopened.

For now, however, players in Pennsylvania still await the return of live poker rooms. Pennsylvania isn't the only state facing a poker shutdown. Casinos in New Jersey and Michigan have kept live poker rooms closed, while opening the rest of their casino floors.

"As conditions throughout the Commonwealth improve and the reopening of casinos is authorized, the PGCB desires to assure that re-openings occur in a manner which promote the safety of casino patrons and employees alike as well as assure an environment conducive to proper regulatory oversight," said PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole in a press release announcing the Casino Reopening Protocols.

Launch of partypoker PA, still TBA

The shutdown of live poker coincides with record-setting numbers for PokerStars PA, the lone legal online poker option in Pennsylvania. PokerStars PA set all-time revenue records for legal US poker rooms in April, and followed up with strong numbers in May and June.

Pennsylvania players will eventually enjoy access to at least two more online poker platforms. Both and partypoker are on their way to the Keystone State with Pennsylvania-only clients, which could launch as early as August or September.

PGCB Chief Enforcement Counsel Cyrus Pitre announced at a July 8 board meeting that partypoker PA was expected to be approved in the August 5 PGCB meeting. The August monthly board meeting came and went without that official announcement, however.

The audio-only version of the August 5 PGCB meeting can be accessed here.