One year of online poker in Pennsylvania

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 11/28/2020

As of this week, Pennsylvanian poker players have enjoyed one year of fully regulated and legal poker. With that landmark we can look back and make some assessment of how the reintroduction of poker has gone.

The first (and as yet only) Pennsylvanian poker site went live last November, and did so to a certain degree of skepticism. Despite previous rumors to the contrary, PA went with a segregated player pool.

Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents might make it the 5th most populous of the United States, but that’s still only about 1.5 times the population of either New York or London. And one can imagine there aren’t too many online players among the Pennsylvania Dutch. No one wanted to carve up an already small pie with a branding giant like PokerStars. So Stars had the run of the place.

Stars didn’t get complacent though. They put on plenty of large scale tournament series to keep interest up, including the PASCOOP and the PACOOP (PA only editions of the SCOOP and the WCOOP), and an upcoming Anniversary series.

The PACOOP alone had 50 events and over $1.5 million in prizes.

Though all of this was just publicity, the real money was in the raked cash games and the day to day MTT/STT trade.

Death and taxes

PokerStarsPA has thrived. In their first year of operations, they made revenues of $35 million. $4.9 million of that was coughed up as state tax. An additional $700k (2% of revenues) went to a “Local Share Assessment,” meaning the people of Pennsylvania did pretty well in the deal too.

As well as a lack of competition online, Stars also enjoy a relative dearth of live competitors.

There are just two brick and mortar resort-casinos in the Keystone State. Though gamblers can play some table games or slots at the ten licensed racino complexes and small stand-alone sites. The number of these places that spread live poker is lower still.

If you don’t want to fly or drive up to Atlantic City, then as a poker player you’re faced with Hobson’s choice. And that was before COVID came along and really upped the stakes of going to a crowded place like a casino.

Broadening horizons

Having settled into their new role regulating online poker, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board might well revisit the idea of shared player pools now.

They were initially reluctant. But after a year that the PGCB has described as smooth, they might be more willing to brave the regulatory complications of letting players compete with the New Jersey and Nevadan pools. Especially considering that their own player pool is likely to take a hit as COVID starts to come under control.

This might tempt more sites into PA. But it would also mean giving PokerStars an edge as they bring their PA players into the wider market in one short sharp shock.

It could leave the competition struggling to catch up.

Featured Image Source: Flickr