According to rumors, PokerStars will test their Pennsylvania product and if there are no concerns, the company will launch live poker this Friday.
Ever since the Pennsylvania Gaming Board agreed to authorize online casinos and poker there has been eager anticipation regarding the PokerStars launch. PokerStars partnered with Mount Airy Casino, a resort casino physically located in the Pocono mountains, last August and while three online casinos (Sugar House, PARX and Hollywood) have launched online table games and slots last month, thus far no poker site has begun operations. If rumors are correct, PokerStars will test their Pennsylvania product today through Thursday and if there are no concerns, the company will launch live poker this Friday. No doubt Mount Airy will also team with either PokerStars or 888 a bit later to launch an online casino as well.
Three reasons Pennsylvanians anticipate the PokerStars launch
First, as the 5th largest state with a population of almost 13 million, Pennsylvania could help launch poker to a new level online. Currently only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have online poker and the results have been quite disappointing. Revenue is far smaller than expected and most poker analysts point to the small volume and table sizes as the reason. But together the three states have about the same population as Pennsylvania, so adding the Keystone state potentially doubles the player pool which is particularly important for online tournaments. The 2011 DoJ opinion that declared the Wire Act only applies to sports betting opened up the opportunity for interstate poker play, so large money tournaments will undoubtedly be a prime selling point of online poker going forward. The only stipulation is that those playing the tournament must be physically playing from the state they signed up with.
Second, the proximity of New Jersey and Pennsylvania could open new opportunities to cross promote products to help build interest. It is almost certain that PokerStars NJ will work with PokerStars PA to develop new games that will be appealing to the neighboring states and there could also be some friendly rivalries to populate tables. Aside from games like rush poker and spin ‘n go tournaments, which have proven wildly popular for PokerStars players in the rest of the world, PokerStars could create duo state tournaments with special prizes only available to residents of those states. It worked extremely well for Full Tilt Poker before they folded. And if New York gets into the mix as is soon expected, the player pool will grow even more, thus guaranteeing PokerStars large volume and full tables.
The third reason this launch is seen as so important is that it puts pressure on the federal courts to side with the states in allowing online gambling. As mentioned earlier, in 2011 the DoJ under Barack Obama announced its opinion that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting. This opened the door to online casinos which a few states availed of and others plan on launching. In September of last year the DoJ under Donald Trump reversed that opinion and Rod Rosenstein said web sites had until April 2019 to comply with that ruling. In February the New Hampshire Lottery Corporation challenged the new DoJ opinion (and no doubt was backed by the major casinos), and on June 3rd the district court of New Hampshire set aside the new opinion and said indeed the Wire Act only applied to sports betting. But just last week the DoJ said it plans to appeal the New Hampshire ruling to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
It is widely accepted that the current DoJ is only trying to have the 2011 opinion overturned to appease Sheldon Adelson, who launched RAWA, to ensure his Republican funding continues and grows and, as long as there are only a few websites and states affected, the courts may have no problem supporting them. But it would be far more difficult for courts to overturn the 2011 opinion if more states and large companies, like PokerStars, launch and overturning the decision will upset states and peoples’ livelihoods. After all, casino workers and state employees vote for judges as well as politicians. For that reason many in the industry are rooting on large states like New York and Illinois to get their act going with legalizing online casinos and poker. Large casino and poker networks will generate revenue and provide more fodder for the Court of Appeals, and no doubt SCOTUS, as well to declare that The Wire Act only applies to sports betting. It may sound like a longshot that the Republican controlled Supreme Court would rule against the wishes of the DoJ and Sheldon Adelson, but then again the repeal of PASPA was an extreme longshot prior to 2017.5 comments