It’s a new year. Much as was the case throughout the last one, online poker players in Pennsylvania continue to watch for the arrival of WSOP.com to the Keystone State.
Neither the WSOP nor the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) have shared anything new during the first two weeks of 2021 regarding the launch of WSOP PA.
However, there have been hints, including one this week suggesting WSOP.com could be coming sooner than later.
Wait continues for WSOP in PA
The last we heard on the matter was in October 2020 when a Caesars representative noted it would be at least 2021 before WSOP.com would launch in PA.
By then the PGCB had already approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for Caesars‘ online poker partner 888 Holdings. Indeed, some Pennsylvanians began to receive promotional emails at the time suggesting a WSOP.com PA launch was imminent.
Among other clues being parsed then were changes to the WSOP.com website. Those included the addition of a Harrah’s Philadelphia logo and a PA-specific “House Rules” page.
Such co-branding of Harrah’s Philadelphia resurfaced on a promo page in recent days, although it has since vanished. That said, this week’s announcement of a new 2021 WSOP Online Circuit Series includes an even more tantalizing suggestion.
WSOP Online Circuit announcement teases new WSOP.com site launch
The year-long series actually involves multiple tournament series of 12 or 18 events each. The schedule somewhat follows the one used by the WSOP Circuit live tour. Such live events have understandably been postponed for now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently only players on WSOP New Jersey and WSOP Nevada can participate in the events. Each awards a WSOP gold ring to the winner. There is also an ongoing leaderboard with a championship tournament scheduled at the end of December.
There are 12 series overall, one for each month in 2021. However, the announcement mentions “An additional 13th online circuit event is earmarked pending launch of the WSOP.COM service in a newly regulated market” (emphasis added).
With no other discussion, such a reference sounds as though it might indicate an additional WSOP Online Circuit “stop” could take place on WSOP.com PA soon after it launches.
Making moves in Michigan, online sites soon to launch
Then again, the reference could mean something else.
Stepping back to survey the national picture, Michigan is on the precipice of launching its first online casinos, likely in the coming days. Online poker may be part of the picture there as well, although perhaps not at the very start.
On Tuesday the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) had its first public meeting of 2021. One consequence of that meeting was regulators giving the go-ahead to approved operators to launch their sites when ready. According to Online Poker Report, the first sites should go live by early next week.
That includes online poker, although “testing requirements” will likely delay the opening of the first online poker room (or rooms) in Michigan by “four or five days.”
WSOP.com is not among sites in the running to launch a poker room in MI at the start. Meanwhile PokerStars, still the only online poker room operator in Pennsylvania, appears poised to do so via its partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
Prospects for multi-state agreements, shared liquidity
Of relevance to Pennsylvanians is the fact that earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill allowing interstate compacts for online gambling. That means the MGCB can permit operators in MI with online poker to enter multi-state agreements with sites in other states that also permit such compacts, thereby allowing shared player pools.
Michigan online poker rooms will not be sharing liquidity with other states for a while yet, however. According to OPR, any sharing of Michigan player pools with those from other states will not happen until late 2021 at the soonest.
New Jersey could be Michigan’s first choice for such an agreement. MGCB staff are presently in discussions about an interstate compact with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Pennsylvania would likely be less quick to enter a multi-state compact, given the caution PA regulators have shown to this point regarding uncertainties surrounding the US Department of Justice‘s interpretation of the Wire Act.
In any case, stay tuned here to find out if and when WSOP.com PA stops hinting and starts dealing.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong