PokerStars is set to launch in Pennsylvania in early 2019 after getting the thumbs up from PA regulators last week.

At its latest meeting Nov. 28, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved the global online poker giant’s PA interactive gaming petition. This opens the door for PokerStars to launch an online poker and PA online casino site in the Commonwealth in the first quarter of 2019.

PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group inked a deal to operate in PA under Mount Airy Casino Resort‘s license this past August. At the time, both sides said the plan included the launch of a full suite of online gambling products, plus sports betting under The Stars Group’s BetStars brand. However, neither side has applied for a PA sports betting license as of yet.

PokerStars in the US

Up until now, New Jersey lawmakers have been alone in allowing PokerStars to operate in the US. In fact, the US Department of Justice closed the US market to PokerStars in 2011. At the time, the DOJ charged its principals with a number of money laundering and bank fraud offenses.

PokerStars has since changed ownership and settled the case. It returned to the US in 2016, launching PokerStars NJ in the fenced-in New Jersey market.

There, PokerStars NJ operates under the Resorts Casino Hotel NJ online gambling license. Resorts Casino Hotel is managed by the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which also owns and operates Mohegan Sun Pocono in PA.

Mohegan Sun Pocono

At its Nov. 28 meeting, the PGCB also approved Mohegan Sun Pocono’s interactive gaming petition. It is moving forward on slots and table games, but withdrew the online poker portion of its application.

Mohegan Sun Pocono is now moving ahead with an online casino operation that shouldshe  launch in early 2019.

Now that PokerStars is set to launch in a second US state, its hopes for further expansion across the US are two-fold.

First of all, PokerStars will be eagerly anticipating PA lawmakers signing the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) agreement.

PA joining MSIGA will allow PokerStars to share player pools between its NJ and PA sites. However, PokerStars will launch in a fenced-in PA market and all indications are it will be at least a year before PA lawmakers sign on to MSIGA.

PokerStars and Eldorado

Plus, on Nov. 26, The Stars Group inked an agreement with US casino operator Eldorado Resorts, Inc. The deal gives The Stars Group the option to operate online sports betting and online gambling with Eldorado casino properties in 11 different states.

The 11 states covered in the agreement are:

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia

However, it’s unclear which state the company will go to next.

Of these 11 states, only Nevada has any kind of online gambling legislation on the books.

However, Nevada’s online gambling laws prevent PokerStars from entering its online poker market. The law includes “bad-actor” language instituting a lifetime ban on operators who accepted US customers after Congress passed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. PokerStars is among these operators.

Mississippi and West Virginia have launched legal sports betting. If either state approves online and mobile operations, they could be next for The Stars Group after PA.

On the online gambling front, Illinois is the most likely from this list to pass legislation in the near future. Although, it remains unclear if Illinois lawmakers will follow Nevada’s lead on ‘bad actor’ language, or be open to PokerStars like NJ and PA.