When Will WSOP.com Stop Hinting and Start Dealing in PA?

WSOP teased an impending launch in a new market with their recent Online Circuit Series announcement. Could it mean good news for PA poker players?

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.

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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

BetMGM Online Casino Launches Live Dealer Games in Pennsylvania

The popular collection of live dealer games from Evolution is making its way to the new BetMGM online casino in Pennsylvania.

Online casino players in Pennsylvania who enjoy live dealer games now have another option to try. BetMGM has now launched multiple live dealer games in its PA online casino.

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Blackjack and roulette are early BetMGM live dealer choices

To provide the games, BetMGM has partnered with leading live dealer game supplier Evolution Gaming. The news comes a little over a week after the BetMGM online casino launched on Dec. 4.

Currently, players can enjoy four different live dealer games in the BetMGM online casino:

  • Infinite Blackjack
  • Blackjack Live
  • American Roulette
  • American Auto Roulette

BetMGM plans to offer additional live dealer options going forward, including more blackjack and roulette variations as well as other casino games.

Evolution and BetMGM first announced their partnership in late August. The agreement covers BetMGM’s online offerings throughout the United States.

BetMGM live dealer now in NJ and PA

In November, BetMGM debuted Evolution-powered live dealer games in its New Jersey online casino.

Matthew Sunderland, vice president of gaming for BetMGM, referred to the new NJ live dealer games when expressing enthusiasm about the launch of live dealer games in PA.

“We’ve seen great successes with our live offering in New Jersey and are expecting similarly strong results in Pennsylvania as we establish BetMGM Casino’s presence in the state.”

Johan Nordstrom, CEO of Evolution Malta and chief commercial officer, was similarly buoyant about the launch of live dealer games at BetMGM’s PA online casino:

“We are delighted to see BetMGM live with our Live Casino offering in Pennsylvania, and we very much look forward to supporting the continued growth of BetMGM’s Casino offering across the US.”

Live dealer games add to expansive BetMGM online casino offerings

The live dealer games build further on the selection of games featured at the time of BetMGM online casino’s launch. BetMGM was the 13th online casino to go live in Pennsylvania.

The online casino features over 120 slot games, including seven different jackpot slots.

There are also 10 different roulette games, two blackjack games, baccarat and multiple video poker games.

Those in Pennsylvania can access and play at BetMGM Casino either via a web-based browser or through mobile apps. Apps for both iOS (Apple) and Android devices can be downloaded directly from the BetMGM online casino site.

BetMGM online sportsbook coming soon to PA

In addition to its interactive gaming license, BetMGM has received approval for a sports wagering license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

To offer sports betting, BetMGM has partnered with the new mini-casino, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, that will open its doors in 2021.

The BetMGM online sportsbook is expected to launch in the coming days.

Lead image via BetMGM casino.

Which Pennsylvania Live Poker Rooms Are Currently Open? (Updated Nov. 19)

Just as five poker rooms in Pennsylvania have gotten back to dealing cards, spikes in coronavirus cases are beginning to force some to close once again.

It was just over a month ago that the first Pennsylvania poker rooms began to reopen after all of them were forced to close in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alas, a renewed surge in cases has made it necessary for PA poker rooms to deal with the situation once again. In some cases, rooms have opted not to deal at all — not to deal hands, that is.

When Pennsylvania’s casinos began reopening over the summer, the poker rooms were all forced to remain shut per COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

In early October, the PGCB began accepting reopening plans from some of the rooms. A couple of weeks later, the first few poker rooms began reopening. But with coronavirus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, those plans are being revisited and revised once more.

Here is a quick rundown of the current status of all 10 of the state’s poker rooms — or perhaps we should say all nine rooms, as one of them appears to have closed for good.

Reopened and still operating – Meadows, Mohegan Sun, Mt. Airy, Rivers Pittsburgh

Four of the five poker rooms that reopened continue to welcome players, at least for now.

The rooms at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Mount Airy Casino both reopened on Oct. 16. A week later, on Oct. 23, the poker room at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino reopened. Then a week ago, on Nov. 11, the room at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh reopened as well.

All four currently remain open and are operating as follows:

  • Mohegan Sun Pocono (eight tables) – open daily, 12 p.m. to 3 a.m.
  • Mount Airy (12 tables) – open 24 hours
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (30 tables) – open Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 12 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Sun., 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • The Meadows (14 tables) – open daily, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Mt. Airy is the land-based partner of the only online poker site in the state, PokerStars PA, which will continue dealing virtual hands through pandemic closures.

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Reopened, but now temporarily closed – Rivers Philadelphia

Rivers Casino Philadelphia reopened its 28-table poker room on Oct. 23. In fact, just a few days ago, some lucky players enjoyed a windfall when the Bad Beat Jackpot hit.

However, on Monday, the city of Philadelphia issued new restrictions that will force the casino to close on Friday, Nov. 20. The earliest the casino will be able to reopen will be Jan. 1, 2021.

The new guidelines cover a host of different businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centers, and theaters. All Philadelphia high schools and colleges must move to online-only instruction for the rest of the year as well.

Still temporarily closed – Hollywood, Parx, Presque Isle Downs, Wind Creek

The following poker rooms have been shuttered since mid-March and remain closed at present:

  • Hollywood Casino Penn National (17 tables) – closed
  • Parx Casino (80 tables) – closed
  • Presque Isle Downs (seven tables) – closed
  • Wind Creek Casino (26 tables) – closed

It is unknown if or when Hollywood or Presque Isle plans to reopen. Wind Creek appears to be in no rush either, given that slot machines presently occupy the floor of its poker room.

By contrast, Parx does appear to be considering reopening its poker room, the largest in the state. Parx recently sent out an announcement of plans to reopen the room “before the end of December.” But COVID-19 numbers could deter those plans.

Permanently closed – Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room

Meanwhile, in late August, Harrah’s Philadelphia indicated it had closed its large 27-table World Series of Poker-branded poker room, with no plans to reopen.

While there was no formal announcement, employees of the poker room shared information about the closure on social media and elsewhere.

Pennsylvania’s two other casinos, Lady Luck Nemacolin and Valley Forge, are both currently open, though neither has poker rooms.

You can follow our live updates page at PlayPennsylvania for the latest on PA casino (and poker room) closures and reopening plans as they are made available.

When Can Live Poker Return to Pennsylvania? PA Casinos Submit Reopening Plans

PA poker players will soon have many more options, as casinos are submitting plans for reopening live poker rooms and more online sites are on the way.

Nearly seven months have passed since the last hands of poker were dealt in Pennsylvania card rooms. But live poker games may be returning soon, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

Some PA casinos submit plans to reopen poker rooms

In mid-March, all of the state’s casinos and their poker rooms were forced to close as part of the effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Casinos began to reopen in June to limited capacity. By mid-July, all 12 casinos were welcoming back guests.

But while the slots and other areas of the casinos were up and running, the poker rooms remained shut down.

Recommendations from both CDC and the PA Department of Health made it impractical to allow players to sit in close proximity to one another while handling and exchanging chips and cards. Thus did the PGCB withhold authorization to reopen poker rooms when issuing its COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols in mid-May.

Regarding poker rooms, the PGCB’s protocols included a provision to reexamine poker room operations as health officials’ guidelines evolved.

A spokesperson for the PGCB recently confirmed that at least some of the state’s casinos have submitted their plans for reopening their poker rooms.

Pandemic poker: Short-handed games, plexiglass, masks, temperature checks

Such reopening plans include outlining safety protocols the poker rooms will follow. What those plans specifically entail is unknown, although will likely involve limiting the number of players per table.

Also uncertain is the date when the first Pennsylvania poker rooms will reopen. It appears highly unlikely any will reopen immediately, especially while casinos continue to operate at limited capacity.

Just over 90% of the United States’ almost 1,000 casinos have now reopened after every single one closed in the spring. Most that have reopened are operating at limited capacity, and in many cases, poker rooms have been kept closed, as they are in PA.

Live poker rooms remain closed in neighboring New Jersey. However, rooms in Nevada (see lead image), California and several other states have opened back up.

Some poker rooms that have are employing plexiglass dividers at the tables. Most are dealing short-handed games and requiring masks and often temperature checks for all players.

PokerStars still only online option, other PA sites move closer to launching

With the brick-and-mortar rooms closed, PA poker players have at least had online poker as an option, albeit with only one choice available.

PokerStars PA remains the lone online poker room up and running in the Keystone State, as has been the case since it first launched in November 2019.

There, the just-completed Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker awarded just over $2 million in prize money, well clear of the $1.5M in guarantees.

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More online poker competition on the way in PA

Competition in the virtual poker space is coming, however.

Last week, the PGCB approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for 888 Holdings, partner of Caesars Interactive Entertainment. That brings WSOP.com closer to launching in Pennsylvania, although no date has been announced yet.

When WSOP PA does go live, the next question will be whether it will be able to enter interstate compacts and share player pools with the other WSOP.com sites in New Jersey and Nevada, and with 888 poker in NJ and Delaware.

Also eagerly waiting on the virtual rail is partypoker.

GVC Holdings owns the partypoker platform and, with MGM, co-owns ROAR Digital, which powers the partypoker US Network. There have been various indications over recent months that the PGCB will approve ROAR’s license to operate in PA. However, ROAR’s application status is still pending.

Partypoker, WSOP Among Challengers to PokerStars’ Online Poker Monopoly in PA

Pennsylvania online poker players will be happy to know they will soon have multiple top-notch poker sites from which to choose.

Experienced poker players know that sometimes you have to be very patient when waiting for the right cards to come. Online poker players in Pennsylvania are going to have be patient a little longer to see when the next online poker room launches.

Since November 2019, PokerStars PA has been the lone online poker option for players in the Keystone State. The site has enjoyed its monopoly thus far, but the race to see which online poker room will be its first challenger continues in earnest.

Who might join PokerStars PA next? A couple of candidates stand out from the pack at present, although both are going to have to wait a bit before launching.

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partypoker and ROAR

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) had its most recent monthly meeting on Aug. 5. It was thought that meeting might produce news that partypoker had moved one step closer to launching an online poker room in PA.

But no such news came from the PGCB. That means another month (at least) before any new online poker sites come to PA.

GVC Holdings owns the partypoker platform. Along with MGM, GVC jointly owns ROAR Digital, operator of the partypoker NJ site.

During the July meeting of the PGCB, the board’s Chief Entertainment Counsel Cyrus Pitre had indicated ROAR might have its licensed approved in August.

But while Unibet and Evolution Gaming received permanent licenses at the meeting, ROAR — including partypoker — continues to wait.

WSOP and Harrah’s Philadelphia

With no live World Series of Poker this summer, the WSOP recently completed the first part of its WSOP Online bracelet series on WSOP.com.

Players from New Jersey and Nevada were able to compete for 31 bracelets and over $26 million prizes during July. But alas, Pennsylvanians had to wait on the virtual rail.

In late May, WSOP officials told USPoker they were working toward obtaining regulatory approval to launch in Pennsylvania, and Doug Harbach of the PGCB confirmed that Caesars’ online poker application was pending.

But there was no talk of WSOP.com PA or Harrah’s at the regulators’ August meeting.

Others potentially seeking seats at PA online poker table

Five other Pennsylvania casinos are licensed to operate online poker rooms in PA, pending regulators’ approval. They are:

  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • Parx Casino and Racing
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse)
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort
  • Wind Creek Bethlehem (formerly Sands Casino Resort)

Pennsylvania online poker players will surely welcome any new options with open arms.

Brick-and-mortar poker rooms in PA closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus. Since then, the state’s 12 casinos have all reopened with limited capacity. However, their poker rooms have remained shuttered per safety guidelines of health officials and the PGCB.

PokerStars PA has been a popular option during the interim, including most recently during the just-completed Bounty Builder series in which players won nearly $2 million.

But a second online poker room — and perhaps a third and fourth — will bring needed variety and some healthy competition to the nascent PA online poker market.