What Will US Online Poker Look Like When PA And MI Join Shared Player Pools

The future of PA online poker seems bright, but when will Pennsylvania get more operators and join the shared liquidity market?

Pennsylvania poker players continue to wait and watch for a second online poker site to launch. Since November 2019, PokerStars PA has been the lone online poker option in PA.

When will PokerStars’ Pennsylvania monopoly end? It’s a question PA poker players have been wondering about for some time.

Once other online poker sites finally emerge to compete with PokerStars in Pennsylvania, those same players will have other questions, too.

When will PA online poker players get to play against players in other US states with legal and regulated sites? And what will that new online poker landscape look like?

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BetMGM Poker, WSOP soon taking seats at PA online poker table

More than six months ago came whispers that one and perhaps two new online poker sites would soon launch in PA. Those whispers became slightly louder in the fall when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) began approving licenses that would pave the way for the new sites.

In late October, the PGCB approved BetMGM for licensure as iGaming operators. Entain, formerly GVC Holdings, owns the partypoker platform. Along with MGM, Entain jointly owns BetMGM (formerly ROAR Digital). BetMGM operates the partypoker US network that is presently up and running in New Jersey.

In December, BetMGM launched an online casino and an online sportsbook in Pennsylvania. Expectations are that a BetMGM Poker site could launch in Pennsylvania soon as well.

It was back in October the PGCB approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for 888 Holdings, the online poker partner of Caesars who own the WSOP.

Soon after players in PA began receiving emails intimating WSOP.com PA was coming soon. However, a Caesars representative made clear that wouldn’t happen until 2021. A January announcement of the 2021 WSOP Online Circuit Series hinted that WSOP.com could be launching soon “in a newly regulated market,” with Pennsylvania seeming a likely candidate.

But still PA players wait.

What needs to happen for PA to join a multi-state agreement?

That WSOP Online Circuit Series takes advantage of WSOP’s ability to share player pools in multiple states. Players on both WSOP Nevada and WSOP New Jersey can play in WSOP-branded events, including online bracelet events.

In addition, the WSOP/888 network pools players from three states, NY, NJ, and Delaware. Currently no other U.S. online poker sites have been able to follow suit and join player pools.

PokerStars (for example), has sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and now Michigan (since late January). But in each case the sites are “ring-fenced” meaning players can only compete against others within the same state.

In order for Pennsylvania players to be able to play against those in other states, two things need to happen.

First, an online poker site must launch in PA that also operates a site in another state with which it could form a network. So far PokerStars is the only candidate with its NJ and MI sites.

Second, the PGCB will have to approve entering a multi-state internet gaming agreement with other states in order to permit sites in multiple states to combine player pools.

Favorable Wire Act ruling should lessen PA regulators’ concerns

Most observers believe Pennsylvania had been previously hesitant to pursue joining such an agreement thanks to a revised Department of Justice‘s Office of Legal Counsel opinion regarding the Wire Act.

In January 2019, the DOJ office issued an opinion dated a couple of months before stating that the Wire Act did not just apply to sports betting, but to all forms of gambling (including online) conducted across state lines. That position reversed an earlier DOJ opinion from 2011 that the Wire Act applied to sports betting only.

In response, the PGCB issued a letter to online gaming licensees in the state recommending strongly that they comply with the new opinion and be particularly diligent about disallowing any wagering to occur across state lines.

The PGCB’s stance didn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of joining a multi-state agreement for online poker. However, it was clear the new DOJ opinion had halted any momentum in that direction. The PGCB would not be pursuing the idea, at least not in the near term.

Meanwhile the New Hampshire Lottery filed a lawsuit against the DOJ objecting to the new opinion. In June 2020, NH received a favorable ruling, thereby vacating the new DOJ opinion. The DOJ appealed, and in January 2021 that appeal was denied by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

The January ruling should be regarded as good news for Pennsylvania poker players. The PGCB has not indicated its plans going forward. However, the Wire Act and the DOJ should no longer present an obstacle should PA regulators choose to enter into a multi-state agreement.

Multiple sites…and multiple networks for PA?

Among the states with whom Pennsylvania could begin sharing player pools, New Jersey would be a likely first candidate. Michigan could come later, perhaps by the end of the year or early 2022.

Delaware, a much smaller state, would be less of a priority. Meanwhile West Virginia has also legalized online poker, although has yet to launch any sites.

Such combined player pools will obviously be a game-changer for US online poker generally and Pennsylvania poker in particular.

If and when PA does join a multi-state agreement, Pennsylvania may well have both BetMGM and WSOP.com sites up and running.

In other words, the near future could well see multiple online poker sites become available for PA players. Then a little farther down the road, PA players might even have multiple multi-state networks from which to choose as well.

Lead image via Dreamstime.com

Topgolf Partnership is Latest Move in BetMGM Gambling Expansion

BetMGM is expanding fast, most recently partnering with Topgolf and planning to launch a Borgata online casino in PA.

It’s a lot like the wave

If you’ve ever been to a ball game, you’ve probably seen it before. People stand up and throw their arms in the air and then others join in. Before long, the whole stadium sweeps up in a wave that spreads across the entire crowd.

That’s kind of how sports betting is moving these days. Take the BetMGM brand as a case study.

Last week, BetMGM announced a partnership with Topgolf that will provide joint opportunities for gaming, marketing, and promotions at Topgolf venues across the country.

“We look forward to introducing Topgolf guests to the immersive sports betting experience that only BetMGM can provide,” BetMGM’s Chief Revenue Officer Matt Prevost said in a news release. “Topgolf is known for offering unique and interactive entertainment options, which our loyal BetMGM users can now access through a variety of exclusive and customized packages.”

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Topgolf already has a presence in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents can witness the partnership come together first-hand at a TopGolf location in Pittsburgh and another one that’s being planned near King of Prussia.

In addition to Pennsylvania’s locations, the partnership will be visible throughout Topgolf venues in cities where BetMGM operates. Those include its Las Vegas location at MGM Grand plus Indianapolis, Nashville, Detroit, Virginia Beach, and Denver. It also includes those within the WGT by Topgolf platform. 

BetMGM will also pursue branding and promotional integrations in other  Topgolf locations as sports betting and iGaming platforms become available in new states.

Beyond the BetMGM partnership, another online casino also made news in Pennsylvania this week. 

Borgata Casino joining PA iGaming market soon

Borgata online casino, also owned by MGM, will launch in Pennsylvania this week in partnership with Rivers Philadelphia. The BetMGM brand is already live in PA with online casino and sports betting apps that launched in December 2020.

While the Borgata iGaming app will partner with Rivers, BetMGM is partnered with Penn NationalHollywood Casino Grantville for online casino and Hollywood Casino Morgantown (coming in 2021) for online sports betting. In Pennsylvania, an iGaming and sportsbook app do not need to share the same land-based operator.

The Borgata online casino is already live in New Jersey. It is likely the Pennsylvania entity will provide similar rewards and promotions for new players.

BetMGM to launch online poker rooms in MI and PA

Although the BetMGM sportsbook/betting brand arrived later than many others, it continues to expand rapidly across the country.

Plans are in place to launch a BetMGM online poker room in Michigan in the near future, and one is expected to follow in Pennsylvania later in the year. For now, PA has one online poker room, PokerStars PA, a site that also launched in Michigan late last month.

Gambling wave continues in the US

And so, just like the wave that forms inside a stadium, the BetMGM brand continues to grow in strength, gain support, and spread across the country.

Many other sports betting and gaming companies are sharing in similar success.

The momentum is growing.

And the energy is expanding in every direction.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

PA Online Casino Revenue Surges Past $70 Million in December 2020 with Big Push from Penn

PA online casinos set new record highs in December 2020, helped along by retail casino closures and new additions like BetMGM.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced a new monthly record for revenue generated by iGaming. December sports wagering handle was also the highest ever for PA.

Casino games online generated more than $71.6 million in gross revenue during December 2020 compared to just above $10.6 million a year earlier.

December easily eclipsed the previous revenue high for online casino gaming, set in October 2020 at more than $59.7 million.

Online casino and online table games together had revenue of nearly $68.9 million in December. By contrast, retail revenue collectively tallied just more than $59.2 million.

Tax revenue generated from internet gaming play during December 2020 was more than $29 million.

Closures much of month for retail hurt revenue

The record results for iGaming came during a month in which retail operations at casinos and video gaming terminals (VGT) went dark.

Operations ceased on December 12th and remained closed through the end of the month due to statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

Even before that, the number of retail slot machines in operation on Dec. 11, 2020 – the day before a forced closure – was only 16,957 compared to 24,116 at the casinos on Dec. 30, 2019, according to the PGCB.

Some key figures from the December 2020 revenue report:

  • Online casino revenue was up a staggering 730.2% year over year.
  • Land-based casino slots were down 77.5% YoY.
  • Internet table games revenue was up 776.9% YoY.
  • Retail table games were down 78.2% YoY (from $78.1 million in Dec. 2019 down to $17.1 million last month).

With the closures, the combined total revenue in December from all forms of gaming and fantasy contests was more than $168.7 million, representing a decrease of 42.2% compared to revenue generated in December 2019.

Online wagering boomed, set new records

Recent growth in online gaming streams helped offset what would have been a much larger drop in YoY revenue.

Combined revenue for online casinos, poker, and online sports betting was $104.5 million, or 61.9% of the total PA gaming revenue for December.

Online poker was up slightly at $2.7 million, compared to $2.4 million in November. There is still just one operator, PokerStars PA, via Mount Airy Resort.

VGTs hurt by forced closures

Truckstop VGT terminals were down 8.67% to $802,918. Like casinos, they were ordered closed much of December.

A year ago, in December 2019, VGTs brought in $879,153.

Sports wagering boomed with the highest monthly handle

PA sportsbooks had their best month ever in December. The month’s total sports wagering handle was nearly $548.6 million or 11.5% above the November total of $491.9 million.

December was the highest monthly handle ever, eclipsing the previous record $525.8 million wagered in October.

The taxable revenue figure for December 2020 was just above $34 million, or 8.8% below the November taxable revenue of more than $37.3 million, which remains the highest for any month to date.

With two years of operating history for sports betting in PA, the Keystone State is the No. 3 jurisdiction for sports handle behind Nevada and New Jersey.

Daily fantasy contests were off 12.34%, with revenue of just more than $3 million.

December PA online casino breakdown by operator

A complete breakdown of December revenue, including slots and table games by operator (online gaming license holder), can be found here:

Casino OperatorTotal RevenueSlots RevenueTable Games Revenue
Rivers Philly (SugarHouse & BetRivers)$19.3 million$15.9 million$3.4 million
Penn National (DraftKings Casino)$13.7 million$6.0 million$7.7 million
Valley Forge (FanDuel)$11.2 million$5.1 million$6.1 million
Mt. Airy (PokerStars & Fox Bet)$7.0 million$2.8 million$1.4 million
Penn National (BetMGM)$5.7 million$3.9 million$1.8 million
Parx Casino$5.0 million$4.6 million$418,000
Penn National (Hollywood Casino)$4.0 million$3.9 million$128,000
Mohegan Sun Pocono (Unibet)$3.1 million$2.1 million$963,000
Harrah's Philly (Caesars)$1.3 million$978,000$351,000
Wind Creek Casino$591,000$441,000$150,000
Live! Casino Philadelphia (PlayLive!)$400,000$327,000$73,000
Presque Isle Downs (BetAmerica)$164,000$151,000$13,000
Totals:$68.9 million$46.2 million$22.6 million

Casino operators by the numbers

The clear front-runners in the online casino race in PA remain Penn National, Rivers Philadelphia, and Valley Forge.

The top five PA online casinos for December revenue include:

  • BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse (Rivers Philly): $19.3 million
  • DraftKings Casino (Penn National): $13.7 million
  • FanDuel Casino (Valley Forge): $11.2 million
  • PokerStars/Fox Bet (Mount Airy): $7.0 million
  • BetMGM (Penn National): $5.7 million

New additions, Penn on the rise

Penn National has made a large leap when it comes to online casino market share in PA. With the addition of BetMGM Casino on Dec. 4 (through its Hollywood Casino Morgantown license), Penn now boasts three iGaming options in PA: Hollywood online casino, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

BetMGM got off to a strong start, posting the fifth-highest iGaming revenue out of the gate.

Other recent additions – Wind Creek casino and Live! Casino Philadelphia’s PlayLive! – were near the bottom at $591K and $400K in revenue, respectively.

BetRivers/PSH had the largest slot revenue at $15.9 million. DraftKings won the online table category at $7.7 million, with FanDuel just behind at $6.1 million.

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.

Jackpot Winners, BetMGM Online Casino’s Arrival Create Bountiful Fall For PA Players

November featured the arrival of BetMGM’s online casino and a number of jackpot winners at the state’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos.

November was indicative of the many choices that Pennsylvania players have.

The state’s first mini-casino, Live! Casino Pittsburgh, opened on Nov. 24.

There were hints that BetMGM was on its way to PA, and on Dec. 1, it soft-launched its online casino.

Throughout November, there were jackpot winners at the state’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos. Also, the popular online slot Divine Fortune smiled on another winner.

Here are some of the lucky players and more about PA’s newest online casino.

BetMGM online casino arrives in PA

BetMGM online casino made quite an entrance in Pennsylvania. It’s the state’s 13th interactive casino and will go live 24/7 after the three-day test period concludes on Thursday.

The welcome offer for new BetMGM customers includes $25 in free play and a 100% deposit match up to $1,000. In addition, it is having a “party.” For BetMGM’s PA Launch Party Sweepstakes promotion, players earn entries for every $20 wagered on slots or table games.

BetMGM’s online casino arrived with a robust (for PA) library of games. It has:

  • 120 slot titles
  • Eight types of roulette
  • Game King Video Poker and Let it Ride
  • Baccarat
  • Jackpot slots Divine Fortune and Mercy of the Gods

BetMGM’s online casino is available in PA via Android, iOS and desktop (casino.pa.betmgm.com).

PA Online Casino note: The following is not a complete list of winners from the month of November. 

BetRivers Divine Fortune winner

A restaurant worker who has been unemployed since April due to COVID-19 closures had a late-night stroke of luck in November.

Lynn, from Allentown, PA, was playing Divine Fortune at BetRivers online casino on her phone. Her husband, next to her on the sofa, was watching late-night TV.

She hit the jackpot for $443,480.64 on a $3 bet.

Her husband didn’t believe her until she showed him the screen; then he screamed louder than her.

In a press release from Rush Street Interactive, which operates BetRivers, Lynn said:

“We were both in shock. This is just insane, and the money couldn’t come at a better time. It’s going to be a great Christmas!”

With the jackpot winnings, she plans to pay off her house, car and other debts.

Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia

Live! Casino Pittsburgh

Live! Casino Pittsburgh opened its doors in November and welcomed winners.

Mohegan Sun Pocono

Lock It Link is lucky for these players.

Mount Airy blackjack winner

Rivers Casino Philadelphia

Rivers Casino Philadelphia is currently closed until at least Jan. 1 to comply with Philadelphia’s coronavirus restrictions.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh

Other winners:

Valley Forge Casino

Wind Creek Casino

Olympus Strikes for $42,450

Other PA casino winners

Parx

Presque Isle Downs Casino

The Meadows

Hollywood Casino