Borgata Poker and BetMGM Poker soft-launched their poker sites in the Pennsylvania market on Tuesday, joining PokerStars’ offering. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
A two-day testing period
PokerStars is finally getting some competition in Pennsylvania’s online poker market as BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker sites have begun their two-day testing phase in the state.
The soft launches that took place on Tuesday followed some slight delays. Unlike PokerStars’ soft launch, the two new sites will be operating 24/7 during the testing period. Both platforms are using Entain software. Provided everything goes smoothly, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will likely give the operators the green light for a full online launch.
The different aspects that the regulator will look at during the soft launch period include ensuring that responsible gambling measures, payment processing, and geolocation services are all working properly.
The two websites operate through different casino licenses. The BetMGM poker offering is available as part of the BetMGM online casino, run via the Hollywood Casino Grantville license. Borgata Poker is part of the Borgata online casino that operates through the Rivers Casino Philadelphia license.
BetMGM Poker players will be able to play against opponents having a Borgata Poker account
The two poker sites will be sharing their player pools as they are a part of the partypoker US Network. This means that BetMGM Poker players will be able to play against opponents having a Borgata Poker account. This is already the case in the New Jersey market, where the partypoker NJ platform is also a part of the intra-state network alongside the two brands.
Some competition for PokerStars
Legal online poker has been a reality in Pennsylvania since Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation into law in November 2017. PokerStars was the first online poker site to go live in the state, soft-launching in November 2019. Since then, it has been the only operator up and running. March 2021 revenue for PokerStars in Pennsylvania totaled $2.4m, on which it pays 16% tax.
WSOP could be soon launching in Pennsylvania
As well as the Borgata Poker and BetMGM Poker soft launches, it looks like WSOP could soon also go live in Pennsylvania. While the Caesars Entertainment-owned poker brand has made no official announcement, it has updated its website in such a way that indicates a potential future rollout.
Pennsylvania does not allow the sharing of player pools with other states. The sole interstate compact for online poker is between Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada. WSOP is the only operator that is currently live in each of these states.
A big year for online poker
The US online poker sector is gearing up for a big year in 2021. A First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in January clarified that interstate online poker is legal, despite the Justice Department’s different interpretation of the Wire Act.
Pennsylvania has been holding back on considering allowing interstate poker until the official conclusion to the Wire Act case. The appeal period for the Wire Act ruling expires mid-June, which could see the state approve interstate player-pool sharing before the year is out.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer passed legislation on December 29, 2020 that allows for interstate online poker. However, the state has not yet joined up with any other region. PokerStars was the first poker operator to launch in Michigan as online gambling went live in the state in January, followed by BetMGM.
West Virginia also has legalized online poker, but no platforms have launched as of yet. Other states could also take steps to legalize online poker this year.