Online Poker is back in Pennsylvania!

With all the news about legalized sports betting spreading across the United States in the last 12 months, it may be hard to remember a time before the repeal of PASPA. In those days, a few states were trying to find a way to regulate online casino and poker, and Pennsylvania actually passed legislation in 2017. While it has taken a long time to get here, this week PokerStars dipped their toes back in the pool by launching their PA-focused site.

After the dust settled from the passing of the regulations and understanding the costs of licensing in the state, The Stars Group entered into a partnership with Mount Airy Casino to provide all online gaming products for the Pennsylvania market. When the deal was first announced, there were some whispers about whether or not a company that had brazenly stayed active in the US market post-2006’s UIGEA legislation would be welcome back into the fold. It certainly appears that the government has let bygones be bygones (with a minor $750 million dollar settlement to assist in the compassion), and PokerStars has taken a foothold back in the country’s gambling industry.

An All-Encompassing Solution

As you have likely heard or read, the last year has been a very exciting one for PokerStars. First, the company made a splash by acquiring SkyBet out of the UK. This multi-billion dollar deal gave the company a viable sports solution, as well as the framework for a media-gaming alliance. This would come in handy as shortly after the SkyBet announcement, the company announced a long-term partnership with the Fox Broadcasting Company. This partnership would center around a sports betting brand, FoxBet, which would target U.S. players.

As if that wasn’t enough action, Stars continued making news when, in mid-2019, it was announced that the company had been acquired by Paddy Power Betfair, making the new entity the most valuable gaming company on the planet. This puts a small wrinkle in the sports betting side of the business as Paddy Power Betfair had already purchased FanDuel. For now, there has been no talk of merging any of those similar businesses together.

With all this news, Mount Airy had to feel pretty good about their decision to partner with PokerStars in the first place! As part of the PA launch, a full gaming solution has been released, including casino, sports betting, and poker.

What can poker players expect?

Let’s start with the most common question about this launch: will players in Pennsylvania be able to play with PokerStars players in other jurisdictions? The short answer, for now, is no – there is no agreement in place between Pennsylvania and any other state or country for shared liquidity. This means that for the time being, the PokerStars PA games will be limited to players who are playing from inside the state borders.

This doesn’t seem to have impacted the offering that PokerStars is putting into the market! Given the size of the backing organization, there is some money to be spent on attracting players to the site. This is the first legal poker site to be open to players from Pennsylvania, so PokerStars wants to take advantage of that fact with some aggressive offers.

If you are someone who likes to play tournaments, then you will love what PokerStars has to offer you in PA. When you set up an account (which you can do from your phone, tablet, or PC with ease) you will be given some free tickets to their very popular Spin and Go single table tournaments. They also have a series of launch freerolls running from November 7th to 17th. These events are bound to be full of recreational players, so here is a chance to build a bankroll without making a deposit! There will be a daily freeroll with a $1,000 prize pool for the first 10 days of the festival and one massive $20,000 event on the 17th.

PokerStars has always been known for its great satellite events and for having the best Sunday tournament schedule. While there is no land-based event qualifying schedule yet (we have no doubt this is coming) there are a ton of great tournaments. What may be the most shocking is that he guarantees that are already being placed on the Pennsylvania Sunday tournaments are higher than those similar events being run by the company for the New Jersey market. This is clearly an indication of how popular online poker is in the state, and we are hopeful that these numbers will only continue to rise.

PokerStars is offering a very attractive welcome bonus for depositing players as well. You have the opportunity to earn up to $600 in bonus cash on your deposits in the first month with a 100% match bonus. What is great about these bonus dollars is that it appears that they are actually relatively easy to convert to real cash (something the industry is notoriously stingy about). If you head to the website, you can find all the bonus Terms and Conditions.

A great step forward

This is all great news for poker players, but the industry has to be somewhat realistic here – we are nowhere close to having online poker back across the entire country. None of the current laws that are being passed in other states have online poker written in, so for the time being, those of you lucky enough to live in Pennsylvania should take full advantage of the fact that poker is back in your state.

In the meantime, there will be lobbyists across the country speaking to local politicians fighting for the rights of American poker players. It’s safe to say that given the current state of poker, U.S. players would be flocking back to sites like PokerStars if just given a chance.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.