Pennsylvania Online Poker, One Year Later

It’s been slightly more than a year since the state of Pennsylvania opened the doors on their online casino gaming industry. When they first opened, none of those with an online casino license opened for online poker, however. That changed in November of last year when Mount Airy Casino and PokerStars brought their online poker operation online. So how is that operation doing one year later? There is good and bad in the mix.

On the Good Side

The Mt. Airy casino/PokerStars operation has been doing brisk business in Pennsylvania. In the final two months of 2019 once it opened, the operation was able to pull in over $3.4 million. That was already a fairly good take, but the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting shutdowns brought in even more action.

After the entirety of the Pennsylvania casino was shut down in March, online poker rocketed upward for the Mount Airy Casino and PokerStars. In April, they reported to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) a monthly “win” of $5.25 million. It would drop in the month of May, but the revenues were still a respectable $4.5 million for online poker in Pennsylvania.

June saw the reopening of the casinos in Pennsylvania and, as a result, the revenues would come back to earth a bit. In June, online poker revenues for the state were at $3.2 million. They’ve begun to settle in around the high $2 million levels ($2.9 million for July, $2.7 million for August) since then, but the overall figures are quite good. Since the inception of online poker in Pennsylvania, $30.3 million in revenues have been raised (as of August 2020).

On the Bad Side

There’s been a bad side to the equation in Pennsylvania, however.

Although the online gaming industry has been open since July 2019, it took nearly another three months before Mount Airy Casino and PokerStars stepped up to offer their wares. Since then, not one casino operation has opened a competitor to the Mount Airy/PokerStars partnership. Why not? Part of that reason might be seen in the numbers.

According to PokerScout.com, PokerStars PA is drawing in a seven-day average of cash game players of around 350. While this is comparable to operations on the worldwide stage like partypoker Europe (425 players seven-day average) and Svenska Spel (300 players seven-day average), it isn’t demonstrating the numbers that would encourage multiple operators to service an area. A look across the border at New Jersey’s online poker system demonstrates this fact.

New Jersey’s system is dominated by the WSOP/888 partnership, which has the advantage of being able to compact with other states (more on this in a minute). Even with their partnership with Delaware and Nevada, the New Jersey WSOP/888 partnership through Caesars Entertainment has a seven-day average of 280 players. The other two New Jersey operators, PokerStars NJ and partypoker NJ, average 110 and 75 players, respectively, on a seven-day average, and it is unknown how many of those players also have accounts on all the operations in the state.

Finally, there is the liquidity issue. Pennsylvania has yet to embrace a compact with another state and their poker operations. With only the Mount Airy/PokerStars operation in existence, the only other state they could currently partner with is the PokerStars NJ operation; as we’ve seen, although they would add some players, is it enough to advance the cause in Pennsylvania without detriment?

November 4 is the first anniversary for online poker in Pennsylvania. There is hope that, with the operations in Michigan preparing to come online (there is optimism this could occur in November), that there might be some compact worked out between those states (and New Jersey does exist in the background). Revenues are also strong for the Pennsylvania online poker industry, which might crack the $40 million mark by the end of 2020. Expansion beyond those numbers, however, might be tough to come by without expanding online poker’s player base.



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