Wake Up Pennsylvania, Online Poker Has More Potential Than You Think

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Much to the dismay of online poker advocates across the country, the launch of online gaming in Pennsylvania came and went in July without the launch of PA online poker.

Since July 15, 2019, three online casinos have launched in Pennsylvania. Plus, you can now bet on sports online through four PA sports betting apps.

What you can’t do just yet is get in a legal and regulated online poker game in the Commonwealth. (Unless you count Jacks or Better video poker–we don’t.)

But PA online poker was never going to be a game-changer for US online poker. Not at first, anyway.

Sure, it means adding the largest state to date to the three states with legal online poker. But until Pennsylvania signed on to share player pools with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, PA online poker was never going to move the national needle.

It will ultimately be running in a more populous state than the others that came before it. However, PA online poker always seemed destined to toil for about a year as another small single-state online poker market. Most figured it would take that year before regulators and legislators finally got behind the idea that helping the US online poker market grow is a good idea for all involved.

The reason why? Everyone figures operators, regulators, and legislators need at least 12 months to get things going and see what the local online poker market is really all about.

Pennsylvania online poker launch delayed

Now it appears operators have delayed the start of this 12-month clock.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach recently told US Poker there’s still is no firm timetable for the launch of PA online poker. Although, he figures at least one site will be up and running before the end of summer.

What he didn’t say was why operators, many of whom have already spent about $3.5 million on a PA online poker license, are in no hurry let the games begin.

Respected poker pro and poker room consultant Matt Glantz did that instead. Glantz said it’s become obvious to online gambling operators that online poker isn’t the money maker it once was. He also said the online version of the game has become boring and¬†these operators can’t even find a way to use it as a marketing tool anymore.

The numbers coming out of the largest online poker market in the US seem to back that up.

New Jersey online poker revenues started out at about $2 million a month five years ago and have only gone down since. Sub-$2 million months have become the norm rather than the exception.

Looking at that, it’s easy to see why PA operators are in no hurry to launch. It’s hardly the kind of money they hoped for when they first asked states to legalize online poker.

Hope for the future of online poker

But what the monthly NJ numbers don’t tell them is that there have been some bright spots along the way and hope for the future.

The World Series of Poker posted decent numbers for its first Nevada-only WSOP online bracelet events. Then, once New Jersey signed on to share player pools with Nevada, these events became record breakers.

This summer, the WSOP online bracelet events broke records again. That gave the world a glimpse of what online poker in the US really can be.

Adding Pennsylvania players to the pool with the other states will mean giving them access to the WSOP’s multiple million-dollar prizepools. It might even mean online poker sites operating across all four states can put together million-dollar prizepools on a regular basis outside the WSOP.

That would represent a return to online poker’s glory days, before the most successful operators in the country got untimely deported.

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US-wide online poker’s real potential

There’s nothing boring about million-dollar prizepools, no matter what Glantz says. And if US online poker operators can start offering them regularly, the online game’s popularity will undoubtedly grow again.

In other words, the kind of money operators always hoped for could be there if they take the long view.

Now, it’s just a matter of Pennsylvania operators starting to work towards that. There is no better time than now to get started.

And if the short-term revenue they can generate now to start paying back the cost of licensing isn’t enough to get them going, perhaps a wakeup call about US-wide online poker’s real potential is.

Martin Derbyshire

About

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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