Over the weekend, PokerStars and Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania announced a new partnership. The agreement will give the global poker brand access to the online gaming market in the Keystone State.
Besides PokerStars, The Stars Group owns or licenses several online gaming products, including PokerStars Casino and BetStars. Ready-to-launch products will allow the company to enter the market quickly upon final approval.
Vice President of Marketing & Gaming Operations for Mount Airy Casino Resort Vincent Jordan talked about the partnership in a press release:
“As one of Pennsylvania’s leaders in entertainment, offering internet sports wagering and gaming and partnering with The Stars Group is the obvious next step for us to continue diversifying our casino offerings. Introducing internet gaming through The Stars Group will provide compelling opportunities for our customers, particularly our younger customers, who are ready to experience the next gaming challenge.”
PokerStars and Pennsylvania: just the beginning
PokerStars was forced to sit out of the U.S. online poker market for four years following Black Friday. In 2016, it partnered with Resorts Casino to gain entry to regulated online poker in New Jersey.
New Jersey was a good first step, but PokerStars has been waiting a long to time to get back to its former glory in the U.S. online poker industry. That step begins, it seems, with Pennsylvania.
PokerStars came out almost immediately following the passage of the gaming expansion law last fall saying on an earnings call that “[it aims] to be among the first operators to launch in Pennsylvania when that state opens its door to online poker and casino.”
It just so happens that while they will never desert their online poker roots, sports betting may be what drives its expansion.
SVP Strategy & Operations, USA at The Stars Group Matt Primeaux spoke to the company’s plans to expand beyond New Jersey:
“We’re excited to take this next step as The Stars Group looks to broaden its presence in the United States. In partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort, we believe we’re well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Commonwealth by bringing our world-leading offerings to Pennsylvania players.”
PokerStars has made a concentrated effort to keep its brand front and center in the U.S. even though it currently only operates in New Jersey.
Just one example is its latest effort to give Platinum Passes to the PokerStars Players Championship in January. Through the Moneymaker Tour and several of its U.S.-based ambassadors, PokerStars is trying to put passes into the hands of U.S. players.
There is only one reason for that kind of effort. PokerStars, it seems, has its eyes on more expansion.
Why PokerStars may have a bit of a head start
PokerStars is one of, if not the, most recognizable online poker brand in the world. That brand recognition gives the company a distinct advantage as it moves into new markets and new verticals.
Brand recognition is important when entering a market and trying to win new customers. It is logical that most people tend to flock towards brands they know.
Besides brand recognition, PokerStars plans to launch a comprehensive rewards program later this year. In a statement to PlayNJ.com, the company said:
“We can confirm that we intend to launch Stars Rewards in New Jersey by the end of the year and will offer rewards for all our NJ customers’ activity (poker, casino, and sports), but a specific launch date cannot yet be confirmed.”
Players like the benefits they receive when they play. To accumulate those benefits in one place is another advantage as PokerStars expands its operations.
PokerStars was the leading online poker room in New Jersey until shared liquidity. WSOP.com took over the top spot as the only operator in Nevada. It is going to be tough, however, for it to hold onto its lead when online gaming launches in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s population is equal to the combined population of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. It seems like that Pennsylvania joins the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. When it does, PokerStars may just reclaim its top spot in New Jersey. It could be a market leader in Pennsylvania, too.