The fourth state to legalize online poker after Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, Pennsylvania has issued online poker licenses to seven casinos. PokerStars, which partnered with Mount Airy Casino Resort, became the first to launch on Nov. 4, 2019. Several other license holders have announced plans to launch in 2020, including Harrah’s Philadelphia, which is part of Caesars Entertainment Corp., owner of the World Series of Poker.
On October 30, 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed H 271, a $200 million online gambling expansion bill. The bill paved the way for Pennsylvania to begin regulating online poker, though it took two years before the cards were finally shuffled up and dealt to PA online players.
H 271 was a massive expansion of online gaming in the state, which included online casino games, slots, fantasy sports and eventually sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA had prohibited legal sports betting outside Nevada. The large number of regulatory guidelines, among other factors, created lengthy delays for online gaming. PA online sportsbooks launched in May 2019, followed by online casino gaming two months later and online poker in November 2019.
To play online poker players must open an account and be physically located within the state of Pennsylvania to play.
In the case of PokerStars PA, the state’s only live online poker site at the start of 2020, it is accessible both on a computer or mobile device and is available on Android or iOS. You will be prompted to complete the registration process, download geolocation software (to confirm you are inside the state when playing) and make a deposit to fund your account. Be sure to take advantage of the sign-up bonuses offered to new players.
The types of games available are determined by the number of players participating. Since online poker is new to Pennsylvania, you might find the player pools on the small side, but the numbers are growing and will continue to rise as more top PA poker sites are launched. No-Limit Hold’em is always available online, and Omaha and stud games usually are, too.
Among the formats at poker tables:
Cash games: Real money smf real chips with buy-ins starting as low as $2.
Tournaments: Each player buys in for a stack of chips and play continues until one player wins them all. Other top finishers also receive a percentage of the total prize pool, depending on the number of players entered.
Sit N’Go: Tournaments played within a certain timeframe (usually lasting no more than an hour) with payoffs to the final two or three players.
Fast-Fold Poker (Zoom Poker): Fold a hand and you immediately enter a new one at another table with different players (provided enough players are logged on).
Promotions and bonuses: PA online poker players are eligible for promotions and bonuses that live poker players are not. When opening an online account, players are usually offered a welcome bonus or deposit match. Generally, you enter a bonus code in the designated field to claim the bonus. For existing players, reload bonuses are often offered to players with depleted accounts.
Online tournaments: PokerStars PA hosted a two-week Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker in December 2019. The series of 50 events paid out more than $1.5 million.
Comfort level: No matter the skill level, some players are intimidated or uncomfortable when playing poker in a cardroom or brick-and-mortar casino. Playing online allows you to learn and improve your game without judgment from other players.
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The casinos awarded licenses for online poker from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board:
The state’s lone online poker operator went live in November 2019 and has a solid head start on the rest of the field. In its first month of operation, PokerStars PA easily outpaced already-established PokerStars NJ in November revenue.
Harrah’s is a Caesars Entertainment Corp. property, which owns the World Series of Poker, and is expected to be a major player in the PA online poker market when it launches.
Launched PA’s first online casino and was first to launch sports betting in the state, but more deliberate with online poker. The partner with IGT plans to launch IGT’s PlayPoker.
The state’s leading land-based casino and highest-grossing poker room hasn’t announced when it will move forward with online poker.
One of the leading online casinos in PA, SugarHouse hasn’t yet announced its online poker plans.
Purchased in 2018 by Boyd Gaming, Valley Forge previously had an agreement with Partypoker but is now working with IGT. Launch of online poker is expected in 2020.
Newly-renamed after the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem was sold to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Wind Creek Hospitality, a $1.3 billion deal that closed in 2019. Former owner Sheldon Adelson is a vocal opponent of online gaming and poker but applied for and received an online poker license for Wind Creek, which has yet to reveal any concrete plans.
Ten of the 12 casinos in Pennsylvania have poker rooms. Most, but not all, are open 24 hours a day.
The state’s lone poker room affiliated with the World Series of Poker brand has 28 poker tables and occasionally hosts WSOP circuit events.
Poker room inside casino and thoroughbred race track in Grantville has 17 poker tables and hosts daily no-limit Hold'em tournaments.
Cash games and at least two daily no-limit Hold’em tournaments at this Wilkes-Barre casino/harness racing track.
Mount Pocono facility has smaller poker room (nine tables) but is all-in online, partnering with PokerStars to become the state’s first online poker operator.
With new 48-table poker room featuring a wide mix of games, limits and tournaments, Parx, located just outside Philadelphia, is easily the top-grossing poker room in the state.
Poker room at Erie racino is on small side with seven tables, but plenty of daily promotions and tournament play.
The Pittsburgh facility offers 30 tables with a large selection of cash games and at least two daily tournaments.
The first poker room in Philadelphia to open has 28 tables and often hosts televised cash games and tournament events.
Racino in Washington (about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh) has 15 tables and an open view of live harness racing.
Home to a 26-table poker room that is big on cash games with a wide range of limits for Hold’em and Omaha.
Bonuses and promotions are common for new and existing online PA poker players. Some examples:
Welcome bonus: Usually in the form of bonus cash that is credited to your account. A matched welcome bonus means the online operator will match your initial deposit, sometimes released in increments as you play.
No deposit bonus: A chance to play and win money without having to make a deposit. No deposit bonuses give players a chance to get comfortable with the site before depositing funds. Generally, you will have to play a certain number of hands to cash out the bonus.
Reload bonus: For existing players, a bonus is offered to reload a dormant or depleted account.
Loyalty bonus: Operators track your level of play and loyalty bonuses come in the form of points, prizes and/or cash. The more you play, the higher the bonus.
Freeroll Tournaments: Tournaments that generally cost nothing to enter and include some form of prize pool.
Some of the most common forms of deposits and withdrawals:
Play+: A virtual prepaid card designed for exactly this purpose. After creating your online casino account, click on the Play+ link on the casino site and create an account, which can be funded with credit cards, among other methods. You can then fund your casino account with and withdraw funds using your Play+ card at an ATM.
PayPal/e-wallets: Third-party payment systems such as PayPal, Neteller and Skrill can be used for deposits and withdrawals and are extremely fast, reliable and safe.
Bank transfer/ACH/e-check: E-check (also known as ACH) allows players to electronically transfer money from a bank account to their PA online poker account. Because of higher limits, it is the preferred method of high rollers, but it also can take several days to process.
PayNearMe: A convenient deposit option without using a bank account. Customer can pay cash at a participating PayNearMe site, such as a 7-Elevens, CVS pharmacies and Family Dollar stores and use the vouchers to fund their accounts.
Debit/credit cards: Visa and Mastercard are accepted for deposits, though the success rate for such transactions are mixed as some financial institutions still wrongly block them (which is why Play+ is a great alternative). When successful, funds are available immediately, but check for fees.
Cash: PokerStars is partnered with Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, so funds can be deposited and withdrawn at that casino’s cashier cage. Expect the same with other online sites and their partners as they become available.
Online poker in Pennsylvania was legalized in 2017, but it was a bumpy road getting there.
The poker boom from 2003-2006 created a large and growing market for online play. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 forced several online poker sites to leave the U.S., though many continued operating offshore and continued to attract U.S. customers.
The landscape changed on April 15, 2011 (dubbed Black Friday) when the three largest online poker companies - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker - were charged with bank fraud and money laundering by the U.S. Department of Justice, which froze accounts and seized domains, curtailing online play from U.S. customers.
In late 2011, the DOJ ruled that only sports betting violated the Federal Wire Act, clearing the way for internet poker and online casino games. In 2017, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online poker, after Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. Those three states have an agreement to share player pools. Pennsylvania is not part of that merged player network agreement.
Yes. Online poker was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2017. PokerStars partnered with Mount Airy Casino Resort and was the first to launch online poker in November 2019.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, just on PokerStars PA, but six other Pennsylvania casinos have been awarded licenses to open online poker rooms and most are expected to go live in 2020.
As long as you are playing at a legal site licensed by the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board, poker games are safe and your account is secure.
Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker game available, with limit and no-limit both offered. Various forms of Omaha and stud games can also be found. As more online operators launch and additional players join, more game options will become available. In addition to cash games, daily Texas Hold’em tournaments are easy to find at top PA poker sites.
Players must be 21 years or older to participate.
No, there is no residency requirement. But players must be physically located within the state of PA to play. Your location is verified through geolocation software.
All gambling winnings are taxable. You (and the IRS) will receive a W-2G if your winnings are more than $5,000 from a poker tournament. Pennsylvania’s personal income tax is set at 3.07 percent against taxable money, which includes poker winnings.
Only if they are playing from inside the state of Pennsylvania.
No. PA online poker players can only play against those located within the state. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have a multi-state agreement that allows players from those three states to pool online pokers. Pennsylvania is not part of that agreement but could decide to join in the future.
A successful handicapper with more than a decade in the sports and gambling industry, Adam enjoys writing about (and playing) poker.