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PokerStars Pennsylvania Soft Launch: Monday, Nov. 4

PokerStars Logo

Mark the time on your calendars. Monday, Nov. 4 is the date that has been scheduled for PokerStars to launch online poker in Pennsylvania. After many months of waiting, residents of The Keystone State will get to indulge their online poker needs in just a few days. It has been a long time coming, but Pennsylvania has never been more ready for the introduction of regulated internet poker than it is now.

PokerStars Will Soft Launch in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to Oversee Test Launch


It was during the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s Wednesday, Oct. 30 meeting that online poker in the state was brought up and discussed. According to Douglas Harbach, a spokesperson for the PGCB, staff are prepared to both “initiate and oversee a test launch” on Monday.

He went on to say that the launch will take place via another online casino platform – one that is licensed under Mount Airy Casino. Alongside the range of casino games being tested via this site, the testing of online poker sites will also take place. However, Mr. Harbach finished off by stating that there is a caveat – if issues do arise, then this could stall the beginning of the testing.

Mount Airy CasinoMount Airy Is PokerStars' Land-Based Casino Partner

It’s important to know that this announcement does not mean that come Monday there will be a mass plethora of Pennsylvania residents who will be able to access online poker. Things are still going through the testing phase with such, so what will occur on Monday is a soft-launch of online poker through PokerStars. So, what does this mean for the state and its potential online poker industry? And can the state expect to become a fully fledged member of the group of U.S. states providing legal and regulated online poker to their citizens?

[UPDATE: Nov. 4, 2019]

As expected, PokerStars launched its Pennsylvania website on Monday, Nov. 4, and users can create accounts and play. Both poker and casino products were opened to the public, joining the already-present Fox Bet sportsbook, a joint venture between the Stars Group and Fox Sports. Mount Airy Casino, Stars' land-based license partner, thus becomes the first Pennsylvania organization to offer the three forms of interactive gaming permitted under PA law: casino games, poker, and sports betting.

Pennsylvania Website of PokerStarsScreenshot of the PokerStars Pennsylvania Homepage on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019

There are a few limitations. PokerStars is operating in the Keystone State on a restricted schedule during its soft launch. Players can only access the poker room from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday and 2 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday. While cash games, SNGs, and tournaments are available, fast-fold Zoom Poker and lottery-style Spin & Gos are not. Presumably, these non-standard card game variants are still waiting on the approval of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board before they can be offered.

On the casino side, PokerStars debuted with fewer than 50 titles for customers to enjoy. Presumably, as more games are approved by the PGCB, this selection will expand significantly.

The Story of Pennsylvania’s Online Poker Expectations

Pieces of Paper

It was thought that online poker would launch in July this year, which is actually when the WSOP Main Event began. This thought came after Pennsylvania passed its online gambling legislation back in October of 2017. While it’s true that the first real money internet gaming sites began operating on Monday, July 15, none of them incorporated online poker rooms into their game options.

Instead, just a couple of internet-based casinos started providing residents of Pennsylvania with legalized slots and table games. These were present in the form of the Parx Casino and Hollywood Casino. Seven online poker licensees exist within The Keystone State, including both of those casinos, but as of this writing, none of them have launched poker rooms alongside their online casinos.

Obviously, things didn’t go as planned with the predicted launch date of July for online poker. However, over three months later, Pennsylvania is ready to get its first dose of it, thanks to the efforts of PokerStars and the PGCB. This will see the poker network launch in only its second US state, with the first being New Jersey where it has been in operation since March 2016.

Speaking of the soft-launch that will be taking place on Monday, a spokesperson for PokerStars said: "We are very excited to be bringing our most popular brands to Pennsylvania in the next week, subject to regulatory approval. Stay tuned for more details!"

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Before the PokerStars poker room can go fully operational within the state, it has to successfully go through various tests. This is expected to last up to two or three days, and it allows any kinks and issues to be brought to the surface and hopefully resolved prior to an official full launch. This testing period will see the PGCB check the functionality of various services which are linked to the player experience. Geolocation technology, payment processing, and responsible gaming measures will all be under scrutiny by the regulatory body.

Should this testing period proceed to a high enough standard, PokerStars may well be given the go ahead for a full launch in Pennsylvania. Undoubtedly, both the poker room and the eager poker players of Pennsylvania will be keeping their fingers crossed for a successful testing period with PokerStars.

While the testing period is in operation, players will have limited access to the online poker room and its games with only a select number of games being available. It is thought that anyone opting to access online poker during the soft-launch period will be able to enjoy cash games, sit & gos and various tournaments. However, what will most likely be absent from the collection will be Spin & Gos and Zoom Poker fast-fold games.

Additional Information About Pennsylvania Online Poker

Information Icon

The launch of online poker has caused quite the stir in The Keystone State, although several questions potentially remain unanswered. For example, some people have been querying whether or not Pennsylvania will become a part of the interstate arrangements that are currently in operation between New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. For the time being though, Pennsylvania-licensed poker is only operating on an intrastate level. Therefore, anyone participating in poker within the state will be playing against other players from within Pennsylvania.

Three Interstate Gaming Compact StatesNew Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware Share Traffic Between Their Licensed Online Poker Sites

Pennsylvania probably wishes to perform a trial run of interactive poker inside its borders before possibly expanding with interstate agreements. Then there is also the question of the legal uncertainty about whether or not these compacts violate the Wire Act. A court decision earlier this year clarified that interstate poker was completely legal, but the decision is being appealed and may be reversed at a higher level. We can’t really fault the PA authorities for opting to put liquidity-sharing contracts on the back shelf while the legalities are in limbo.

This means that players also won’t be able to participate in the large multi-table tournaments held by PokerStars. So, for a start, you can cross off the Sunday Million from your to-do list because, for the time being, it’s not going to be allowed. That being said, it’s likely that the poker room will launch a variety of Pennsylvania-specific tournaments to participate in instead. This would echo exactly what the New Jersey market is currently provided with.

While it’s true that you don’t specifically need to be a Pennsylvania resident to play online games, you do need to be within the state in order to access it. This will require you to geolocate with the poker site as well. In this respect, you could have a home address based within Iowa, for example, but as long as you are physically in Pennsylvania when you want to play, there’s nothing to stop you from doing this.

PokerStars Looks to Expand Its Reach Even Further

Brown Money Bag

PokerStars already exists as the world’s biggest online operator when it comes to poker. Not only does it have a large name across Europe already, but with its operation in New Jersey and the potential for it to be firing on all cylinders in Pennsylvania, the brand looks to expand its reach to an even greater level. As well as the standard poker room, the company also boasts growing casino and sports-betting divisions.

Naturally, the announcement of online poker from PokerStars being launched in Pennsylvania caused quite the stir in the state. With only a few days to go before the soft-launch arrives for testing purposes, it may not be long before things are up and running in full for players. Yet, it’s quite key to note that things won’t be quite as expansive as the global PokerStars platform – especially not at the very beginning.

Due to online poker in Pennsylvania operating on an intrastate basis, there’s likely to be lower traffic numbers participating in it, and furthermore, it’s probable that lower guarantees will be in place for events. Because of this, even though you may take the opportunity to have a look at what PokerStars is providing, you may wish to involve yourself in other offshore poker rooms as an alternative.

Other Organizations Ready to Jump in the Pool?

Question Mark

Now that PokerStars is going live with its soft launch, we can conclude that the technical and/or regulatory issues that have delayed Pennsylvania legalized online poker until this time have been finally resolved. Thus, it’s reasonable to suppose that other operators will shortly embark on their own soft launches.

Favorites to get involved in the PA licensed internet poker scene sooner rather than later are 888/ and PartyPoker in partnership with Harrahs Philadelphia and Valley Forge casinos respectively. Both of these sites are already active, along with PokerStars, in New Jersey regulated i-poker.

Logos of PokerStars, PartyPoker, WSOP.comThe Three Companies Expected to Launch Their PA Poker Sites First

Parx is also rumored to be working on a poker product for online play, but it’s developing an in-house platform: a process that’s expected to take longer than deploying pre-existing software as PokerStars,, and PartyPoker will be doing.

Pennsylvania Online Poker Is Already a Reality

PA State Map

Various online sites cater to the Pennsylvania market already, and they are based in foreign locales and thus are not subject to the strict rules against operating unlicensed online gaming ventures from within the United States. If you’d like to find out more about such platforms, then be sure to check some of our recommendations by reading about online poker in Pennsylvania. You can also gather some information about offshore poker sites that cater to the US in general. We have put together a collection of the best US-friendly poker sites to make this easier for you. We’re sure you’ll find something that will catch your attention from these recommended sites.