PokerStars is on its way to Pennsylvania. The world’s busiest online poker room is partnering with the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Pocono Mountains to enter the US’ fifth most populated state.
Mount Airy’s partnership with The Stars Group, parent company to PokerStars, is also for online gambling and sports betting.
Formerly known as Amaya, the Canadian interactive gaming company will bring its PokerStars Casino and BetStars sports wagering platforms to the Keystone State. Patrons will be able to access the platforms with one account.
Mount Airy VP of Marketing Vincent Jordan says entering online gambling and sports betting “is the obvious next step” for the resort. Only those located within Pennsylvania will initially be able to sit at the interactive tables and digital slot machines.
Pennsylvania is the second legalized internet gaming jurisdiction where PokerStars has returned, the other being New Jersey. The online card game network was forced out of the country in 2011 in what became known as poker’s Black Friday.
In other Mount Airy news, last week the company announced it would build its satellite casino in Beaver County about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The so-called “mini-casino” will house 750 slot machines and 30 table games.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) says nine of the state’s 13 licensed commercial casino operators have applied for online gambling permits at a cost of $10 million each.
The fee allows the operators to offer internet slots, tables, and poker. Gross gambling revenue (GGR) from online slots will be taxed at an effective rate of 54 percent, and table games and poker rake at 16 percent.
Online poker has disappointed in the three states where it’s been offered legally.
Tax revenue generated by WSOP.com in Nevada became so minuscule that the state stopped reporting it separately from live table games. Delaware’s online poker rooms typically generate less than $20,000 a month in rake and fee, and New Jersey online poker GGR is down 11.5 percent through June.
There’s hope on the horizon, as Pennsylvania, a state with 12.8 million people, equal to that of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware combined, joins the game online. Players and PokerStars will hope state regulators will approve of pooling Pennsylvania’s online traffic with the three other states, which already do so through an interstate compact.
Sports Betting Interest
Part of Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion package includes regulations to govern sports betting. But casino operators have denounced what they call an excessive 36 percent tax and $10 million licensing fee.
By comparison, New Jersey taxes sports gambling revenue at 6.75 percent, and New Jersey eight percent at land-based venues and 12.5 percent online.
Mount Airy’s deal with The Stars Group makes it the fourth Pennsylvania casino to form a partnership with a sports betting supplier. Philadelphia’s SugarHouse and Pittsburgh’s Rivers casinos both entered into a software partnership with Kambi, while Parx, also near Philly, is going with GAN.
While the four casinos have announced sports betting arrangements, the PGCB says none have actually applied for permits. Casino operators are lobbying state lawmakers in Harrisburg to reconsider the sports betting tax and reduce it to fall in line with other jurisdictions.