Pennsylvania has made strides to make online gambling legal over the last few years, and despite some bumps along the way, it became the fourth state to open its doors to legal online poker in 2019. This page will cover everything you need to know about the ever-changing online poker landscape and how you can find the best place to play.
History of legal Online Poker in Pennsylvania
Given its proximity to New Jersey, it is easy to understand why Pennsylvania moved quickly to legalize online gambling once the precedent was set by its neighbors. The state wanted to reap the benefits of taxing online gaming, and take advantage of the hole left in the online poker market after the DoJ seizure of major poker sites in 2011.
The legislation was introduced in 2017, and in October of that year, it passed into law, allowing all forms of online gambling to be legalized. It was in 2018 that the regulations were finalized and applications were being accepted. However, there wasn’t a mad rush from the 13 land-based operators that were given a first chance at the licenses. This was mainly due to the cost of the application, which was $4 million per discipline (sports, casino, poker) or a combined price of $10 million for all three. Also, the tax rates for online gaming, which range from 32% to 51% depending on the game, are prohibitive to a company being profitable.
Finally, many of the casinos relented and applied for licenses, including 7 online poker sites.
Online Poker sites in Pennsylvania
For now, this is a very short list. As of December 2019, the only site open to players from Pennsylvania is Poker Stars. There have, however, been several companies that have been given the approval to launch online poker, including:
Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort
Valley Forge Casino Resort
It is expected that all of these casinos, which have chosen online partners, will be live in 2020 and as they launch, we will expand this page with reviews of each of the sites.
Poker Stars PA
Poker Stars remains the largest online poker site in the world. While the play in Pennsylvania is currently limited only to residents of the state, that isn’t stopping the gaming giant from launching with many of the company’s great marketing and software features.
For fans of online poker tournaments, Poker Stars PA has launched with a great series of weekly guaranteed tournaments, featuring their Sunday Majors to make someone a big winner each week. The company is also well known for its Championship of Online Poker series, and Pennsylvania residents got their first taste of that action with the November 2019 PACOOP. You can expect more of these special tournament events spread out across 2020 and beyond.
Cash game experts or newbies will find something that fits them at PokerStars PA. You can try games for free or play cash tables as low as 1c/2c to cut your teeth. Cash games are spread across all the major poker disciplines, such as Omaha and Hold’em. Some of the tables are reserved for those with larger bankrolls, but there is something for every skill level at this site.
Online Poker Tournaments in Pennsylvania
If you love to play poker tournaments, then playing online in Pennsylvania is something you are going to want to join! Some events range in entry fees from mere pennies to hundreds of dollars, and there are even lots of freeroll tournaments where you can build your bankroll without having to make a deposit. Sit and Go Tournaments allow you to play with smaller groups of players without having to wait for a scheduled time, and with Turbo and Hyper Turbo events, you can play an entire tournament in a very short period. Check out the review pages for tournament overviews for each of the online poker sites in Pennsylvania.
Online Poker Cash Games in Pennsylvania
Cash games tend to be made for much longer sessions than a tournament, and for those who are looking to play online cash games in Pennsylvania, you will find a wide range of games available. These games start at micro-stakes and make their way all the way up to tables that will require you to sit down with thousands of dollars. The difference between cash games and tournaments is that your chip stack is not finite – if you bust at a cash game table, you can just add more money to your account.
Payment Options in Pennsylvania
Online poker players in Pennsylvania will be thrilled to know that there are multiple ways for you to get your money to and from the sites. This is such a relief for many players who were playing in the unregulated market, as the options are faster, safer, and much easier to navigate. Here’s a sample of the payment methods that are available in the regulated gambling environment:
- Credit and Debit cards: This is the most common form of payment at an online poker site. Some banks still reject the transactions from online gambling companies, so your card may not work, but for the most part, VISA and Mastercard are now approving regulated gambling transactions at online poker rooms.
- Land-based Casinos: Given that each of the online poker sites has to have a land-based partner (those are the companies that were awarded the licenses), you can actually head to a local facility and make your deposits in cash. Not all the casinos will allow for withdrawals via this method so you should doublecheck with our review pages as new sites come online.
- Money order/check: For those of you that are Luddites, this method is for you! It will take longer for the transaction to complete but has an excellent paper trail.
- eWallets: e-Wallet companies like PayPal, Neteller and Skrill became very popular payment methods for online gambling sites in the 2000s. Despite being shut down by the U.S. government during the crackdown on online poker, these are now approved methods once again in states that have regulated online gaming. Each site may offer one or all of these,but they each provide a safe, efficient way to process deposits and withdrawals.
- eChecks: This is a common form of payment which takes money directly from your bank account.
- Prepaid cards: If you don’t want to use your personal accounts for online gambling, you can use one of the approved prepaid methods to make your deposits at some of the sites.
- Bank wire: This can be a costly method if you are making a smaller deposit but will work well for those wanting to put a larger bankroll online.
Pennsylvania Online Poker FAQ
Why are there so few legal online poker sites in Pennsylvania?
There are several reasons why this is the case today, but it all starts with money. As mentioned earlier, the entry fee for anyone wanting an online poker license in Pennsylvania is USD 4 million, which is why many of the land-based casinos turned down the opportunity. Add in a very high tax rate on the revenues generated from online poker and the system is set up for many to fail. This was the case early on in New Jersey, so it seems that operators are taking a more conservative approach to the Pennsylvania market.
When will there be more sites open to me in this state?
This is difficult to pinpoint precisely, but it is safe to say that with the initial success of PokerStars PA, the interest in launching sites will increase into 2020. We will also look for more interstate agreements to share liquidity so that the pools of players are larger and therefore easier to maintain. Check back on this page regularly as we will update it with any news that arises.
How old do I have to be to play online poker in Pennsylvania?
As per the rules and regulations set out by the state, all online players must be at least 21 years of age and be able to prove that birthdate to play online poker. It is not likely to be changed anytime soon as this is also the minimum age for land-based gaming in the state.
Can Pennsylvania residents play sites from other countries?
You cannot access pools of players from other states or countries, like Canada, for example, from Pennsylvania. There are still a couple of rogue operators that were not caught up in the Department of Justice crackdown in 2011. However, while Americans can play at these sites, they are a continued risk of being shut down at any time by the government. Also, because they are based offshore, it is increasingly difficult to get money to and from the site, with many of the sites opting for cryptocurrency-only transactions which are very volatile in nature.
Where can I learn more about online poker?
There are so many places that you can learn about online poker, but if you are starting out in the game, look no further than this site! We have dedicated part of the site to giving players an overview of the most popular games and the basic strategy so that you feel comfortable logging on and playing some free games or micro-stakes tournaments.
Why can’t I access my account when I am traveling outside Pennsylvania?
All online poker (and other gambling) activities are geo-fenced in the U.S. This means that if you try to log into your account from outside the state line, you are likely going to receive an error message. No need to panic, though – this is only to protect players in the state and meant to have operators live up to the letter of the law. If you are playing with a site that has an agreement with another state for shared liquidity (none yet exist in PA, but no doubt is coming soon), then you would be able to log in and play from any of the states in the agreement.