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With many states, whether or not online gambling or online poker in particular is prohibited by law or not requires considerable interpretation of existing law to decide whether this form of gambling falls within its scope.
Then we have states like Pennsylvania, where the matter is made much simpler for us. Some states only really go after gaming operators, and Pennsylvania is clearly one of those states.
The criminal statutes that apply to gambling don’t even mention gambling per se as being prohibited, it instead is aimed at prohibiting state residents from running or promoting gambling operations in the state (1).
So while it would be an offense to operate a location where people were permitted to play poker online, or at least it might be depending on your reading of the law, the act of gambling itself isn’t prohibited. The closest they come to addressing this topic is prohibiting video terminals, which offering someone the opportunity to gamble via such a terminal would be an offense, however the actual playing on it would not be.
The section does address unlawful gambling establishments, basically prohibiting anyone from promoting them, but playing online poker in your own home would be far away from falling into such a definition. So online poker players in Pennsylvania are as much in the clear as would seem possible, and unlike some other states where it may clearly be illegal to partake in non state licensed gambling, there aren’t any such constraints in this state.
So this is as good as it gets really for online poker players short of actually licensing and regulating it, which could come very soon as lawmakers have been working tirelessly to legalize iGaming here in the past few years. It could very much become a reality VERY SOON that we see tons of licensed PA online casinos and poker sites popping up and providing a much-needed financial boost to the state’s revenue.
Live Poker In Pennsylvania
What state in the U.S. leads in tax revenues from gambling? If you thought it is Nevada, you are wrong. It’s actually Pennsylvania, who has led this race for the past several years (2). They also clearly beat their neighbor to the east, New Jersey, and declining gambling revenues in New Jersey are in large part due to Pennsylvania’s increasing ones.
The billion and a half dollars that the state of Pennsylvania now takes in from gambling tax revenues is hefty indeed, and give you an idea of how big the casino action is there, especially since they added table games in 2010, which coincides with their dramatic increase in revenues.
Permitting table games also permitted poker rooms to open up. Included in all this casino action is live poker as well, although there are only 10 poker rooms in the state, considerably less than some other states.
This list includes Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Mohegan Sun in Wilkes Barre, Parx Casino in Bensalem, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia, Hollywood Casino Penn National In Grantville, Mount Airy Casino in Mt. Pocano, Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Sands Casino in Bethleham, and the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington, PA (3).
The largest of these is the Parx Casino with 61 poker tables, followed by the Sands Casino with 39 tables, Harrah’s Philadelphia with 35 tables, and the Rivers Casino with 30 tables (4). So Pennsylvania may not have a lot of poker rooms but what they do have is plenty of action at them.
Online Poker Legislation In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has yet to pass a bill regulating online poker in the state, but they have introduced a bill which seeks to do just that (5). In the original draft it specifically mentioned poker, but the version that was introduced removed that reference and now seeks to regulate any approved interactive game, leaving the door open for online casino gaming as well.
The folks in Pennsylvania do like their gambling revenue though and they will probably be one of the next states to regulate it. There is some opposition from land based casinos but in the end they will probably decide that adding to their tax revenue base is more important to them than appeasing certain operators who simply are looking to protect their market share.
Pennsylvania is larger than Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware combined, with over 12 million people, and therefore would be the largest state to date to regulate online poker provided that they don’t get passed by a larger state like California or New York, who are also considering it.
Pennsylvania is at the top of most people’s list of which states are most likely to be next in regulating online poker though, and a recent study that they did which allayed concerns that online gambling would cannibalize land based casinos only added to this likelihood.
While this isn’t exactly on the horizon yet and much needs to be done to make this a reality, it is headed there and will probably happen sooner rather than later.
Recommended Online Poker Rooms For Pennsylvanians
While poker players in Pennsylvania wait for online poker regulation, there’s no real reason to wait at all as there are already some very good options for online poker for residents of this state.
Here are our top recommendations for you if you are from Pennsylvania:
Ignition Poker Review: This is PokerLaws.org’s top-rated online poker site that welcomes Pennsylvanians today. They are even more generous with their welcome bonus offer of 100% up to $1,000, and offer some of the best poker software in the industry. The popularity of Zone Poker and anonymous tables is something they’ve brought to the poker world from Bovada, whose software they actually purchased in 2016 and used it to re-brand as Ignition.
America’s Cardroom: America’s Cardroom has been one of the best places for Americans to play online poker for quite a while now, and they welcome residents of Pennsylvania with open arms. They are even looking to bring back some of the glory days of U.S. online poker back with some big tournaments, the kind we haven’t seen in a long time. Overall a very nice poker site with decent traffic and nice promotions, including up to $1,000 in bonus money to welcome you.