Online Poker an Afterthought as Pennsylvania Gambling Revenue Tops $400M in August

4 min read

Pennsylvania gambling revenue has again exceeded $400 million in one month.

PokerStars Pennsylvania
The king of online poker is still PokerStars (Image: PokerStars)

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the strength of Pennsylvania’s gambling market should attract more online gambling operators. He credited the emergence of online gambling in Pennsylvania as the reason that the $400 million mark should be the expectation.

But online poker wasn’t mentioned once during the Sept. 15, board meeting.

“Reaching that plateau of $400 million a month in gaming revenues on a consistent basis reflects that such an accomplishment is now the norm,” he said in his report for August. “Additionally, with this record of generating gaming revenue, brings Pennsylvania more and more companies that want to participate in our jurisdiction in the online gaming and sports wagering markets.”

The full report will be released by Pennsylvania’s Gambling Control Board sometime next week, which will break down online poker earnings for August. 

Poker as an afterthought?

July’s online poker revenues show that PokerStars’ market share continues to erode as Pennsylvania’s online poker market expands.

Mt. Airy, PokerStars partner casino, paid $10 million for its online gambling license, which included sports and casino gambling. PokerStars, operating in Pennsylvania for 18 months now, already generated more than $56 million. Not a bad bet, is it? 

In the last four months, three new sites began operating in Pennsylvania: BetMGM, Borgata, and WSOP. They have eaten into PokerStar’s revenue while increasing Pennsylvania’s overall poker revenue slightly. 

In July, PokerStars pulled-in $2 million, BetMGM $290,000, WSOP $240,000, and Borgata, $84,000, bringing total poker revenue to $2.6 million. BetMGM and Borgata combine their player pool using partypoker software, with only the “skins” being different.

It’s going to be interesting to see just how large Pennsylvania’s online poker market can grow. PokerStars’ revenue peaked in April 2020 at $5.2 million. To compare, New Jersey’s July online poker revenue was $3.1 million, but hit $4.8 million in June, beating Pennsylvania despite having 2 million fewer players who are eligible to play online poker.

Online poker players could be the beneficiaries of more competition in the Pennsylvania poker market. Already, WSOP and PokerStars have run competing online series, with guarantees in the millions this month. The WSOP lost money on several of these events by having to overlay $22,000 across four tourneys. 

Poker sites struggle for traction

If the three sites want to compete hard for the poker market, they’re going to have to step up their games in a serious way. For example, one of the big attractions for online poker players is being able to turn a small amount of money into a pile they can’t see over. But with online poker revenues steadily rolling in, the sites may have trouble finding the motivation to make improvements that their poker consumers want. 

Since the beginning of online poker, the tale of Chris Moneymaker turning $86 into $2.5 million and a WSOP Main Event championship has been used to hook many players. Now, hardly a satellite can be found. 

The sites seem to be dedicated to running short, fast-action novelty games like WSOP’s Blast, which provides terrible odds and which run for only a few minutes. PokerStars also runs a version of tournaments, which they pimp as one of the main tabs on its client.

The lack of Sit-N-Go options across the sites can also depress even the most medicated player. There simply aren’t enough players to fill the seats. Yet, the sites are hardly doing anything to attract players in Pennsylvania.

It’s obvious that the casinos are very happy with the massive amount of online slots, table games, and sportsbook revenue being generated. That means online poker will most likely be neglected.

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