PokerStars finally has competition

PokerStars’ online poker monopoly in Pennsylvania is about to be broken up. On Tuesday, BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker initiated their soft launches in the Keystone State and should be up and running in full later this week.

BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker are skins of the partypoker US Network (at least that is what it is called in New Jersey), running partypoker’s software and sharing a player pool. So while the number of Pennsylvania online poker rooms has jumped from one to three, it is effectively just two rooms total, as BetMGM and Borgata are one in the same, except for the name.

The soft launch was originally supposed to commence at 9:00am, but was pushed back to 2:00pm. As of this writing at 4:00pm ET, there are no public tournaments or cash games active, though the software is available for download. In fact, it does not look like registration is open yet. The only games running are what look to be a couple small, private test tournaments. With a major technology launch such as this, it is always possible that it gets moved back a day. We shall see.

UPDATE: As of 6:00pm, public games are live!

Once things get going, the standard public test run, as deemed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, is two days. Typically, hours of operation are limited during these soft launch periods, but reports in the industry are that BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker will run around the clock even during the testing days. As such, the experience for players should be almost identical to what it will be after the official launch.

Waiting for interstate poker

Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest state in terms of population, according to the latest estimates, with about 12.8 million residents. Considering New Jersey has about 8.9 million residents and the three poker rooms/networks are co-existing, Pennsylvania should be plenty big enough to support both PokerStars and BetMGM/Borgata.

PokerStars currently has a seven-day average of 325 cash game players, according to PokerScout and has run successful tournament series since its launch in early November 2019.

Of course, what poker players are going to wonder for a while is will players in other states have the opportunity to play against each other? BetMGM and Borgata are currently only part of their own intrastate network in New Jersey, along with partypoker NJ.

New Jersey is also part of the country’s only interstate online poker network with Delaware and Nevada. WSOP.com/888poker has sites in all three states, which are linked up so they can share player pools. But that’s it. While Pennsylvania can team up with other states, it has not yet, so players on BetMGM and Borgata Poker will have to be content to play against people within the state.

If Pennsylvania eventually does enter into an interstate compact with the other states, both PokerStars and the partypoker US Network can go national.

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