PA sports betting

Pennsylvania has been scrambling – and struggling – to entice its 12 (soon-to-be 13) casinos to offer legalized sports betting within its borders.

The Keystone State has long wanted to be among the first crop of states to roll out regulated wagering after the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May.

The problem, however, has been the astronomical tax rates and licensing fees that Pennsylvania has demanded from its eligible properties.

As a result, no casino has applied for a sports betting license. Yet there does not seem to be much concern for legalized sports betting to come to Pennsylvania by football season.

Odds favor Pennsylvania sports betting by kickoff

According to a New Castle News story that ran Monday, one online bookmaker, actually laid odds on PA unveiling its sports betting industry by Sept. 1: -200 for yes, +150 for no.

In other words: Bet $200 to get $100 for yes, bet $100 to win $150 for no. Essentially, regulated wagering in PA is a favorite.

As part of a 2017 gambling expansion bill, sports betting was expected to go live in Pennsylvania in 2018. State lawmakers, however, have implemented a jaw-dropping 36 percent tax on sports betting revenue on top of a required $10 million for casinos to obtain a sports betting license.

For weeks, casinos and bookmakers have lamented the costs, frequently noting how the industry will not thrive – or even begin – with these heightened fees.

Still, PA lawmakers remain optimistic that sports betting will kick off once football season does the same. Why?

Fear of missing the sports betting boat, for one

State Rep. Tedd Nesbit, a member of the House gaming oversight committee, recognized that regulators cannot be too greedy with the costs required to offer sports betting.

Still, he said, the pressure to get the industry in place is high.

“We need to implement it as quickly as possible,” he said, “to maximize the opportunity for revenue while being cautious to make sure we do it right.”

Unsurprisingly, state Rep. Robert Matzie, who championed the PA sports betting bill, has remained adamant that the industry will get going in time for the NFL season. Now, however, he has a precedent of sorts.

After all, there was similar disinterest for the state’s online gambling licenses. Yet an 11th-hour push by casinos – six submitted bids on the final day of the application period – gave the state nine properties that applied for online gambling.

“I think they will all participate and would be shocked if they didn’t,” Matzie said last month. “In sports-crazy Pittsburgh and sports-crazy Philadelphia, you’re going to see it bring a lot more people into the casino, watching the big-screen TVs, and when they get those people in the door to bet they’ll also hopefully drop money at the tables or in the slots.”

What’s next for PA sportsbooks?

The PA Gaming Control Board will meet in August to potentially finalize details for regulated sports betting. There are still no applicants for sports betting licenses in the state.

Matzie, though, has not wavered. The market for wagering is untapped and could be fruitful.

“No matter how the economy’s going, whether it’s in recession or booming,” Matzie said, “the one business that never goes out of business is the casino.”