Pennsylvania Sports Betting

Pennsylvania is a sports betting state. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course accepted the first wager in state history on Nov. 17, 2018. Since then, Pennsylvanians have received several options to place bets on their favorite teams.

Mobile Sports Betting

Online sports betting is legal in the state. However, no online sportsbooks have launched yet.

That fact will soon change. Six online books are expected to open for business in the first quarter of 2019. The following PA casinos should open online sportsbooks in the next few months:

  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • Parx Casino
  • Rivers Casino
  • SugarHouse Casino
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Valley Forge Casino (opening March or April 2019)

There are a couple of factors that may slow this timeframe, however. The first is the recent opinion from the Department of Justice about the Wire Act.

In its opinion, the DOJ claimed that the Wire Act covers all manner of online gambling, not just sports betting. Even though sports betting was already under its framework, the new opinion might come with a renewed priority on enforcement.

The other delay might come from the sheer backlog of work at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. With the impending release of video gaming terminals and implementation of the online lottery, the PGCB may tell online sportsbooks to wait their turn.

Retail Sportsbooks

Six sportsbooks have opened for business in Pennsylvania so far. They are:

  • Hollywood Casino
  • Rivers Casino
  • SugarHouse Casino
  • Parx Casino
  • South Philadelphia Turf Club 
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia

Hollywood Casino

Hollywood Casino‘s sportsbook opened for business on Nov. 17. It was the first location to open in Pennsylvania.

The sportsbook took the place of the property’s simulcast theater. The sportsbook operates in conjunction with strategic partner William Hill.

The book is open daily, from 11 a.m. until midnight. On weekends, the venue opens at 10 a.m.

The sportsbook, which spans roughly 5,000 feet, includes the following features:

  • 110-inch video wall
  • 36 televisions, with all major sports league subscriptions
  • 6 betting windows

Rivers Casino

The Rivers Casino sportsbook debuted on Dec. 15. Its sister property, SugarHouse Casino, opened its book the same day. Both properties are using Kambi for their software and hardware needs.

The sportsbook is operating in a temporary facility for right now. At the same time, Rivers is renovating the Levels Lounge to be the permanent book.

The temporary facility, however, is 3,000 square feet of space. Within that space, there are:

  • 15 HD televisions
  • 98 sq. ft. video wall
  • Live betting windows
  • Self-service kiosks

SugarHouse Casino

SugarHouse launched its retail sportsbook on Dec. 15. Both it and its fellow Rush Street Interactive property, Rivers Casino, are using Kambi to power their operations.

Like Rivers, SugarHouse is operating its sportsbook in a converted temporary space. The permanent facility is under construction in the former Lucky Red bar, and should open sometime in Spring 2019.

SugarHouse’s sportsbook is a smaller facility, with only 1800 square feet of space. However, there are plenty of features in the venue:

  • Seating for 70
  • 12 HD televisions
  • 98 sq. ft. video wall

Parx Casino

Parx Casino opened the doors on a temporary sportsbook on Jan. 10. The book took over the property’s old 360 Lounge while a permanent facility is finished.

The temporary sportsbook is 3,000 square feet of space. It features the following amenities:

  • 20 75-inch HD televisions
  • 2 144 sq. ft. television screens
  • 7 betting windows
  • 12 self-service betting kiosks

In addition, there are 30 more kiosks distributed throughout the property. So, Parx patrons don’t even have to visit the book to place their bets.

South Philadelphia Turf Club

The South Philadelphia Turf Club is the only sportsbook property in Pennsylvania not in a casino. The venue is an off-track betting parlor only steps away from Philadelphia’s three major sports arenas.

Nevertheless, Greenwood Gaming (which also owns Parx) outfitted the 27,000 square foot facility with $1 million of renovations to bring it up to speed. Some of the new features at SPTC include:

  • Additional televisions
  • 7 teller windows
  • 9 self-service kiosks
  • Modern signs and displays

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Harrah’s Philadelphia is the latest sportsbook to open for customers. Like all but Hollywood Casino, this facility is a temporary one during construction of the permanent venue.

However, the temporary area is likely nicer than some of the permanent ones that are still to come. The interim book features 45 HD televisions and lounge seating.

The permanent area will be even more special. It will encompass 4,300 square feet and feature the following:

  • 40 flat-screen televisions with major sports packages
  • 6 live teller windows
  • 2 horseracing terminals
  • Several self-service kiosks, both inside the book and around the casino

Pennsylvania Sports Betting FAQ

Which casinos have applied for a license?

Valley Forge Casino has a provisional license approved by the PGCB. They just haven’t opened their book quite yet.

Presque Isle Downs has an application on file with the board, but has not received its approval yet. The next opportunity for the Erie-area property to become licensed will be in February 2019.

Why have only half applied after all this time?

The main issue for all these locations is the onerous licensing fee and taxes associated with sports betting. Pennsylvania is requiring a whopping $10 million fee to receive a sports betting license.

In addition, the state also demands a crippling 36% tax on sports betting revenue from any licensed properties. As reported, such a tax would be the highest tax of its kind in the entire world.

The PGCB further squelched some of the profit potential recently with a second set of regulations. In that group of bylaws, licensees are permitted only one skin for their sports betting offerings.

In doing so, the regulations cut out the notion of a third-party operator running its own site through the license of a strategic partner. This inability to buddy up on the license chills the partner’s motivation to make a deal.

What other casinos might file for a license at some point?

Any of the 12 casinos or racinos in the state could potentially offer sports betting. The ones still without an application are:

  • Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin
  • The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
  • Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort
  • Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem

Of those five remaining properties, there probably will not be applications anytime soon from two of them. Lady Luck and the Meadows are owned or operated by Churchill Downs and Penn National, respectively.

Both companies already have sports betting operations or are working to open one at their other properties instate. So, they might see the expense of applying and construction to be too redundant to pursue.

However, one thing to note is that as with Parx, any of the casinos could also offer sports betting at their satellite locations under their licenses. So, OTB parlors and mini-casinos could also offer sportsbooks to patrons.

How old do I have to be in order to bet sports in Pennsylvania?

Any Pennsylvania resident or visitor over the age of 21 can bet sports in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Sports Betting History

2015

Sports betting started rumbling in Pennsylvania in 2015. At the time, the state of New Jersey was three years into a legal battle with the sports leagues regarding its own sports betting desires.

Whether Pennsylvania legislators were keeping track of the case is unknown. Regardless, the ball began rolling with Rep. Rick Kotik‘s introduction of H 1627 in October.

H 1627 sought to repeal the state ban on sports betting. While it didn’t go anywhere legislatively, it set the table for Rep. Rob Matzie‘s H 619 in December.

H 619 had a different focus. It directed its attention at the US Congress, urging the federal legislature to allow states with casino gambling to make their own choices on sports betting.

2016

In January, the House Gaming Oversight Committee passed Matzie’s bill. It then passed the House itself.

However, it had no real authority to cause change – it was more a statement for the record. H 619 also acted as a measuring stick for sports betting support in Pennsylvania.

2017

Emboldened by the success of the bill, Matzie struck again the following January. He introduced H 519.

The reach of the bill far surpassed its predecessors by not only modifying the Pennsylvania constitution, but also creating a regulatory framework for sports betting. The bill also ordered the PGCB to hammer out the specifics of regulation and called for a $5 million fee /18% tax combination on sports betting revenues.

This bill died after committee. H 271 did not.

This bill, a product of Rep. Jason Ortitay, was nominally a bill to fix the state’s gambling hotline. However, a budget deficit in Pennsylvania led to the bill’s transformation into a Christmas Tree bill.

H 271 ended up with seven revisions. Legislators added sports betting on the sixth.

The bill passed the General Assembly on the seventh version. Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law Oct. 30.

And then, the waiting on the Supreme Court began. The wait lasted until May 2018.