By virtue of a 2017 gambling expansion law within the state and a fateful US Supreme Court decision in May 2018, Pennsylvania became one of seven states to legalize sports betting.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting FAQ
Great! Where can I bet on sports in Pennsylvania?
There are now three active sportsbooks in Pennsylvania. They are:
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course – opened Nov. 15
- Rivers Casino – opened Dec. 3
- SugarHouse Casino – opened Dec. 3
Which casinos have applied for a license?
Obviously, the three sportsbooks in operation have their licenses secured. Four others in the state have applied for their licenses and are in various stages of the process.
Two of them have received conditional approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. They are:
- Parx Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
Incidentally, Parx’s application included provisions for both its casino and one of its off-track betting facilities, the South Philadelphia Turf Club.
The latter may seem like an odd choice. However, the parlor is located within a half-mile from all three of Philadelphia’s major sports facilities.
Neither of these casinos has opened its sportsbook yet. However, the only thing stopping either one is its own preparation, not licensing issues. So, launches could come quickly and at any time.
The other two casinos are still waiting on their approvals from the PGCB. They are:
- Presque Isle Casino
- Valley Forge Casino
It is possible that Valley Forge could receive its approval at the PGCB’s upcoming meeting. However, Presque Isle probably won’t be cleared until early 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.
Is mobile wagering available in Pennsylvania?
Not yet, but soon. You will be able to wager as long as you are within the state borders.
Who can bet in Pennsylvania?
Anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to bet sports in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting History
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.
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.
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.