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?
Well, nowhere just yet.
Hopefully, that will change soon. There are 12 casinos or racinos located within the state, and all are permitted to apply for a sports betting license.
Which casinos have applied for a license?
So far, the only companies to apply for a license are Penn National and Greenwood Gaming.
Penn National was the first applicant in the state on Aug. 17. The application would allow sports betting to proceed at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.
Penn National also owns The Meadows Casino. However, the company has yet to file for that property.
The other company to file an application, Greenwood Gaming, is the parent company for Parx Casino and Racing. Along with the app for its main property, Greenwood applied to offer sports betting at its South Philadelphia Turf Club, an off-track betting venue.
The latter may seem like an odd choice. However, South Philadelphia Turf Club is located within a half-mile from all three of Philadelphia’s major sports facilities. As such, the potential for traffic from sports bettors is too high to ignore.
Why so few?
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 Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board 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.
Well, where will I be able to bet once they start approving the applicaitons?
The three locations (Hollywood Casino, Parx Casino, and South Philadelphia Turf Club) will be the first available spots. However, any of the 12 casinos or racinos in the state could potentially offer sports betting. The other ones are:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin
- The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
- Mount Airy Casino Resort
- Presque Isle Downs & Casino
- Rivers Casino
- Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem
- SugarHouse Casino
- Valley Forge Casino Resort
A 13th location, Philly Live!, is currently under construction. Its owners expect to open the location in 2020.
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.