Legal Sports Report

Pennsylvania Sports Betting

Late in 2017, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting as part of a comprehensive gaming expansion.

Single-game wagering remains federally illegal under PASPA, but that ban is currently being challenged in the US Supreme Court. Should the court rule in favor of the states, Pennsylvania could be among the first to offer sports betting since the federal ban was enacted in 1992.

Latest PA sports betting news

Legal sports betting basics in Pennsylvania

The law permits wagering on both professional and collegiate events. Bets can be placed in person, online, or on a mobile device. Bettors must be at least 21 years old.

License applicants are required to pay a one-time fee of $10 million for sports betting. Once granted, the licensee’s revenue is taxed at a rate of 36 percent.

Nobody is offering sports betting in Pennsylvania yet, pending the outcome of New Jersey’s federal court case.

Pennsylvania sports betting FAQ

Is sports betting legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting in 2017. Single-game wagers are still federally illegal under PASPA for now, however.

Who oversees Pennsylvania sports betting?

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has regulatory jurisdiction over the state’s sports betting operations.

Where can I bet on sports in Pennsylvania?

Nowhere currently.

In the future, though, you would be able to bet on sports anywhere within the state. The law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile.

There is no such thing as a legal sportsbook in Pennsylvania at the moment, but that could change relatively quickly. Casinos are permitted to use a temporary betting facility for up to 18 months while they construct a more-permanent sportsbook.

As for mobile bettors, their location would be verified via IP address and/or mobile geolocation to ensure they’re inside the state’s borders when wagering.

Who can apply for a Pennsylvania sports betting license?

The law permits any “slot machine license” to apply for a “sports wagering certificate.” That is, the state’s casinos and racinos.

There are currently 12 of them:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia, Chester
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Grantville
  • Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, Farmington
  • The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, North Strabane Twp.
  • Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Wilkes-Barre
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mt. Pocono
  • Parx Casino and Racing, Bensalem
  • Presque Isle Downs & Casino, Erie
  • Rivers Casino, Pittsburgh
  • Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, Bethlehem
  • SugarHouse Casino, Philadelphia
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort, King of Prussia

Although each of them have the option to apply for a sports betting license, it’s not clear how many will do so. The $10 million entry fee is steep, and the 36 percent tax rate will make it untenable for some.

A 13th casino — Philly Live! — is also on the way. As it will be in the Philadelphia stadium district, it will be a logical choice to house a sportsbook.

Will I be able to bet on sports on my phone in Pennsylvania?

Yes, as long as you’re physically located within the state’s borders.

Who will be able to bet on sports in Pennsylvania?

Anyone over the age of 21 will be able to bet on sports in Pennsylvania.

How much revenue does Pennsylvania sports betting generate?

Currently none.

The potential market is hard to gauge. And if federal law does change to allow sports betting, there could be significant competition in the Northeast, especially. New York and New Jersey are both positioned to allow sports betting in the near future, which could further cap Pennsylvania’s potential revenue.

At this point, it’s too early to tell how many operators will even move into the space, let alone what the revenue numbers might look like under the burdensome 36 percent tax rate.

Pennsylvania sports betting timeline

2017: A sports betting law on the books

Rep. Rob Matzie grabbed the reins on sports betting legislation. In January, he introduced H 519 as a follow-up to Rep. Rick Kotik‘s bill on the same topic. The new bill went several steps further, than its predecessor, though.

In addition to modifying constitutional language, H 519 directed the PGCB to promulgate regulations “establishing the rules and procedures for sports wagering.” It laid out the full skeleton for a legalized and regulated sports betting industry.

The bill included a $5 million licensing fee and an 18 percent tax on revenue. Any effects of the bill were to be on hold until a decision is rendered in Christie vs. NCAA.

The House Gaming Oversight Committee signed off on the bill in April, but that was the end of the road for that particular piece of legislation. The sports betting conversation was far from over, though.

A bill becomes law

While all of that had been going on in the sports betting arena, other lawmakers had been pushing for more comprehensive gaming expansion.

The state was dealing with an enormous budget deficit, at a stalemate on how to fix it. Gaming, and specifically online gambling, was occasionally used as leverage in the discussions. Some saw it as a way to slow the financial leak, and the matter dropped in and out debate over the series of several months.

H 271 ended up being the pivotal piece of legislation.

The bill was introduced in January by Rep. Jason Ortitay. On its surface, it had the modest goal of modifying the state’s problem gambling hotline. Lawmakers indicated that it was hiding much larger ambitions, though.

Rep. George Dunbar said that the bill was intended to be a vehicle for a comprehensive gaming package. “We put in one thing, tablets in airports, and basically said, ‘You load it up with what you want in it,'” Dunbar said.

And load it up they did. The bill went through several changes over the subsequent months, touching on nearly every format of gaming and gambling. In the sixth version, the House added in Matzie’s sports betting provisions for the first time. It went through one more tweak before being passed and concurred by the full General Assembly.

On Oct. 30, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law, officially legalizing sports betting in Pennsylvania, pending a change in federal law

2016: PA bides its time

The following January, the House Gaming Oversight Committee took up Rep. Matzie’s resolution. The committee passed it, and the House subsequently did so, as well.

The resolution didn’t do anything from a practical standpoint, but it put Matzie at the forefront of the state’s sports betting efforts. And the numbers by which it passed were foreshadowing.

2015: Setting the stage for PA sports betting

In 2015, Kotik issued a memo regarding a forthcoming piece of legislation:

In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will legalize sports betting in our Pennsylvania licensed casinos. Sports betting is exceptionally popular in our state and it is going unregulated. The intent of this legislation is to provide our casinos with an alternative form of entertainment, while also, regulating a popular market.

Kotik followed through on Oct. 14, introducing H 1627 into the House. The bill sought to repeal the state’s prohibition on betting on sports.

In December, Matzie spearheaded a resolution aimed at Congress. H 619 urged Congress to repeal the federal ban on sports betting, allowing Pennsylvania and other states to legalize it as they saw fit:

States that already authorize, license and regulate casino gaming are uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting, in all its forms, if they so choose. The time has come for the federal government to allow the state’s to make their own decisions on sports betting.

Matzie had co-sponsored Kotik’s bill, as well.