Last updated: November 23, 2021.
Pennsylvania is one of the most important states in the country with regard to sports betting and one of the biggest with online gambling. At the time of its debut in 2019, it was the most populous state to offer wagering on sports, and it remains near the top of the list in terms of sports betting states. In fact, it could capture the title of the top sports betting state in terms of monthly handle at some point in the future.
Pennsylvania law mandated rather pricey $10 million fees for licenses and a 36% tax rate on gross revenue for all sports betting in the state. The heavy demands were, at least, partially responsible for a months-long lag between the licensing period’s opening and the first submitted application. Eventually, though, the population of the Keystone State proved to be too alluring to sportsbook operators, and the state is now home to nearly a dozen sportsbook apps and retail sportsbooks at almost every casino location.
As Pennsylvania sports betting has matured, it continues to churn out impressive numbers. Even during slow months, Pennsylvania sports bettors are placing hundreds of millions of dollars in wagers. Although sports betting launches in nearby states like New York and Ohio will bring competition for operators in the Keystone State, Pennsylvania is always going to be a major player in American sports betting. Here’s the latest on what’s happening there.
Top Pennsylvania sports betting apps for 2021
Legal sports betting in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania legalized sports betting as part of a comprehensive gaming expansion in 2017. That law contained an activation clause which was recently met.
The US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban known as PASPA, clearing the way for state-based legislation. Prior to the ruling, Nevada held what amounted to a legal monopoly on single-game wagering in the US.
States are now permitted to set their own laws, and PA is poised to take full advantage of the opportunity to offer sports betting.
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.
PA sports betting falls under the regulation of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The PGCB is responsible for licensing, and the rigorous testing for online sportsbooks before they go live. Compliance and responsible gambling enforcement are also handled by the PGCB.
Best PA sports betting apps in 2021
Mobile PA sports betting launched in May 2019, with SugarHouse Sportsbook first to test its product and go fully live. By 2021, there were more than 10 PA sports betting apps on the market.
The launch was not without its hiccups. For the first two months, it was not possible to access a PA online sportsbook from any iOS device (iPhones and iPads). Some operators now do offer iOS functionality, but it is still a stumbling block for some. It’s always possible to bet from an Android device or desktop/laptop computer.
Below is a list of the top sports betting apps for iOS and Android.
DraftKings Sportsbook App
The leading brand in daily fantasy sports is rapidly expanding into sports betting, and that includes PA. Using the sports betting license of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, DraftKings entered PA at the tail end of 2019 and is competing for the top spot in market share with FanDuel.
Unibet Sportsbook App
A heavyweight in online gambling in Europe, Unibet is quickly getting serious about its aspirations in the US. Partnered with Mohegan Sun Pocono, the Unibet brand is not as well-known around the country or in Pennsylvania, but that could change in a hurry with a marketing push.
Fox Bet Sportsbook App
BetStars became Fox Bet after being acquired by media giant Flutter in 2019, creating one of the more interesting tie-ups between an iGaming company and a media operation. Flutter plans to operate both the FanDuel and Fox Bet brands for the foreseeable future.
FanDuel Sportsbook App
FanDuel Sportsbook PA operates through the license of Valley Forge Casino Resort. The early market leader in New Jersey brings the same app with it to Pennsylvania, with geolocation technology used to determine where the bettor is located. FanDuel offers a risk-free bet up to $1,000 for new signups. FanDuel Sportsbook owns top market share in PA.
BetMGM Sportsbook App
BetMGM Sportsbook PA operates through the license of Hollywood Casino Morgantown, which is expected to open a mini-casino in 2021. The sports betting app offers a variety of markets and regular promotions, including odds boosts. BetMGM is offering up to $1,000 risk-free bet for new signups.
BetRivers Sportsbook App
This brand is associated with the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh; it is also run by Rush Street Interactive and Kambi. You’ll get a matched bonus up to $250 based on your first deposit at the site. BetRivers and SugarHouse are sister sites, looking very similar and offering the same bonus deals.
Sugarhouse Sportsbook App
This brand leveraged its New Jersey experience to get a head start on the competition. SugarHouse’s sportsbook has a social feel, with contests, progress bars for bonuses, and lists of recent winners. You can bet on a huge range of sports on their platform. This was created by Rush Street Interactive and Kambi.
Caesars Sportsbook App
It took far longer than expected but gaming heavyweight Caesars launched its sportsbook app in Pennsylvania in March 2020. Caesars starts behind its rivals but carries a brand name that could help to close the gap quickly in an online-heavy market.
Parx Sportsbook App
Parx — the biggest casino in PA in terms of revenue — has partnered with international giants GAN and Kambi for sports betting. You’ll get a $10 free bet to wager with and check out the site for signing up.
Barstool Sportsbook App
Barstool Sports, the controversial online sports media company, launched in PA in September 2020. Penn National Gaming bought a large stake in Barstool and plans to roll out the brand throughout its large footprint as a regional casino operator.
Latest PA sports betting news
What is legal to bet on in PA?
You can now bet on all pro sports, college games, and international sporting events. The only legal requirements are that you are over 21, inside state lines, and not on a self-exclusion list; this applies to both live and online bets. There is no requirement to be a permanent resident of Pennsylvania.
There are some restrictions for betting:
- Bets can only be taken on sports, not on things like the NFL draft, elections, and the Oscars.
- No bets on esports.
- Personnel involved in sports leagues (officials, coaches, etc.) can’t bet on their own sports
Horse racing is also available, though these are licensed separately. There are three legal online horse betting sites available in PA – along with actual racetracks and OTB facilities.
Top PA sportsbooks at casinos
So far, these casinos have applied to offer sports betting or are live with wagering:
|Hollywood||William Hill||November 16, 2018|
|SugarHouse||Kambi||December 13, 2018|
|Rivers||Kambi||December 13, 2018|
|Parx||Kambi||January 10, 2019|
|South Philadelphia Turf Club||Kambi||January 16, 2019|
|Harrah’s Philadelphia||Scientific Games||January 24, 2019|
|Valley Forge||FanDuel||March 12, 2019|
|Valley Forge Race and Sportsbook||Kambi||March 13, 2019|
|Presque Isle Downs||CDI||July 26, 2019|
|Mount Airy||Fox Bet||September 12, 2019|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||Unibet||September 24, 2019|
|Meadows Racetrack and Casino||DraftKings||October 30, 2019|
How to bet on sports in Pennsylvania
Unless you have traveled to live sportsbooks in Nevada or (more recently) bet online or live in New Jersey – many of the options for sports betting will be new.
Here are the key steps for placing a bet online in Pennsylvania:
- Registration: Once you have decided on a book, you’ll need to register. Only basic information is needed at this stage. This includes your name, email address, the last four digits of your Social Security number and location. Keep in mind that ID checks are needed following a deposit.
- Depositing: Next you’ll need to fund your account. Some books offer free bets for new registrations. There are a lot of simple deposit methods.
- Finding your bets: PA sportsbook apps organize their offering by sport. If you know what sport you want to bet on, it’s easy to navigate there via the launch screen. From there, just scroll till you find the game you want to bet on.
- Placing your bets: You can add several bets to your bet slip. This is located on the right at most books. You can join bets together into parlays, or place single bets here. Add in the amount to bet, confirm that everything is ready, and place your bet.
Sportsbook bonuses in PA
When you first get started at a PA sportsbook, you will be confronted with a variety of offers as they vie for bettors’ attention. The size and competitive nature of the market make it a place where we will continue to see aggressive marketing efforts.
Some of the offers that PA sportsbooks feature:
- Odds boost: Improved odds on certain events that benefit the better.
- Risk-free bet: Often tied to a deposit, a bettor will get site credit up to the amount of their bet if they lose. Usually tied to a first deposit.
- Deposit bonus: Bonus match funds are added to your account to wager upon deposit. The bonus will usually match the deposit amount and require a playthrough before withdrawal.
- No-deposit bonus: Money to wager with that’s not tied to a deposit.
Live betting options at PA sportsbooks
Innovations in online sports betting mean you can now place wagers on games as they occur. This is known as either in-play or live betting.
It works on mobile devices, and certainly adds interest while you are watching a match. The odds will update in real-time as the action unfolds – and you place bets in the usual way.
Some sportsbooks will offer early bet redemption, also known as cash-out betting.
Depositing at PA online sportsbooks
A big advantage of regulated PA sportsbooks is that you can deposit with confidence. Not all of these options are available at all PA online sportsbooks. Withdrawals are usually handled using the same option as your deposit.
Here are the main deposit methods welcomed at online sportsbooks:
- Credit / Debit cards
- Prepaid Cards
- PayPal or Skrill
- Casino Cage Payments
- Wire Payments
How Pennsylvania sports betting compares to other states
Pennsylvania was one of the early adopters of legal sports betting, passing a law in 2017 before rolling out retail betting in 2018 and online betting in 2019.
As such, Pennsylvania has in many ways charted its own course in how it handles online sports betting, although it shares characteristics with other states as well.
PA compared to NY and NJ
Here is a look at how PA compares to of its neighbors, New York and New Jersey, for online betting:
- Online betting options in PA: Pennsylvania has online sports betting, poker and casino, just like New Jersey. New York only has retail sportsbooks, and no legal online gambling options. The presence of online casino and poker provides for a more robust online gambling industry in both NJ and PA.
- Who gets sports betting licenses: Existing gaming licensees are the ones who have the green light to conduct sports betting. In Pennsylvania, that is the companies who operate casinos around the state. In New York, both commercial and tribal casinos can offer sports betting. In New Jersey, the state’s casinos and racetracks are eligible for sports betting licenses, and can allow multiple online brands or skins to operate under that license.
- Number of online sportsbooks: Even though sports betting is tethered to casinos and tracks, both NJ and PA have a fairly robust industry with multiple operators. New Jersey has more than 20 operators and is still growing well after launch; Pennsylvania has more than ten. New York, with only physical betting at retail locations, lags behind here.
- Size of the industry: In the early days of US sports betting, New Jersey has been the largest state in terms of sports betting handle and revenue. NJ had roughly a year head start on PA for launching online sports betting, so the Garden State still leads the way here as the two markets mature. New York, with retail betting only, is a minuscule market until it legalizes online wagering.
- Tax rates and fees: Pennsylvania features the most aggressive tax schedule for gambling of anywhere in the US, and that holds true for sports betting as well, with an effective rate of 36% on gross revenue and $10 million licensing fees. That’s much smaller in New Jersey, which features a tax rate of between 8.5% and 13% on gross revenue. NY taxes gross revenue at 10%.
Most popular sports to bet on in PA
There are a lot of pro sports teams in PA – along with golf and horse racing. If you prefer motorsports, soccer or tennis, there are plenty of betting options for those too.
Betting on pro sports teams in Pennsylvania
With Pittsburgh and Philadelphia having sports teams in different leagues, there is surprisingly little direct rivalry in the Keystone state. For hockey fans, that rivalry is fierce – with both teams in the same conference.
Here are the PA pro sports teams, with some notes on unique bets you can place on them at the newly regulated sportsbooks.
NFL betting in PA
The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers pro football teams play in different conferences and play each other every four years in the regular season. There are a lot of prop bets available for the NFL, including yards-based wagers, first player (or team) to score and totals for both individual matches and all the day’s action.
MLB betting in PA
Again, the two pro teams — the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies — don’t meet too often, thanks to playing in different divisions. Run line and moneyline bets are popular for baseball. Popular prop bets for MLB include strikeouts, hits and the combination ‘runs, hits and errors’ score.
NBA Betting in PA
There is only one pro basketball team in PA – the Philadelphia 76ers. While the team is on the rise after years in the basement of the league, the Sixers haven’t won a title since 1983. Many NBA bets involve spreads, moneylines and totals. Betting for each quarter is also popular.
NHL Betting in PA
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers are both in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have had a lot more success in recent years than the Flyers, so the rivalry has been a bit lopsided Spreads go under the name ‘puck line’ in Hockey. Other unique bets include correct scores, period betting and first goalscorer.
Horse betting in PA
There are six racetracks in Pennsylvania. Three host thoroughbred races, three are harness racing only. You can bet on races from all around the country via simulcast at these tracks. You can also bet at OTB (off track betting) offices – some of which now offer full sports betting alongside horse races.
Horse race betting has been taking place online for quite some time. These bets are not included in the newly regulated sportsbooks. If you place bets at TwinSpires, TVG or BetAmerica, you’ll be entering the pari-mutuel pools, just as you would at the racetracks.
Pennsylvania hosts several graded races each year. The biggest is the Pennsylvania Derby, a Grade 1 race with a $1 million purse. Other big races include the Governor’s Cup, Penn Mile Stakes and Greenwood Cup.
PA revenue and handle
Pennsylvania sports betting revenue will continue to grow in coming years as the market approaches maturity. The size of the state should make it top five state for sports betting no matter who else legalizes it.
It should soon eclipse Nevada sportsbooks in terms of amount wagered and revenue. Someday, it should compete with or surpass the NJ sports betting industry, which is currently the largest in the country.
More on PA sports betting revenue and handle here.
Pennsylvania sports betting history
Pennsylvania should eventually challenge New Jersey as the biggest state for online sports betting. Both states have the added advantage of allowing other forms of online gambling (casino, poker), which has proven to boost the overall market. Pennsylvania also just has a larger population base to draw from and is also playing catch-up with NJ, which was an early adopter of online betting.
A lot of the political support for online sports betting (and other forms of gambling) came from the tax revenues that this activity could generate. All eyes are now on the sites to see if they can match the projections from a 2015 study. With a bigger population (and higher taxes) than New Jersey, there is every chance these targets can be met.
How did sports betting come to the Keystone State? Here’s a look back at the timeline leading to the start:
The online PA sports betting market appeared poised to pace the nation. Nearly 90% of all legal sports betting in PA took place via mobile by March, the highest adoption rate in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed that growth in Pennsylvania, as it did everywhere in the United States. The market continues to recover from the shutdown of US sports leagues.
But with the return of sports in late summer, PA sports betting started hitting new heights.
SugarHouse was first to go live, completing its testing period and launching in May 2019. This sportsbook has experience in New Jersey, using a platform provided by Rush Street Interactive and odds feed from Kambi.
More sportsbook apps quickly followed, with a total of eight by the end of the year. BetRivers joined its sister property shortly after SugarHouse launched, to be followed by DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook within the year as well.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board stated that the process for licensing sports betting would go slowly. Retail sportsbooks first started to open in late 2018 but app betting remained seemingly far off in the distance.
For online betting, the PGCB’s approach involves testing periods, before each website and apps are signed off. That led to operators with robust online presences in New Jersey and other states waiting for PA to clear them for launch.
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
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.
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.
Sports betting FAQ
Read on for questions and answers about PA sports betting:
Is sports betting legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting. The law became active upon repeal of PASPA. Online sports betting went live on May 31, 2019.
Who oversees sports betting in PA?
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has regulatory jurisdiction over the state’s sports betting operations.
Who can apply for a 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
Can I bet on sports on my phone in Pennsylvania?
Yes, as long as you’re physically located within the state’s borders.
Who can bet on sports in Pennsylvania?
Anyone over the age of 21 can legally bet on sports in Pennsylvania.
Are offshore sportsbooks legal in PA?
Offshore sportsbooks that serve customers in PA violate a number of federal laws and state laws. While bettors might not get in trouble for placing a bet an offshore site, all of them do so illegally. Only sportsbooks that have a PGCB logo are legal in PA.
Can I bet on DraftKings Sportsbook in PA?
Yes, the DraftKings Sportsbook app is available in PA. It’s available to place wagers to any 21 years of age who is physically located in the state.
Daily Fantasy Sports contests were regulated as part of the 2017 Gaming Expansion act, and you can legally play DFS at DraftKings.
Can I bet on FanDuel Sportsbook in PA?
Yes. There is already a physical FanDuel Sportsbook at the Valley Forge Casino. A FanDuel Sportsbook app should be live in 2019.