Editor’s Note: Several views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of PA Online Casino.
Unfortunately, legal esports betting in PA is still restricted, but it may not be for much longer.
Just last week New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement gave approval to the Esports Entertainment Group to accept bets on competitive esports events. Although it doesn’t mean PA esports will follow suit, it is a step in the right direction.
As of June 4, 2023, you can’t legally bet on any of your favorite games in the esports industry. Not League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Dota 2, Rocket League, Overwatch… NOTHING.
But why? The popularity of esports has increased significantly in the state, and Pennsylvania has already welcomed multiple esports enterprises. Statista projects also show that esports viewership in the US will reach approximately 46 million by 2023.
So what’s the hold-up, and when will we be able to hit that unpause button and bet legally on esports in PA?
Esports Betting In Pennsylvania: Still Loading…
Although the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board believes the scope of sports wagering in Pennsylvania does not cover esports betting, it’s not GAME OVER just yet.
In June 2021, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives introduced legislation that would legalize esports betting in PA. However, state regulators must give their approval before PA sportsbooks can begin accepting bets.
I feel state leaders love money more than they will hate having to refer to video gamers as “pro athletes”. The PA sports betting handle in January 2021 hit a record-breaking $615.3 million. That’s enough cha-ching to keep everyone happy. Now, imagine that number after adding esports into the mix.
That’s what gamers would call a… Flawless Victory!
In my humble opinion, it’s not ‘will they approve’ it’s ‘when they approve’. So like everything else in today’s age, it turns into an unnecessary waiting game. But we’ll be constantly updating this page with any potential fresh news stories or rumors. So don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know.
Ask Yourself This: Esports a Sport?
Why do I ask this? Well, Pennsylvania struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018 when sports betting became legal and then created a more restrictive law specific to the state of PA. That law states that betting can only take place on “sporting events.”
So I ask again. Do you believe esports qualifies as a sporting event?
In my opinion, I feel it does. Listen, I get it. There’s no ball or physical exertion, but that can be said for a variety of events that are still considered sports. I wouldn’t necessarily call professional gamers “athletes” but the doesn’t mean the competition of esports does not qualify as a “sport”. Just like poker, fishing, or competitive eating.
I feel a competition or event becomes worthy of being called a sport when competitors have the ability to compete and perform at the highest possible level with the possibility to climb to greatness or fall to defeat.
Does esports fall into that category? Again, I’d like to think so.
Unfortunately, my opinion doesn’t mean squat. The opinion of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is the only one that seems to matter right now, and they feel esports events don’t “meet with the legislature’s intent of what constitutes a sporting event.”
I’m not saying these regulators should ignore what they believe and approve the bill just to reap the financial rewards and appease the masses, but I think most esports fans just want them to have an open mind when making their final decision.
If they haven’t already, maybe they should try to attend a live esports event. Experience what it’s like firsthand in order to get a different perspective. Doing so may not make them change their mind one way or another, but at least they would feel more confident in their overall decisions moving forward.
Lawmakers Lack The Information & Knowledge They Need To Decide
Something needs to change, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. A recently updated Play Pennsylvania esports article featured a man who recognized the evolution of competitive gaming before many knew it existed.
Bill Thomas, the current PA Esports Coalition director recalls noticing esports “in the peripheral” of the gaming industry when he worked as a staffer in the PA Legislature. Even now, he says legislators are uncertain what exactly esports entails.
“When I went to the private sector, I always had it in my mind to want to bring Pennsylvania ahead of where other states were, knowing that this was the next big thing happening in gaming. It was not that lawmakers “rebuffed” the idea of regulating esports,” Thomas said. “It was more a matter of lack of information. ”
Thoman believes even now, legislators are still uncertain what exactly esports is all about.
“We want government to be a partner in this, to understand its value,” He said. “When they don’t understand something, they tend not to engage in that particular venture. We want them to engage and be supporters. We think the opportunities are there, and they just need to be educated.”
As we wait for legislators to decide, Thomas will remain on the front lines educating the masses on the facts about the new era of video game competitions & the benefits of esports betting in Pennsylvania.
“There is a talent aspect to this,” Thomas said. “These aren’t kids in the basement of their parents’ house not wanting to go outside. It’s a social aspect now … to where kids are working together and learning and they each have roles as part of the game. But it’s often demonized, which is another reason we need to start talking about it because I don’t think people understand that this isn’t the stigma that computer gaming has had in the past. It’s a whole new thing.”
Featured image credit: Mary Altaffer & Otto Kitsinger – AP