Buttons mash, guns blast and hearts race. Esports contests are already filled with action, but if a Pennsylvania representative gets his wish, they will soon gain even more.

PA state representative Ed Neilson (D-Philadephia) recently issued a memo to his colleagues suggesting that PA should “quickly add esports to its gaming portfolio.”

PA esports betting could lose ground to other states

Neilson seems to worry that his home state might fall behind others that have been quicker to embrace esports betting. In the memo, Nielson writes:

“Pennsylvania needs to be certain that our gaming industry is properly positioned so as not to lose its share of the market to surrounding states.”

A number of states have legislation in place that explicitly allows for esports betting. Those include:

  • Colorado
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Tennessee

PA is among a handful of other states that is approaching a more formalized policy on esports. Certainly, Neilson would like to see that come to fruition.

PA gaming law does not prohibit esports gambling

At present, Pennsylvania’s wagering law does not forbid esports betting. Thus, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board had to make a decision on the topic and has ruled that allowing wagers on esports doesn’t “meet with the legislature’s intent of what constitutes a sporting event.”

So esports bets are off-limits at least for now.

That’s where Neilson comes in. In the memo he sent to other representatives, Nielson noted that the esports business took in $1.1 billion worldwide in 2022 and is predicted to soon realize a $1.8 billion global value.

Adding esports as an offering at Pennsylvania sportsbooks would secure a piece of that market and also reach a new demographic of bettors.

A bill that would clear the way for esports wagering rests with the PA House Judiciary Committee. But the committee hasn’t taken any votes on it.

PA is primed to be an esports hub

However, the momentum to adopt the bill should continue to build. Other states will likely keep moving in that direction and perhaps will do so even quicker. Neighboring New Jersey has already accepted esports wagers on a few events and should continue to do so.

Furthermore, Philadelphia will soon open an arena that is perfectly designed for esports events. The city is also home to a franchise in the Overwatch League, the Philadelphia Fusion.

The Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers also have esports partnerships in place.

Philadelphia emerges as an esports hotspot

Nerd Street recently opened the first-ever esports and gaming campus in the United States on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.

Localhost (powered by Nerd Street esports arena) will host pro gaming events and will also be available to the public for hourly gameplay, tournaments and summer camps.

“The goal of the facility is to make Philadelphia the most competitive esports city in the country as we are with traditional sports,” Nerd Street Gamers CEO John Fazio said previously to PlayPennsylvania.

It is hard to imagine Philadelphia’s burgeoning esports scene not allowing wagers on its events, especially when other states are doing just that.

In addition, the esports-designed facilities sprouting up in Philadelphia and beyond will likely legitimize the push toward legalized wagering on those events.

Those locations will have uniform internet speeds, as well as consistent systems and peripherals that can create fair and regulated environments essential elements when it comes to betting.

How soon could PA esports betting get the green light?

The timetable is still uncertain. But Neilson has the desire and many others have the confidence that esports wagering will eventually arrive here in PA.

Perhaps Wayne Kimmel, Managing Partner of SeventySix Capital, one of Nerd Street’s early investors, said it best. He previously told PlayPennsylvania:

“It’s still early all across the United States. When the time is right, there will be betting on these games. It’s coming but not yet.”

Wayne Parry / AP