The path is now clear for legalized sports betting. Pennsylvania prepared itself for such a situation. In fact, the Keystone State should be one of the first to offer legalized sports wagering.
Nearby, New Jersey has been at the forefront of the legalization battle for years. Last week’s decision by the US Supreme Court to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 happened because New Jersey fought for states’ rights to legalize and regulate sports betting independently.
So, the question remains for Pennsylvania sports bettors: Where to first?
First of all, betting is still a waiting game
Over the past few years, several states began laying the groundwork in order to hit the ground running if SCOTUS lifted PASPA.
In 2014, for example, New Jersey passed legislation that eliminated provisions banning sports betting at its casinos and racetracks. Last October, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that authorized expanded gaming options in the state, including setting up Pennsylvania to offer legalized sports betting.
Both moves, however, needed one piece to fall into place. That piece came last week when SCOTUS struck down the 26-year-old federal ban.
That said, just because the high court ruled in the states’ favor, it did not make sports betting available right away. At the moment, New Jersey is racing to pass legislation on a regulatory framework to allow casinos and racetracks in the state to offer sports betting. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is still reviewing the SCOTUS opinion. Currently, the state is “unable to provide a timetable” on legalizing sports betting, according to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) spokesman Doug Harbach.
Soon, however, there will be options for sports bettors. So, again: Where to first?
The case for Pennsylvania
Four states prepared for what ultimately became inevitable: SCOTUS clearing the way for states to offer legalized sports betting.
One of them, obviously, was Pennsylvania. The Keystone State boasts 12 casinos that are authorized to accept wagers and a 13th on the way. The new property will be close to the home stadiums of the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers. There should be a natural draw to its sportsbooks. The state’s 2017 bill also provides avenues for mobile and online sports betting, eliminating bettors’ trips to a brick-and-mortar casino.
Still, Pennsylvania’s requirements for offering sports betting are lofty. Any casino that is interested in opening a sportsbook must pay a $10 million licensing fee. On top of that, each casino’s sports wagering revenue would be taxed at a jaw-dropping 36-percent rate. For comparison, New Jersey’s current bill would tax eight percent of gross revenue and 12.5 percent from online betting.
As a result, several companies are hesitating, including Penn National Gaming which runs Hollywood Casino in Grantville.
Naturally, there is still work, collaboration and compromise needed before Pennsylvania can get its sports betting market rolling.
The case for New Jersey
For some seven years, the Garden State did the heavy lifting for states’ rights to offer legalized sports betting. New Jersey spent millions of dollars in legal fees before SCOTUS ultimately ruled in its favor last week. If any state is ready to get in on the wagering action, it’s New Jersey.
Monmouth Park, a racetrack on the Jersey Shore, constructed a sports bar in 2013 with plans on converting it to a sportsbook should this day come. Dennis Drazin, CEO of the company that operates the track, said the venue could start taking bets in a couple weeks, if not sooner. To give Monmouth Park some credibility, it brought in European and Nevada sportsbook operator William Hill to run the sportsbook.
Several casinos in Atlantic City are primed to get into the game, as well. These casinos and casino companies are all taking steps toward offering sports betting:
- MGM Resorts/Borgata
- Golden Nugget
A recent provision to a New Jersey Senate bill, however, could put a damper on those plans. The provision would prevent casino operators who also own sports franchises from being authorized to accept wagers. MGM, which also runs Borgata, owns the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. Caesars is owned by a company whose founder has a stake in the 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. Finally,Golden Nugget’s owner also owns the Houston Rockets.
It is only a proposal, however. Theoretically, those four casinos, as well as incoming Ocean Resort Casino, will offer sports betting some time this summer.
So, where to first?
For the eager sports bettor, keep your eyes on New Jersey. At the forefront of legalized sports betting from the get-go, Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the east is primed to roll out a regulatory framework potentially within the next few weeks. The Garden State is eager to breathe new life into Atlantic City. Certainly, New Jersey wants to get the ball rolling lickety-split.
Pennsylvania, meanwhile, may not be far behind. Though there is still plenty of work to do. Consider, though, that when table games were approved to be implemented within Pennsylvania’s slots-only casinos in 2010, it took six months for the games to go live. The state also feels a sense of urgency to offer legalized sports betting, mostly in part due to the zeal of its casinos to get into the action as soon as possible.