Pennsylvania Sports Betting

On Nov. 17, 2018, the first Pennsylvania sportsbook opened its doors at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA.

Now Pennsylvania has three sportsbooks to choose from though. Rivers Casino and SugarHouse Casino.

It is an exciting step. Pennsylvania became the seventh state with regulated sports betting. But the best is very much yet to come, and people want to know when it is coming. So let’s answer some key questions about the new PA sports betting industry.

Is sports betting really legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes, it is. Pennsylvania legalized sports betting in October 2017, should the federal law against sports betting change. That change came when the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional in May of 2018.

Where can you bet on sports?

So far, there are three brick and mortar sportsbooks in the state:

  • Hollywood Casino
  • Rivers Casino
  • SugarHouse Casino

Parx Valley Forge, Presque Isle Downs, and Harrah’s Philadelphia plan to have sportsbooks as well, but they will not open until 2019. Parx and Harrah’s think they could be up and running in January 2019. The other two still need conditional approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to move forward.

Additionally, Parx’s off-track betting parlor South Philadelphia Turf Club will have a retail book in 2019.

Here is where each sportsbook’s progress stands:

CasinoPGCB Approval DateRetail Sportsbook LaunchOnline Sportsbook Launch
Hollywood Casino at Penn NationalOct. 3Nov. 17, 2018Q1 2019
Parx Casino SportsbookOct. 3January 2019Q1 2019
South Philadelphia Turf ClubOct. 3Q1 2019 (after Parx)N/A
Rivers CasinoOct. 31Dec. 15, 2018Q1 2019
SugarHouse CasinoOct. 31Dec. 15, 2018Q1 2019
Harrah's PhiladelphiaOct. 31Early 2019Q1 2019
Valley Forge CasinoPendingN/AN/A

When can I bet online?

Unfortunately, we have no concrete date for online betting. The best guess is early in 2019. The PA Gaming Control Board (PGCB) wants casinos to get retail up and running before they will consider online betting.

Do I have to live in Pennsylvania to bet?

No. Players need to be in the state when placing bets online, but they do not need to reside in PA in order to have an account on a betting app.

The apps can figure out whether or not you are in the state by using geolocation technology that will pinpoint your location before you are allowed to bet.

How old do I have to be to bet?

The minimum age to bet is 21 years old.

How will online sports betting work?

Just because PA legalized sports betting does not mean those off-shore gambling sites are suddenly legal. Only sites regulated and licensed by the PGCB are allowed.

Once it launches, online betting will be available on your phone as well as on your computer via both sports betting apps and browser-based sites.

How do you get money on and off a PA sports betting app?

What is not clear yet is if you will have to go to the sportsbooks in person first in order to deposit money on the account.

If it is like New Jersey, you will be able to do all of your banking directly through the app without a trip to the casino. These are some of the deposit and withdrawal options to expect:

  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards
  • eWallets
  • Bank transfers
  • eChecks
  • Prepaid cards
  • Cash at the cage

More about PA sports betting

Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos and racinos can apply for sports betting operators licenses. Approved applicants will be allowed to open up a temporary betting facility for up to 18 months as they construct permanent sportsbooks.

The regulations being put in place by PGCB should provide more information regarding online and mobile wagering. However, online sports betting will only be allowed from inside the state. Wagerers locations will be verified through IP address confirmation and geolocation.

Who oversees sports gambling?

PGCB has regulatory jurisdiction over sports betting in PA. It is responsible for setting up regulations to govern sports gambling, issuing licenses to sports betting operators, and overseeing all sports betting operations and activity.

Who can apply for a Sports Wagering Certificate?

The new sports betting law in the state only allows slot machine license holders to apply for Sports Wagering Certificates. These Sports Wagering Certificate allow holders to open up a sportsbook and take bets.

There are currently six casinos that applied for a sports betting license. However, the application process is an open one, which means there is no deadline for casinos to apply for the license.

How much money will sports gambling generate?

It’s impossible to say how large the market will be for legal sports betting in PA.

There will certainly be significant competition from neighboring states. New York and New Jersey are both planning to open up legal and regulated sports betting markets of their own.

Additionally, the 36 percent tax in PA could limit the size of the market. Competitors paying fewer taxes could offer more value to PA gamblers, drawing them outside the state and hurting the local market substantially.

In May 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down the law that made sports betting illegal pretty much everywhere outside of Nevada. It also upheld a 2014 New Jersey law aimed at allowing sports betting in casinos and racetracks by a vote of 6-3, opening the door to legal and regulated sports betting all across the country.

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed sports betting legislation as part of a comprehensive gambling expansion plan approved in October 2017. The sports betting side of the law was simply awaiting a change in federal law. That change came May 14, 2018, with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Federal ban on sports betting lifted

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said in the written decision that the federal ban on sports betting infringed upon state sovereignty and was unconstitutional. He said states should be able to make their own choices when it comes to sports gambling, and that’s exactly what Pennsylvania plans to do.

The board issued a statement once the Supreme Court decision was released, saying gaming board staff would begin drafting the appropriate regulations immediately before ultimately seeking the board’s approval of them.

History of sports betting law in PA

It has already been a few years since Pennsylvania started considering legal, regulated and taxed sports betting.

In 2015. Rep. Rick Kotik introduced legislation aimed at legalizing sports betting at PA casinos. Kotik saw the popularity of illegal sports betting in PA and touted the need to regulate and tax it.

Rep. Rob Matzie co-sponsored the bill and put together a resolution in December 2015 asking Congress to repeal the federal ban on sports betting. A move that would ultimately allow states to make their own decisions on sports betting.

The PA House passed the resolution in January 2016, but the bill really went no further.

In January 2017 Matzie introduced new sports betting legislation to the House. It was a follow-up to Kotik‘s original 2015 bill, but it went even further.

This bill changed the constitutional language involved and directed the PGCB to create regulations including rules and procedures for sports betting in PA.

The bill asked for a $5 million licensing fee from PA casinos and racinos interested in building sportsbooks. It also called for an 18 percent tax on sports betting revenue.

The bill got approval from the House Gaming Oversight Committee in April, but never went to vote in either branch of the PA legislature.

PA gambling expansion

Soon, PA began considering several different gambling expansion initiatives. This included online gambling, video gaming terminals, and online lottery sales.

Lawmakers started putting together comprehensive gambling expansion legislation for PA adding in all these measures.

It went back and forth between the House and Senate several times, with a reworking of Matzie’s sports betting legislation added to the sixth version of the bill.

The legislature ultimately passed the seventh version and Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law on Oct. 30, 2017. It still included sports betting legislation pending a change in federal law.

That meant sports betting was officially legal in Pennsylvania, pending a change in federal law that came on May 14, 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled PASPA unconstitutional.