Sports betting in Pennsylvania was legalized before the PASPA ruling in May of 2018. However, the law contained an activation clause that wasn’t met until that ruling, effectively allowing for legal sports betting in Pennsylvania.
License applicants in Pennsylvania were required to pay a one-time fee of $10 million for sports betting, by far the largest in the country. Once the license was granted, the licensee’s revenue was taxed at a rate of 36 percent, again, the highest in the country.
As of January 2019, sports betting is only available at physical sportsbooks. Online and mobile applications in Pennsylvania are expected to be up sometime in early 2019. The law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting History
Sports betting in Pennsylvania actually got a small start in 2015. Representative Rob Matzie was at the head of resolution aimed at Congress to repeal the federal ban on sports betting to allow Pennsylvania and other states to legalize it as they see fit.
In January 2016, the House Gaming Oversight Committee took up Matzie’s resolution. Both the committee and the House passed it. Although the resolution didn’t do much at the time, it did put Matzie at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s legal sports betting efforts.
The following January, in 2017 Matzie introduced H519. Not only did the bill modify the constitutional language, but it directed the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to promulgate regulations “establishing the rules and procedures for sports wagering.” The bill laid out the full plan for a legalized and regulated sports betting industry.
Any effects stemming from the bill would be put on hold until the verdict was rendered in Christie vs NCAA. Although the Housing Gaming Oversight Committee signed off on the bill in April, that was the end for this particular piece of legislation.
With the state dealing with a huge budget deficit, lawmakers were looking for a way to slow the leak. For several months the debate around gaming and online gaming went back and forth on whether or not it could be a solution to the budget problem.
Eventually, H271 ended up being the piece of legislation that changed the game in Pennsylvania.
Originally introduced in January 201 by Representative Jason Ortitay, H271 was used as a way to introduce comprehensive gaming packages into the state. The bill eventually went through numerous changes over the next few months.
By the sixth version, the House added in Matzie’s sports betting provisions. After one more change, the bill was passed.
On October 30, 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law, which officially legalized sports betting in Pennsylvania, pending a change in the federal law.
Where To Bet In Pennsylvania
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course was the first sportsbook to open in Pennsylvania. Opening in November 2018, the sportsbook is run by William Hill. Hollywood Casino is located in Grantville, just outside of Harrisburg.
- Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh opened up in December 2018. Rush Street Interactive and Kambi power their sports betting operations.
- SugarHouse Casino opened its sportsbook on the same day as sister casino, Rivers. The Philadelphia sportsbook is run by Rush Street Interactive and Kambi as well.
- Parx Casino was the first to open in 2019. Located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, this casino features both betting windows and kiosks. Kambi operates here as well.
- South Philadelphia Turf Club is located near all four major sports teams in Philadelphia. This Kambi powered betting shop opened in mid-January 2019.
- Harrah’s Philadelphia is the newest sportsbook to join Pennsylvania. Opening in late January 2019, Harrah’s Philadelphia is a Caesars-owned property.
Two more casinos in Pennsylvania have applied for sports betting licenses and are expected to be operational in the near future. Valley Forge is teaming up with FanDuel Sportsbook while Presque Isle Downs is partnered with CDI.
There are five other casinos in Pennsylvania that are eligible to apply for a sports betting license but have yet to do so.
- Lady Luck Casino in Farmington
- The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington
- Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre
- Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mt. Pocono
- Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem
Pennsylvania Sports Betting Numbers
In the six weeks that Pennsylvania has had legal sports betting the numbers have been modest to start. Once more casino sportsbooks become operational and eventually online and mobile betting, Pennsylvania is expected to have some of the highest numbers in the country, outside of Nevada.
In November of 2018, only the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course had an operational sports book, and only for two weeks. In that short time, they managed to pull in $1.41 million in wagers (handle). That resulted in just under $509,000 of revenue, for a hold percentage of an astounding 36 percent.
In December of 2018, Rivers and SugarHouse joined the party. In the state’s first full month of sports betting, it saw a total handle of $16.17 million. That led to $2 million in revenue for a hold percentage of 12.4 percent.
Those numbers totaled up to $17.58 million in handle, for a revenue of just over $2.5 million, which comes out to 14.2 percent hold.
While most states compared their expected hold percentage to that of what Nevada traditionally brings in, which is 5 percent, Pennsylvania has started out almost three times higher. Although handle is expected to increase with more casinos and the eventual implementation of mobile and online betting in 2019, the hold percentage should lower from the short sample size of 14.2 percent as time goes on.