Current Sports Betting Status: Legal
Pennsylvania passed laws to allow online gaming before the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Lawmakers quickly added sports betting to the law making it one of the first states to enter the market.
The Hollywood Casino operated by Penn National took the states first legal sports bets on November 17.
Seven casinos have paid the $10 million license fee to operate sportsbooks. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has approved five to begin operations:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
- Parx Casino and Racing
- Rivers Casino
- SugarHouse Casino
Greenwood Gaming, owners of the Parx Casino, made a joint application that authorizes sports betting at the casino and the South Philadelphia Turf Club. The PGCB agreed under the condition that betting would not start at the Turf Club until the Parx Casino proves that its new systems work properly.
The remaining sports betting applications came from:
- Presque Isle Downs
- Valley Forge
Valley Forge plans to be ready to launch both live and online sports betting with its partner FanDuel sometime after March 2019.
Unique to Pennsylvania, the state recently underwent a gaming expansion which included provisions for Category IV casino locations, or mini-casinos. These locations are only granted a set number of slot machines and table games, and must be located a minimum distance away from existing casino properties.
Mini-casinos in Pennsylvania also have the option to offer sports betting but so far no plans have been announced.
Off-track betting locations
Pennsylvania also hosts eight off-track betting facilities that offer wagering on simulcast racing events. At first it was not clear what role these locations would play in sports betting. Parx’s application for the South Philadelphia Turf Club suggests that they may well play a role in expanding the market.
Legal Sports Betting apps in Pennsylvania
Like other states currently up and running in legalized sports betting, Pennsylvania law allows anyone inside the state borders to bet online or through mobile devices. By state law, mobile apps must be specifically branded for the land-based casinos they represent. And although they are not there yet, online casinos are anticipated to launch in Pennsylvania in early 2019. So stay tuned…
Taxes may be a problem
Pennsylvania gaming taxes come in at the extortionate end of the spectrum. The tax rate for sports betting is 36 percent, almost triple the 13 percent tax that New Jersey levies on online sports betting.
Nevada charges only 6.75 percent, which makes it likely that the odds quoted by the Las Vegas sportsbooks will not be available in Pennsylvania.
It is the operators that have to pay these taxes. not the bettors, so there is some scope for absorbing the cost. It is an open question as to how many casinos can make a profit given such high tax rates.
On the other hand, there is no shortage of casinos determined to get into the market. Complaints about the tax rate may come from the casinos, but they can probably make it work.