Pennsylvania Makes Sports Betting Moves

Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

After a lengthy process that involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, Pennsylvania has finally given the go-ahead to sports betting. iGaming has also received favorable legislative changes that will no doubt attract a lot of interested parties to the state.

History of gambling in Pennsylvania

Various forms of gambling have always been popular in Pennsylvania: Casino gambling, horse racing, state lottery, bingo, and various games of chance have been run by certain groups, such as non-profits. A bill was passed in October 2017 that made online gambling legal in the state.

While casinos have been legal in Pennsylvania for just over one decade, the state is behind only Nevada in casino revenues.

Gambling has always been seen as a way that the state can raise revenue that can then be put towards job creation, budget deficits, and economic growth. The state lottery was founded in 1971, and most of the funds bet on the lottery go toward caring for elderly residents.

After the introduction of the state lottery, there was constant pushing from casinos to get a bill passed to legalize them. There were numerous failed attempts throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Extensive polling showed that gambling was largely unwanted in the state during these periods because there was widespread apprehension about its benefits. After looking at Nevada, many people concluded that gambling activities could negatively impact society in a substantial way through criminal activity or corruption.

Headway was finally made in the state on legalized gambling when Act 71 was passed in 2004. Act 71 was called the Pennsylvania Racehorse Development and Gaming Act. This created the state’s Gaming Control Board and made racetracks and casinos legal in the state.

The horse racing side of things instantly was an industry that could create employment for thousands of people as well as increase taxation revenues. Gambling became more accepted among residents of the state as newer generations began to reach the legal age and gambling was seen as more acceptable.

There was also less criminal involvement in the gambling industry as these companies became publicly traded and more transparent. In the very first year that these casinos operated, seven establishments generated tax revenue of almost $766m (£602m).

This proved to be such a lucrative move for the state that people began calling for the laws to be expanded. A bill in 2017 that proposed the creation of ten mini-casinos and expanded the scope for gambling at places such as airports and truck stops.

As of 2016, the racing and casino industry employed nearly 18,000 people. The sector generates over $1.4bn (£1.1bn) annually in tax revenues for the state.

Latest developments in Pennsylvania

New regulations have now been approved by the Gaming Control Board that will allow sports betting to finally get going in the state. This should mean that sports betting will be offered in the very near future, but more than likely it won’t be ready in time for the beginning of the NFL season.

This is because the dozen casinos in the state with licenses have not yet applied for sports betting licenses. The gaming board also will not have its next meeting until September 12. The proposed fee for sports betting licenses in the state has been set at $10m (£7.9m).

There has been a lot of disquiet about the very high tax rate that was placed on sports betting, 36%, but it is expected that most of the casinos will offer it. More than likely, they were waiting to see what the rules would look like in their final form before committing.

A couple of casinos have already entered into partnerships for their sports betting offerings despite not having yet applied for a license. Parx Casino has entered into a partnership with the London based GAN to operate their online and offline sportsbooks. Mount Airy Casino Resort has partnered up with the Stars Group to operate the online sporting betting offering.

There are virtually no limitations as to what events sportsbooks can offer betting on or the type of bets to be placed. The only real restrictions are that betting on high school events is not allowed and people have to be at least 21 years old to bet on sports.

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