Pennsylvania Sports Betting Could Expand by Year’s End

Pennsylvania Sports Betting Could Expand by Year’s End

Pennsylvania sports bettors are about to have a few more options.

Up to four more casinos could launch test bets before the end of the year, Pennsylvania radio station WITF reports. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Spokesperson Richard McGarvey told the station that his organization has planned to conduct test runs “within the next few weeks.”

The four casinos to submit applications for review are:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • SugarHouse Casino – Philadelphia
  • Park Casino – Philadelphia
  • Rivers Casino – Pittsburgh

All four will need to go through final regulatory reviews and tests. They have already gone through several months of testing since they submitted applications in August and September of this year.

They’re looking to join Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. The Grantville facility, located near Harrisburg in the central portion of the state, earlier this month became the first casino in the commonwealth to take a legal wager.

In all, five of the 13 eligible facilities have submitted applications to take bets. It remains to be seen if the commonwealth’s eight other casino properties will do the same.

Regardless, it seems Pennsylvanians will likely have a much wider variety of options to place a bet by the start of the new year. For Pennsylvania gambling enthusiasts, its been a long wait.

Pennsylvania Grows After Delay

In 2017, elected officials undertook a major gambling expansion in what had already been one of the most progressive gambling states. Gov. Tom Wolf, a gambling skeptic, nevertheless realized the revenue potential for the state, and approved a bill that allowed gaming options at state airports and truck stops.

It also included provisions for online casino gaming, online sports betting and in-person betting at the state’s casinos. Sports betting was set to take place as soon as the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban in May that preempted the Pennsylvania law. Instead it took 13 months from when the original legislation passed until its most noteworthy provision came into effect.

That was because the bill included an effective 36 percent tax rate on winnings, one of the highest in the world and at the time the steepest in the U.S. (Rhode Island has since eclipsed it with a 51 percent rate). Would-be casino and other affiliate partners balked at the rate, as well as a $10 million application fee to take sports bets, and held out for months, hoping to lobby legislators to amend the bill.

Lawmakers who passed the bill didn’t heed the requests. A stalemate lasted for several months before the first few casinos relented and submitted applications to take bets.

The financial opportunity to enter the nation’s fifth-most populated market was too great – an Oct. 1 first deadline that would have raised the application fee even higher also proved a key motivator.

Sports betting has never been a significant portion of casino net or gross winnings, especially when compared to table games and slots, but it is still a new way to attract a diverse group of players that otherwise might not be attracted to casinos. It also made sense in Pennsylvania, which has a strong sports culture and seven professional franchises that play in the four largest North American sports leagues.

With this bevy of high profile franchises in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, Pennsylvania could have an outsized impact on other states considering legislation as well.

How Does Pennsylvania Impact U.S. Sports Betting?

With its population as well as location adjacent to the Midwestern U.S., Pennsylvania is the biggest domino to fall in American sports betting expansion.

Along with the revenue potential for gaming facilities, as well as government coffers, sports betting presents more tangential financial opportunities for all groups affiliated with sports betting. Professional teams in New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania have already announced partnerships with gambling companies, with more teams in more states set to follow.

Pennsylvania’s rich sporting history, popular sports teams and millions of fans, rivaled by few other states in the nation, presents an unprecedented opportunity for gambling companies, pro sports teams and the casinos themselves.

As more sports betting legalization bills pass, some professional sports team owners believe gambling and sports will become further engrained in the coming years, creating an environment similar to the game day atmosphere in major European sporting events. Full-time sportsbooks could soon be located adjacent to or possibly within American stadiums, taking bets in conjunction with competitions as is commonplace across the Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, Nevada and New Jersey are already taking bets from mobile devices located anywhere within the state. Pennsylvania is set to allow the same features in the coming year, and within the next five years, legal online wagering could be available for a majority of Americans with access to a mobile device.

Before that happens, there will need to be more laws like those passed in Pennsylvania, so more people have access to these games. The struggles caused by the exorbitant tax rates are a warning for the nearly two dozen states considering legislation of their own.

Assuming they can work through the pitfalls of early adaptors like Pennsylvania, this could in turn help accelerate the nationwide expansion of legal sports wagering. In the meantime, the launch of up to four more Keystone State casinos with in-person sports betting is a pivotal next step in that process.

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