Legal online gambling is coming to PA in 2018!
Online poker, casino games, lotteries, daily fantasy sports and sports betting are all part of the bill that passed the Senate on October 25th and the House the following morning. Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill on the 30th, making Pennsylvania the 4th US state to legalize online gambling!
Take a look at which casinos could open up their own gambling sites and which software providers they might partner with.
Pennsylvania online gambling player FAQ Common questions and concerns
What forms of online gambling will be legal in PA?
The law legalizing iGaming in PA authorizes Internet slots and table games, such as blackjack and roulette, along with daily fantasy sports. Online poker will also be permitted, allowing brands like PokerStars and Party Poker to apply for licenses to open up shop in the state.
There is a high likelihood that PA poker sites will pool players with online cardrooms in other US states which have legalized iGaming to create bigger tournament prize pools and give patrons more options in terms of game selection. Already, New Jersey is poised to merge it’s player pools with Nevada and Delaware. The addition of PA would be a natural extension of that compact.
In addition, there is a framework in place which could allow for online sports betting, if the Supreme Court rules to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That decision is expected to be made in the first half of 2018.
Who can receive a license to operate an online gambling site in PA?
There are 12 online gaming licenses up for grabs, one for each of the state’s regulated land-based casinos. During the first 90 days of the licensing period, eligible properties can purchase a license which collectively covers online poker, slots and table games for a total of $10 million. After 90 days, they may purchase a license for any one of those three verticals separately at a cost of $4 million each. After 120 days, qualified entities that are not PA brick-and-mortar casinos may apply to snap up any remaining licenses.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), the agency which has overseen PA casinos since 2004, will be in charge of regulating the online gambling industry.
When will the first PA online casinos and poker sites go live?
At this early stage, we can’t be sure exactly when online casino and poker sites will launch, as final regulations and details have not been set by the PGCB. However, looking back at the history of iGaming in New Jersey, we predict that PA online casinos could be open for business by the summer of 2018.
NJ’s online gambling bill was passed in February 2013, with over a dozen sites going live in November of that year. We expect the timetable in PA to accelerated, however, as operators have learned from the mistakes and successes of NJ’s online gambling implementation. Read more on the advantages PA will enjoy for its iGaming launch.
Who will be eligible to play on a PA gambling site?
To play for real money, PA gamblers must be 21+ years old and must be physically inside the borders of the state during their online gaming session. Patrons do not need to be residents of Pennsylvania in order to play, and will be able to do so even if they are just passing through the state for a short period of time.
When signing up, patrons will need to provide their personal information, which will be submitted for a “Know Your Customer” check. This process will verify a player’s ID and age, while checking their credit history through credit bureau databases.
It is possible that people with certain criminal convictions may be barred from gambling online in PA, as is the case in New Jersey.
How will websites know that I’m actually inside PA at the time of play?
Online casinos will use third-party geolocation software companies to verify that their real money patrons are indeed within the borders of the state. When playing from a desktop computer, gamblers will be prompted to install a small web browser extension which verifies and sends back notification to the casino that the player is physically inside PA. A similar check will be made on mobile gamers with features built into iOS and Android casino apps.
Can I sign up for multiple PA online casino/poker sites?
You can sign up for as many regulated online casino and poker sites as you please, as long as you only create one account per site. Playing on multiple sites can be advantageous, considering that each will likely offer attractive free money sign up and first time deposit bonuses to new players.
Will I be able to play on PA gambling sites for free?
Yes, players will be able to play for free on PA gambling sites in a few different ways. First, it’s common for casino sites to offer demo/play money versions of their games to give patrons a chance to play for fun without risking real money.
Another way to play for free will be to take advantage of the free money sign up bonuses which PA iGaming sites will almost certainly offer. These types of bonuses usually range from $10-$30 and are awarded to players for simply create an account at a gambling site. The deal is meant to entice potential customers to check out the casino site without having to make a deposit, while giving them the chance to win real money in the process.
What kind of bonuses should first-time depositing players expect?
In addition to free money sign up offers, PA casino sites will undoubtedly offer match bonuses for first time depositors.
While we can’t be sure what the exact deposit bonus offers in PA will be, existing NJ casino sites can help us make predictions. All sites there offer some type of deposit bonus incentive, which range from $100 all the way up to $1,500 in bonus cash. Virgin/Tropicana Casino offer a different type of bonus which pays up to 100% cashback on losses. Expect to see similar types of offers cropping up in Pennsylvania when the industry goes live.
These types of bonus offers aren’t without a catch, however, in that players must wager a certain amount before getting full access to the cash. For example, a site could offer a 100% match bonus up to $500 with a 20X play through requirement. Therefore, if you deposited $300, you would receive $300 in bonus money, but would be required to wager $6,000 in total to unlock the full bonus amount.
And sometimes, different games contribute at different rates. Online slots almost always contribute at 100%, but play at table games and video poker may contribute less toward the wagering requirement.
What deposit/withdrawal methods will be available? What will be the minimums and maximums?
We can expect a wide array of banking methods to be available at PA online casinos, making it easy for nearly anyone to make a deposit or withdrawal. In New Jersey, for example, players can make deposits in the following ways, many of which will likely be made available in PA as well:
- Instant eCheck (ACH)
- Cash at the cage in the casino
- Online banking transfer
- Prepaid cards
- Visa/MasterCard credit cards
- Cash at 7-Eleven
- Bank wire transfers
- Paper checks
Withdrawals can be made using many of the same methods mentioned above.
Minimum deposit amounts are almost universally set to $10 in the Garden State, whereas the maximums vary depending on a variety of factors. These include the deposit method used, reputation with the bank, and VIP status, amongst other things. Certain methods can allow for deposits of up to $10,000 per day, while average maximums for methods like ACH and prepaid cards range from $500-$2,000.
What responsible gambling options will PA casino sites provide?
Just like at PA brick-and-mortar casinos, players will have the option of banning themselves from online gambling entirely for a period of one year, five years or for life. Visit the PGCB’s website for more info on the self-exclusion process.
Other responsible gaming measures will be built into PA online casinos as well. Those may include options to limit losses to a certain amount, limit gameplay to a certain period of time or activate a “cool off” period, which will prohibit play for a specified period of time.
What operating systems will be supported by PA online casino/poker sites?
You can expect online casino and poker sites to be available for play directly from popular web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari, on both Windows and Mac operating systems, with no download required. Some casinos might also provide the additional option of a standalone software client.
Gamblers will also be able to play on mobile through free, dedicated apps for iOS and Android devices. Some sites may offer the option to play directly from mobile web browsers as well, without the need to download any apps at all.
Where else in the US is it legal to gamble online?
In 2011, the Department of Justice issued an opinion allowing for individual US states to legalize online gambling. So far, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have done so, with many other states exploring the possibility. Prime candidates for 2018 appear to include Illinois, and New York.
Pennsylvania Online Gambling History The long path to legalizing iGaming
Pennsylvania’s gaming history traces back a bit further, as slots were legalized in the state in 2004. Commercial casinos were first licensed in 2006, and table games followed in 2010. Presently, Pennsylvania is the second largest casino market in the country, trailing only Nevada in gross gaming revenue.
Representative Tina Davis (D) of District 141 pioneered the earliest official effort to legalize online gaming in the state back in April 2013 with the introduction of House Bill 1235 (HB 1235). The provisions in HB 1235 enabled existing casinos and slot machine license holders to apply for supplemental licenses that would have allowed them to set up online operations. Licensees would have been subject to a $5 million non-refundable authorization fee and would have paid a 28 percent tax on revenue from internet gaming.
HB 1235 would have authorized all manner of “table games, slot machine or any other game the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board deems suitable for play on the computer.” Games of chance the likes of bingo and keno would have been the only exceptions.
HB 1235 made it as far as the House Gaming and Oversight Committee before stalling. Reportedly, concerns about the possible detrimental effects of gaming expansion – as well as a high degree of uncertainty at the time about how successful New Jersey’s then-nascent online gambling industry would be – led to what amounted to a tabling of the bill for the balance of the 2013-14 legislative session.
2015 Brought Revival of PA Online Casino Legislative Efforts
With the state facing increasing budget issues, 2015 saw the revival of the online casino and poker topic, with both House (HB 649) and Senate (SB 900) bills being introduced. The latter proposed a particularly onerous 54 percent tax rate that was slated to be the highest in the world for regulated commercial online gambling.
HB 649 was co-sponsored by Representative John Payne (R) and his Democrat co-chair Nick Kotick, who was the new chair of the Gaming and Oversight Committee at the time, and set the minimum age requirement for players at 21. The bill called for a 14 percent state tax, plus a 2 percent local assessment fee, on gross online-gaming revenues. A one-time $5 million licensing fee for operators was also established, along with a $1 million fee for what were termed “significant vendors”.
SB 900, sponsored by Senators Kim Ward, Robert Tomlinson, Elder Vogel and Joseph Scarnati, was never able to gain true traction due to the aforementioned excessive tax rate. Other provisions in the bill included a “permit fee” of $10 million that would cover an initial five-year period, and a $1 million renewal fee thereafter. SB 900 also provided the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board with the authority to determine which games were acceptable to offer.
In addition to these two main bills, there were two additional put forth in the House and one other proposal in the Senate:
- Representative Nick Miccarelli’s HB 695, which sought to solely legalize online poker, called for a licensing fee of $5 million per operator, and taxed all interactive gross gaming revenue at 14 percent;
- Representative Tina Davis second go-around on a gaming bill, HB 920, which called for the state’s Gaming Control Board to regulate all manner of online gaming, set an “authorization fee” at $5 million per operator, sought to “establish a reasonable tax rate that takes into account overhead and cost of operation for the casinos”, and directed that all proceeds from online gaming would be split between the Property Tax Relief Fund and the State Lottery Fund;
- Senator Sean Wiley’s comprehensive proposal that designated the cost for a license at $500,000, set the tax rate at 36 percent, mandated that all online poker rooms would be operated by the state’s land-based facilities, and created a Casino Reinvestment Grant Fund that would receive all proceeds above $10 million annually in order to effectuate a school property tax freeze for the state’s senior citizens.
HB 649, after undergoing some facelifts courtesy of numerous amendments over time, made it the furthest. However, it ultimately was not passed during the 2015 session.
Pennsylvania Online Casino Bill Came Close in 2016
Two House-sponsored bills, HB 1887 and HB 2150, dominated a large share of the online gaming legalization debate in 2016. HB 1887 twice passed the House, with the second occasion having come later in the year after some amendments, including a temporary local tax share fix, were added.
Meanwhile, HB 2150 was a comprehensive gaming reform bill that additionally sought to regulate daily fantasy sports, authorize mobile gaming tablets at airports, and making the aforementioned temporary tax share fix permanent. The bill called for an $8 million license fee for Pennsylvania online casinos and $2 million fee for “significant vendors.”
Although there was palpable optimism late in the year that HB 1887 would be the subject of a vote in the Senate, it ultimately stalled as well.
Renewed Optimism for Legal Pennsylvania Online Casinos
State Senator Jay Costa of Pittsburgh, who is the chamber’s Democratic leader, kick-started the wave of optimism when he authored a memo regarding his intentions to present a legalization bill early in the Legislative session. The memo, which was posted the day before legislators took their oath of office, called for, among other things, allowing all forms of casino gambling online, regulating daily fantasy sports (DFS), and launching a five-year test of tablet gaming for travelers at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh airports.
As per the memo, Pennsylvania would stand to generate $137 million in revenue from online gambling for the state’s 2016-17 budget solely from licensing fees. Under the bill, the internet gaming license that would be required and only made available to the state’s 12 large casinos and racinos would carry a cost of $10 million.
The bill also includes an array of other licensing/start-up fees, including $5 million each for internet gaming vendors, an airport tablet gaming fee in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh of $2.5 million apiece, and a $2.5 million license fee for DFS operators.
The memo also details that taxes on revenue from online gaming and DFS would be 25 percent, a significant reduction from the current 54 percent tax on slot revenue and 16 percent tax on table game revenue in the state’s land-based casinos, but a notable bump up from HB 1887’s online tax rate of 16 percent and DFS operator rate of 12 percent. Costa’s proposal would allow all casino games, including slots and table games, to be available online, although Internet gaming would be prohibited on casino property because of the difference in tax rates.
His proposal also would authorize iGaming tablets at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh airports for a five-year pilot period and permit online lottery games.
Meanwhile, over in the House, Republican senators Kim Ward and Mario Scavello reportedly will work with other Republican leaders in the Senate on putting together a co-sponsorship memo on a comprehensive gaming bill that may also legalize ancillary slot facilities and allow gambling for travelers in the state’s airports.