PA Sports Betting — Best Legal Pennsylvania Online Sportsbook Sites 2019

Legal retail and online sports betting is now alive and well in Pennsylvania … finally. Retail books began launching in late 2018, and after numerous hangups, the state has now begun launching online and mobile options. Read on for a complete breakdown of every legal brick-and-mortar, online and mobile sportsbook operating in PA, along with links to exclusive bonuses and answers to frequent questions.

Best PA online sportsbooks

Rank
Casino
Offers
Features
1

$250 Bonus

Only 1x Wager Applies, Playable in PA Only

  • Easy to Obtain, Generous Bonus
  • Simple Withdrawals, Deposits
  • Unmatched Loyalty Program
  • Excellent Teaser Pricing
2

$20 Free

  • $100 Match Deposit Bonus
  • PayPal Deposits, Withdrawals
  • Offers Custom Bets
  • Backed by FOX Sports
3

Up To $500 Free Bet

  • Best Odds, Prices in Industry
  • Tons of Props on 16+ Sports
  • Speedy Withdrawals, Deposits
  • Smooth, Sleek Design
4

$250 Bonus

Only 1x Wager Applies, Playable in PA Only

  • Simple, Easy-to-Clear Bonus
  • Best in Class Loyalty Program
  • Get Tons of Alternative Lines
  • Win Big in the Integrated Casino

Sports betting: Everywhere you can play

Betting on sports from the state of Pennsylvania has never been easier, thanks to the launch of several online sportsbooks. We expect even more online properties to open in the coming weeks and months, granting players an even greater ability to bonus hunt and line shop. For those who would rather do their betting at a live venue, Pennsylvania has those too.

In the following sections, we outline every single sportsbook active in the Commonwealth, and will provide regular updates as soon as a new entity takes its first wager.

PA online/mobile sportsbooks

SiteBonusLicensing CasinoTechMobile?Launched
Bet RiversGet BonusRivers CasinoKambiYesJune 27, 2019
FanDuel SportsbookGet BonusValley Forge CasinoIGT/GANYesJuly 22, 2019
FOX Bet Sportsbook PAGet BonusMount AiryStars GroupYesSept. 4, 2019
Play SugarHouse SportsGet BonusSugarHouse CasinoKambiYesMay 31, 2019
Parx Online Sportsbook-Parx CasinoKambiYesJune 27, 2019

PA land-based sportsbooks

VenueSportsbookTechLaunched
Parx CasinoParx SportsbookKambiJan. 2019
Rivers CasinoRivers SportsbookKambiDec. 2018
SugarHouse CasinoSugarHouse Casino's SportsbookKambiDec. 2018
Valley Forge CasinoFanDuel SportsbookIGT/GANMar. 2019
Hollywood @ Penn NationalThe Sportsbook at Hollywood CasinoWill Hill Nov. 2018
Harrah's CasinoThe BookScientific GamesJan. 2019
South Philadelphia Race & SportsbookSouth Philly SportsbookKambiJan. 2019
Oaks Race & SportsbookOaks SportsbookKambiMar. 2019
Presque Isle DownsBetAmerica SportsbookSBTechJuly, 2019

Active PA sportsbooks broken down by licensee

Parx Casino

Parx Casino, owned by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., is the highest revenue producing casino in Pennsylvania. So it makes sense that it would want to jump head-first into the retail sports betting waters.

The casino has been a reluctant participant in online gambling and sports betting, fearing that online gambling would threaten its stranglehold in the Philadelphia casino market, but that hasn’t stopped it from being among the first to market in the online betting sphere.

Parx Casino opened its temporary sports betting facility in January 2019, and followed this up with the launch of a $10 mm permanent venue in August of that same year.

Parx-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • Parx Online Sportsbook (skin) – Opened June 27, 2019
  • Parx Sportsbook (Parx Casino) – Opened January 2019
  • South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook – Opened January 2019
  • Oaks Race & Sportsbook – Opened March 2019

Parx Online Sportsbook

Type: Skin
Website: pa.parxcasino.com
Extra info: House rules

Parx’s online sportsbook is the solitary mobile sportsbook operating under the Parx Casino license. The product was among the first wave of regulated online sportsbooks in the state, having launched on June 27, 2019. It comes in both desktop and mobile (Android and iOS) flavors, with risk management / pricing provided by Kambi.

There’s a lot of positives about the online book, including its magnificent design, visuals, and its integration with Parx’s online casino. But the pricing is generally on the poorer side, and the lack of a loyalty program lessens player-value even further. The $250 risk-free bet for new players is enticing, however. Keep an eye on this one to see if the overall value improves.

Parx Sportsbook

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 2999 Street Rd, Bensalem, PA 19020
Extra info: House rules

If Parx was less than enthusiastic about online sports betting, it was certainly gung-ho on building a retail outlet. After launching a rather pedestrian temporary sportsbook in January 2019, Parx Casino unveiled what is perhaps the most impressive book on the East Coast in August 2019.

The $10 mm book, located in the old 360 Lounge, clocks in at 10,000 sq. ft, and thanks to its many viewing portals, has the ability to display up to 28 games at once. Rows upon rows of seating line the book, and with seven live teller windows and over 40 self-serving kiosks, there should never be much of a line.

Hours of operation: Monday: 1 p.m. – 12 a.m.; Tuesday – Friday: 1 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday: 9 a.m. – 12 a.m.

South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 700 Packer Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Website: https://www.parxracing.com/south-philadelphia-race-and-sportsbook.php

Smack dab in the middle of Philly’s sports plaza, the recently re-branded South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook has to be among the most ideal venues for plunking down a wager that there is. In celebration of Pennsylvania sports betting, the facility underwent a $1 mm renovation and is now powered by over 100 HD displays, and features a modernized kitchen, a revamped food and beverage menu, and Kambi kiosks.

The facility began offering wagers on sports beginning in January 2019. Bettors are still able to place wagers on their favorite horses from the venue.

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: Noon – 11 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – Midnight; Sunday: 10 a.m – 11 p.m.

Oaks Race & Sportsbook

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 600 Cresson Ave. Oaks Corporate Center, Oaks, PA 19456
Website: https://www.parxracing.com/oaks-race-and-sportsbook.php

Oaks is the second OTB parlor under the Greenwood purview to re-brand itself as a sportsbook — the venue was formerly called the Valley Forge Turf Club. Like its counterpart in South Philly, Oaks has also seen $1 mm in improvements in preparation for sports betting, including 100 new televisions, six teller windows, and 14 Kambi self-serving kiosks. The revamped venue began offering sports betting in March 2019.

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: Noon – 11 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – Midnight; Sunday: 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.


Rivers Casino

Situated a stone’s throw away from Heinz Field, and acting as the only casino property in sports-ravenous Pittsburgh, it goes without saying that Rivers Casino is a prime spot for a sportsbook. And so far it has capitalized, launching both a retail book at its casino in December 2018, followed by an online site, BetRivers, in June 2019.

The Rivers license has generated more handle in the early days of the PA sports betting industry than any other casino outside sister-brand SugarHouse. And we can say with confidence that during NFL season, there isn’t going to be a more hopping place to plunk down a wager than at Rivers sportsbook.

Rivers is powered by Rush Street Interactive, which is the online arm of its parent company, Rush Street Gaming, with risk management and pricing provided by Kambi.

Rivers-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • BetRivers (skin) – opened June 27, 2019
  • Rivers Sportsbook (Rivers Casino) – opened December 2018

BetRivers

Type: Skin
Website: Bet sports at BetRivers with a bonus
Extra info: Betting guide

BetRivers was among the first online sportsbooks to enter the Pennsylvania market, having launched in June 2019. Its first mover status and strong brand association is helping it to carve out a sizable niche in the nascent PA sports betting market.

The sportsbook shares the same custom-built platform as its counterpart to the east, Play SugarHouse Sports. Both use Kambi tech to set the lines and for other technical services. As such, it comes as little surprise that BetRivers is a sturdy app, chock full of betting options, markets, and supported by a stellar player rewards program, iRush Rewards. Another plus is that it’s available to Android users in app form, and via mobile browsers on iOS.

The lines could be a little tighter and it could stand to have a few more promos, but otherwise this is a top-tier sportsbook for the market.

Rivers Sportsbook

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 777 Casino Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Extra info: FAQ

Rivers Casino was among the first PA casinos to take advantage of sports betting, debuting its retail book in December 2018, just in time for the NFL Playoffs.

The book is modest, featuring just a couple of rows of premier seating and 10 televisions. But that setup is only temporary, as it plans to soon rollout a permanent facility equipped with seating for 195 guests, two 50×7 LED monitors, and 24, 86″ flat screens. 18 self-serving kiosks will litter the book with the entire project costing upwards of $5 million.

Expect the new book to launch relatively soon.

Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – Midnight; Friday: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday: 9 a.m. – Midnight


Valley Forge Casino

Valley Forge has had the pleasure of landing FanDuel as its sports betting partner. We say pleasure because besides being one of the biggest betting brands in the U.S., FanDuel operates both the retail and online outlets with the highest handle in neighboring New Jersey. That bodes exceedingly well for Valley Forge Casino’s sports betting prospects.

FanDuel first entered the market in March 2019, when it launched a modest sportsbook at the even more modest Valley Forge Casino. It followed this up with the launch of its online site in July 2019, which essentially parallels the stellar product it debuted in New Jersey back in 2018.

Valley Forge Casino-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • FanDuel Sportsbook (skin) – Opened July 22, 2019
  • FanDuel Sportsbook @ Valley Forge Casino – Opened March 2019

FanDuel Sportsbook

Type: Skin
Website: Bet on sports at FanDuel Sportsbook with a bonus
Extra infoBetting guide

FanDuel may not have been the first online product to hit the Pennsylvania sports betting market, but it stands to be one of its most successful. The operator dominates the New Jersey market, and it has effectively brought the same exact experience to PA.

FanDuel is heavily entwined with some of the heaviest hitters in the sports betting industry, including GAN which handles account management, and IGT, which supplies other aspects of the FanDuel platform. Its experience in the market and strong partnerships will pay dividends, as FanDuel Sportsbook already offers a fluid wagering experience on both desktop and mobile devices.

Still, the site’s overall player-value is mixed, diminishing during slow seasons, but really ramping up for NFL. And the lack of a loyalty program knocks it down a peg. Still, it’s the app to beat in Pennsylvania.

FanDuel Sportsbook @ Valley Forge Casino

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 1160 1st Ave, King of Prussia, PA 19406
Extra info: Betting guide

Honestly we expected a little more from a branded FanDuel sportsbook. All right, Valley Forge Casino is small, but the sportsbook is really small, only clocking in at 1,800 sq. ft., with limited seating options.

On the plus side there are 27 television screens, seven betting windows, and the aesthetics are pleasing. But with just two tellers, and located in a competitive Philadelphia market, we expect that most bettors are going to be accessing FanDuel from their smartphones or tablets.

Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Friday: 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Sunday: 9 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.


SugarHouse Casino

SugarHouse came into the Pennsylvania market with a decided leg-up, having already operated an online sportsbook in New Jersey since 2018. That experience has paid off handsomely as SugarHouse generated more handle in the early-goings of the industry than any other sportsbook. Granted, this was before FanDuel entered the market, but impressive nonetheless.

SugarHouse currently supports both retail (launched Dec. 2018) and online books (launched May 2019) in Pennsylvania, as well as an online casino. It uses a proprietary platform by Rush Street Interactive that’s essentially a clone of its New Jersey platform (largely a good thing!). Risk management and pricing are provided by Kambi, with SugarHouse setting the juice.

SugarHouse Casino-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • Play SugarHouse Sports – Opened May 31, 2019
  • SugarHouse Casino’s Sportsbook – Opened December 2018

Play SugarHouse Sports

Type: Skin
Website: Bet sports on Play SugarHouse with a bonus
Extra infoBetting Guide

Play SugarHouse is among the most comprehensive and well-thought out sports betting platforms we’ve had the pleasure to encounter. It was also the first app to hit the PA sports betting market, granting it a much coveted first-mover status in what stands to be a hyper competitive industry.

The app should be a first stop for hungry sports bettors, as it offers them a sizable and easy to clear first-deposit bonus, access to one of the industry’s best loyalty programs in iRush Rewards, and better-than-average pricing for most major markets.

Not to mention, the app shares a wallet and platform with its online casino, which is something sister-site BetRivers cannot boast.

SugarHouse Casino’s Sportsbook

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 1001 N Delaware Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Extra info: How to bet

SugarHouse Casino wasted little time getting its retail sportsbook up and running, debuting it just one month (December 2018) after the first book at Penn National went live.

The book is temporary, which is why the specs aren’t all that impressive. But the permanent book, slated for a Fall 2019 open certainly will be a decided step up, with 5,300 sq. ft of devoted space, seating for over 110 guests, eight 80″ flat screens, a 56′ x 10.5′ LED primary viewing display, 22 self-serve kiosks courtesy of Kambi, and six betting windows.

Now that’s a book worthy of a Fishtown Casino.

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday: 7 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday: 8 a.m. – 1 a.m.


Hollywood Casino @ Penn National

Hollywood Casino made history in November 2018, becoming the first Pennsylvania property to accept a legal sports bet. Located smack dab in the middle of the state in the Harrisburg area, Hollywood has a competitive advantage on the land-based front in that there is simply no other casino within close proximity.

However, so far its middle-of-the-state monopoly hasn’t really paid dividends, but a lot of that is because Hollywood boasts neither a permanent retail book, or online sports betting app.

Hollywood Casino will soon be the beneficiary of a mega-deal which saw Penn National land partnerships with several big-time sports betting operators, with Kambi positioned to become a primary sports betting services provider to Penn National skins.

Hollywood Casino @ Penn National-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino – Opened November 2018

The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 777 Hollywood Blvd, Grantville, PA 17028
Extra info: How to bet on sports

The current modest facility, powered by William Hill, isn’t exactly making waves, generating just $30.5 mm in handle during its first seven months. However its figures could spike dramatically once it goes online, projected for late 2019.

A permanent book, presumably with Kambi self-serving kiosks and pricing, should help matters as well. The hotly-anticipated book will feature 5,000 sq. ft. of space, 50 televisions, a 110″ main display, and six windows for customers to place wagers.

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Saturday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.


Harrah’s Philadelphia

Harrah’s Philadelphia held off a bit on launching its retail sportsbook, skipping a temporary book, and going straight to permanent facilities. The simply titled “The Book” went live in January 2019, just ahead of the Super Bowl.

Surprisingly, the casino hasn’t launched a sports wagering app just yet. Given that Harrah’s plans on utilizing the same platform, provided by Scientific Games, as it does on its existing online site (Caesars Casino & Sports) in New Jersey, one might think the online book would be ready to roll pretty quickly. Apparently not the case.

Harrah’s Philadelphia-licensed sportsbooks/skins

  • The Book – Opened January 2019

The Book

Type: Brick & mortar
Location: 777 Harrah’s Blvd, Chester, PA 19013
Extra info: House Rules

“The Book” is a sort of universal name that Caesars / Harrah’s goes with for many of its books. The Philadelphia version features 19 stadium seats, plenty of additional seating, 45 big screen televisions, self-betting kiosks, and a nearby Party Pit where bettors can sneak in a quick hand of blackjack or roulette.

It’s a modest book, but it’s the book that’s here to stay.

As far as online, the Harrah’s Philly app is expected to feature the same favorable odds as Caesars Casino & Sports. The only real differences between it and the NJ app is that it will have a Pennsylvania flavor … whatever that means. We expect it to debut in relatively short order.

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. – close; Saturday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – close


PA online sportsbook reviews

At Penn Bets, we aim to provide readers with transparent and comprehensive reviews of all Pennsylvania online sportsbooks. Our reviews were all conducted from the Keystone State, so rest assured that we have vetted these sites thoroughly before writing up our analyses. Our primary focus has been on the following categories:

  • New player bonus: New player, or welcome, bonuses are a hot topic among readers. And rightfully so, as there is perhaps no better opportunity to cash in than right when a bettor first signs up for a site. But not all new player bonuses are created equal. In our reviews, we cover what kind of bonus a book offers, how valuable it is relative to competing offers, and discuss in detail, any fine print associated with the offer. When applicable we also provide exclusive promo codes, that often provide readers with an offer that exceeds the one offered to the public.
  • Betting lines: Line shopping is arguably the most important tool in a bettor’s arsenal. They want to know which sites provide the best lines for a given game, market, or format. We’re always watching the lines on every PA online sportsbook, and are well-equipped to inform you where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
  • Game selection: An online sportsbook without an array of ways to place a wager is no better than a bicycle without wheels. We cover which key markets a book permits, and look at all the different ways bettors can plunk down a wager on their favorite contest. Niche formats like In-play and Cash Out are covered in-depth.
  • Software: Server stability, mobile access, and a smooth interface — it’s imperative that operators provide their consumers with a superior product. We relay our experiences with every operator, judging them on the aesthetics of their site, how many platforms it’s available for, and whether it’s a breeze or a chore to use.
  • Cashiering: The ability to easily and swiftly get funds on and off a PA online sportsbook is among the biggest selling points for bettors. Not only do we look at all the payment processing methods available at a book, but we go through in-depth testing to see just how long it takes for a withdrawal to get processed.

The benefits of legal online sports betting

Regulated & safe

Pennsylvania online sportsbooks are far from perfect, with operators struggling to find a path to profitability amid an oppressive 36% tax rate on sports wagering revenue and a $10 mm licensing fee. To compensate, betting lines may be a tick worse than what’s found elsewhere, and promotional calendars may be more sparse during slow seasons. But for many, this slight drop-off is worth all the benefits they receive by playing in a regulated environment.

At regulated sites, players have to undergo a verification process designed to protect both their identity and their funds. Speaking of funds, all deposits are held in segregated accounts, separate from operating accounts, ensuring that players will receive their payout requests in an expedited fashion. By contrast, illegal offshore sites often impose lofty fees on payout requests, and they can take weeks to process. On the shadiest of sites, a player may never see their funds again.

Pennsylvania online sportsbooks are regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which has provided oversight of the state’s casino and horse racing industries for years. The benefits of having such an organization at the helm are unparalleled. As an example, the Board provides a complaint/dispute form that bettors can fill out if they have an unresolved issue with a sportsbook. The Board can then step in as a mediator, and after a thorough investigation, will provide a final ruling. Players on offshore sites have no such fail safe in their back pocket.

Easy deposits, easier withdrawals

Offshore sites cannot legally accept funds from U.S. banks. Therefore, they have to provide workarounds that often place a user’s money in harm’s way. With the rise of crypto as a viable form of currency exchange, getting money on an offshore site has become easier, but even then, you’ll have to jump through hoops to make a deposit — and even more hoops for other payment vehicles! An offshore site will never offer PayPal, Neteller, or ACH as a depositing method, but a legal PA online sportsbook often does.

Going further, players on legal sites can also do direct cash deposits, either at local 7-Eleven’s, CVS’s, or Family Dollar’s, or by going to their local land-based casino and loading their online account up right at the casino cage. Sure, the acceptance rates of credit / debit card transactions is still pretty abysmal, but at least at regulated sites, there’s a chance the situation will improve, especially as issuing banks get more comfortable with legal online gambling. Offshore sites, on the other hand, have little chance of ever being able to process direct credit / debit card transactions.

Moving to withdrawals, bettors are rolling the dice on offshore sites. Will I get paid? Why will it take so long? Why is the minimum withdrawal amount so high, and why can I only withdraw funds once or twice a month? These are all serious questions that offshore bettors have to take into account. At regulated sites, withdrawal turnaround times are generally exceptional, with approvals often happening within a day. Is the process perfect? No, not at all, as there have been instances of withdrawals taking several weeks. But those instances are few and far between and should shrivel down to nothing over time.

And no, PA online sportsbooks don’t extend credit like a corner bookie might. So yes, that’s a drawback, but at least you can only lose what you ante up.

Mobile accessibility

Sports bettors are generally on-the-go wagerers, so mobile access is essential. In a legal environment, bettors will have no problem getting a hand on a slew of mobile sportsbooks.

PA online sportsbooks can easily be downloaded to mobile devices, either via direct download (Android) or through the Apple App Store (iOS only). The apps that operators in the legal space have put forth are generally remarkable, bearing a strong resemblance and the same functionality as their desktop counterparts, just in pocket sized form.

Not to mention, geolocation technology has gotten to the point where as long as bettors are located in eligible areas (all of Pennsylvania minus land-based casino floors), they should have little-to-no trouble being located via 4G or WiFi.

Pennsylvania sports betting: FAQ

Yes, an array of land-based casinos in Pennsylvania now accept wagers.

Penn National Hollywood Casino began taking bets in November of 2018, and SugarHouse Casino and Rivers Casino followed in December. Parx Casino, the South Philly Race & Sportsbook, and Harrah’s were added in January of 2019. Valley Forge followed with a book run by DFS giant FanDuel in March of 2019. The same month, Oaks Race & Sportsbook unveiled its sportsbook.

Most of these are in the general Philadelphia area, making Rivers in Pittsburgh the only current land-based option for the entire west side of the state. Additional sportsbooks are still expected, and temporary facilities will gradually be replaced with permanent ones, like the one Parx Casino launched in August 2019.

Anyone who can currently participate in any other form of legal gambling in the state, namely all individuals who are at least 21 years of age except those who placed themselves on a self-exclusion list. For online and mobile activity the only additional requirement is registering an account with a licensed casino operator and being within the state’s physical borders.
Yes, there are currently a handful of online sportsbooks operating in the state. Upon successful registration, bettors can place real-money wagers from anywhere in the state, excluding land-based casino floors.

Let’s face it, an online sportsbook that doesn’t provide its services on mobile is crippled. That’s why operators have taken pains to get their books on smartphone and tablet devices as quickly as possible.

Going mobile is particularly important in a state like Pennsylvania, as so many of the books are tightly concentrated in the state’s major markets, leaving the rest of the population out in the cold as far as live wagering goes.

All online operators currently offer a product for both Android (downloadable directly from the main mobile site) and iOS. Bettors can download the mobile apps for both FanDuel and Parx through the Apple App Store or from the book’s mobile web page. However, some operators do not offer iOS apps yet, instead enabling players to wager directly on their mobile browser, by first downloading the GeoGuard app from the App Store.

The casinos in-and-around Philadelphia (Parx, SugarHouse, Harrah’s, the soon to be completed Live!, and the South Philadelphia Race & Sportsbook) are particularly well-positioned thanks to their proximity to the Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park, the state’s sports epicenter.

These operators will most likely be the biggest benefactors, especially Live! and South Philly which will be only a short walking distance from the three sports venues. Fans streaming into the area on game day will be hungry to bet on their favorite teams, and could provide a big boost to the casino’s bottom line.

In Western PA, Rivers Pittsburgh is very well positioned in the population center of Pittsburgh. This gives it exclusive control over that half of the state.

Gamblers in the central areas of the state may find their best option to be to wager online.

A full range of wagers is allowed. Regulations allow, among others:

  • Exchange wagering
  • Parlays
  • Totals
  • Money line
  • Pools
  • Straight bets
  • Teasers
  • Round Robins
  • Props
  • In-play
The state’s expanded gambling bill (HB 271) allows any of the state’s 12 (soon 13) licensed slots casinos to open their own books. Licensees are not limited to one land-based book, as we’ve seen with Parx Casino (owned by Greenwood Gaming), which opened books at its two OTB facilities.

According to the law:

“The board may authorize a slot machine licensee to conduct sports wagering and to operate a system of wagering associated with the conduct of sports wagering at the slot machine licensee’s licensed facility… or through an Internet-based system.”

The bill also made provision for license holders to open up temporary facilities, which helped to expedite the rollout.

From the period of November 2018 through June 2019, the industry generated $21.3 million in taxable revenue from retail sports wagering, and $407k from online. However, online sports wagering is very new to the state, and is expected to grow by leaps and bounds. In neighboring New Jersey, online sports betting accounts for more than 80% of wagers, and we expect something approaching that in PA. Do keep in mind, however, that PA operators are limited to one sports betting skin per operators (maximum 13), whereas New Jersey can have up to three skins per license holder.

Of the roughly $23 million generated by sports betting in its infancy, 34% of that was sent packing to the state (~$7.4 mm), with an additional 2% paid as a local share assessment.

Pennsylvania’s sports betting law and framework

Pennsylvania did not dally on the prospect of legalizing sports betting within its borders. In 2017 lawmakers passed an expansive gambling package which, aside from regulating online gambling, also included an option for the state’s casinos to open their own sportsbooks once New Jersey prevailed in its case.

The law allowed the state’s licensed casinos to pursue sports wagering on sporting events, although the exact minutiae took some time to work out. Physical sportsbooks began launching in late 2018, with online options beginning to spring up in mid-2019.

Huge taxes and fees test profitability

Since PASPA was overturned, PA slot licensees have the opportunity to offer single-game sports wagering both live and through Internet sites, but not every operator is choosing to do so. Running sports betting comes at a huge price in terms of fees and taxes, and this will likely cause some venues to opt out due to concerns over profitability.

To get up and running, venues need to pay the following:

  • $10 million licensing fee
  • 34% tax on gross gaming revenue
  • 2% local share assessment tax
  • .25% federal excise tax on handle

In total, sportsbooks will be giving back around 41% of their profits, a huge chunk for a vertical known for razor-thin margins.

For comparison, New Jersey’s currently plans to impose much more reasonable taxes on revenues. The most recent bill stipulates:

  • 8.5% on gross gaming revenues for bets made in-person at a physical sportsbook
  • 13% on gross gaming revenues for online and mobile wagers
  • 1.25% local share
  • $100,000 per license

Luckily, Pennsylvania is not required to pay the major sports leagues a so-called “integrity fee,” which if implemented may have been the final nail in the coffin for any prospect of profitability. PA passed its legislation before they became a hot topic, and so far most other markets that have introduced sports betting have rejected the league demands and launched operations without the fees.

Sensing the fight for integrity fees was lost, the major professional sports leagues are instead now requesting a legal ruling that sportsbooks only purchase vital data directly from them instead of other sources. This is still onerous and limiting – as well as unnecessary since professional sports are seeing massive revenue increases thanks to new legal betting – but possibly not as industry-destroying as the original fee requests would have been.

A brief history of legal U.S. sports wagering

New Jersey takes action

Since 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act banned all sports betting in most of the United States. New Jersey was given a short window in which to pass its own sports betting legislation in order to be grandfathered as an exception like Nevada, but Garden State lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on a bill in time, essentially shutting NJ out of what could have been a very lucrative industry.

Realizing its missed opportunity, NJ passed the Sports Wagering Act in 2012 to allow sports betting at licensed New Jersey casinos and racetracks despite the overarching PASPA prohibition. Five sports leagues subsequently sued to stop them, so then Governor Chris Christie brought a case before the US Supreme Court to argue that PASPA violates states’ rights under the 10th amendment.

Oral arguments were heard in December 2017, with the justices appearing open to New Jersey’s perspective. On May 14, 2018 a decision was handed down that PASPA violated the “anti-commandeering” principle and as such was struck down as unconstitutional.

As a result New Jersey finally overcame this obstacle to join Nevada in sports betting, needing only to finalize its own specific regulations to begin allowing sportsbook licenses.

Results for other states

Initially there was some concern that SCOTUS could choose a partial decision which would leave parts of PASPA in place and only allow sports wagering for New Jersey. In this outcome each other state would then be responsible for a lengthier process of fighting their own legal battle in the same vein.

Fortunately, Murphy v. NCAA resulted in the complete negation of the law. This leaves the rest of the country in a relatively much easier position to self-regulate on a state level, at least until Congress potentially passes a new Federal law.

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