New Temporary Sports Betting Regulations Lay Out Which Sports And Bet Types Can Be Offered In Pennsylvania

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Fresh temporary sports betting regulations were introduced and approved by the PA Gaming Control Board yesterday at the tail end of a lengthy four-hour session.

This wave of regulations is the third batch to appear on the PGCB website, and mostly delves into rather mundane technical requirements of operating an online/mobile sports betting product. They do, however, confirm which sports can be offered, and lay out the types of wagers that sites will be able to spread.

They also touch on who will be able to participate, and who will be on the outside looking in.

What types of games and bet types will be offered?

PA gamblers will have no shortage of options when it comes to betting on sporting events. The regulations specifically allow for wagering on professional and collegiate athletic events, professional motor race events, and international team and international individual events, including “those governed by the International Olympic Committee and the International Federation of Association Football.”

Sports betters will have a full suite of bet types to choose from in PA, with the following being specifically approved in the temp regs:

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  • Exchange wagering: A community marketplace where patrons bet against each other through a platform provided by a company such as Betfair, a pioneer of the technology.
  • In-game wagers: A wager which is placed on an event after the game has already begun.
  • Proposition wagering: Bets placed on the outcome of specific events which occur during a game.
  • Straight wagers: A simple wager on a single game, determined by a point spread, money line or total score.

Furthermore, the board reserved the right to allow additional types of bets, should they decide to do so in the future.

Sports betting operators, for their part, will be permitted to make what are known as “layoff wagers” with competing sports books. Layoff wagers are bets made by operators looking to reduce their exposure and minimize risk on certain events. The wager serves to balance out the action, and can help ensure that neither company loses too much on any single game.

Not all sporting events are fair game, however. Wagering on high school athletic events governed by the PA Interscholastic Athletic Association is prohibited, as are wagers on amateur athletic events (besides collegiate events, or events specifically approved by the board).

Who can play?

To place a sports bet on a Pennsylvania online or mobile sportsbook, customers must be at least 21 years of age and be physically located inside the state.

Unsurprisingly, those who work closely with sports teams are subject to betting restrictions:

“No collegiate or professional athlete, referee, official, coach, manager, handler or athletic trainer or employee or contractor of a team or athletic organization who has access to non-public information concerning an athlete or team may engage in sports wagering on an athletic event or the performance of an individual in such athletic event in which the person is participating or otherwise has access to non-public or exclusive information.”

Insiders are furthermore prohibited from making bets on events in the sport or league in which they are involved.

Churchill Downs puts up mild resistance

The PGCB meeting was also noteworthy in that we learned two more casinos, Presque Isle Downs and Mohegan Sun Pocono, had applied for iGaming licenses.

Churchill Downs, the new owner of Presque Isle, will pay the $8 million fee to offer both slots and table games, but balked at purchasing an online poker license. The company’s decision to opt out of online poker is interesting, being that Churchill paid top dollar for poker publication BLUFF Media in 2012.

The industry, however, did not grow in the U.S. as the owners had hoped, and the company was essentially shut down in 2015.

While Churchill gritted its teeth and paid the hefty fee to offer online casino games, it put up somewhat of resistance on two other fronts. First, it argued that the $3.7 million license change fee for its newly acquired property was much higher than the $2.5 million fee which had been charged in the past.

It also pushed back on PA’s eye-watering sports betting fees and taxes. Company officials stated that, while the casino was “very interested” in offering the vertical, it would need more time to assess the situation. As it stands, operators must pony up $10 million for a license and pay a 34-36% tax on gross gaming sportsbook revenue.

PGCB board members seemed nonplussed on both arguments, and most likely assume that Churchill will come along on sports betting anyway.

Indeed, Churchill already went public with its intentions to offer online sports wagering in both PA and NJ in May, in a partnership with sports betting platform provider SBTech. Whether the onerous fees in PA are enough to make them change their mind is up for speculation.

While it’s still unclear when sports betting and iGaming will go live in the state, we should have a clearer picture when the board meets next, on September 12.

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Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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