Day After Temp Regs Approved, PGCB Opens Sports Betting License Applications

Written By Eric Ramsey on May 31, 2018 - Last Updated on December 21, 2023
hand filling out application

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is ready to review the first PA sports betting applications.

Thursday morning, the board announced that the window is open, and existing casino licensees can begin submitting paperwork immediately. Operators were given the news directly prior to the public release. Regulators are also fielding applications for daily fantasy sports and online gambling. Online lottery expansion is well underway, too.

Today’s PGCB announcement follows Wednesday’s approval of the “first in a series” of temporary regulations for sports betting. There’s not much to them so far, but there’s plenty to get the industry rolling.

Executive Director Kevin O’Toole says the board will update the framework often going forward:

The actions taken by the Board are the first in our efforts to launch sports wagering in Pennsylvania as soon as possible. In the coming months, we expect to regularly ask the Board for approval of additional temporary regulations that will move us toward a launch of this new gaming initiative.

The PGCB is also soliciting public feedback on its temporary regulations.

Who can apply for a sports betting license?

Sports betting licenses are available to all PA casino operators, contingent on PGCB approval. There are 12 PA casinos right now, and a 13th is on the way in the coming years. Not all will seek licenses, though. The $10 million fee and 36 percent tax rate will serve as disincentives to some.

Per temporary regulations, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks must be either (1) connected to the gaming floor or (2) in “a non-primary location” conducting pari-mutuel wagering. The latter seems to leave open the possibility of sports betting at off-track betting facilities.

Licensees are allowed to use temporary sportsbooks for up to 18 months while they prepare permanent solutions.

The 2017 law also has internet and mobile wagering baked in, and the board has authorized the use of those platforms. In addition to the land-based sportsbooks, betting will be available everywhere the internet reaches within the state’s borders.

When will PA sports betting actually happen?

You read it from O’Toole. Regulators want to facilitate PA sports betting “as soon as possible.” That doesn’t really nail it down very much, and it’s tough to gauge from the outside looking in.

We can peek across the border into New Jersey for some possible context though. The state ventured into online gambling in 2013, passing its law in late February. Applications were posted in July and approved in October, and the first sites went live in late November. It took exactly 10 months from passage to launch — and about five months from licensure.

The PA law has been on the books since last October, so 10 months from passage won’t happen. Launching wagering five months from applications, though, seems to be on the ambitious side of possible. Pencil in November as the most ambitious posisbility.

Sports betting and online gambling are two different beasts, though. And Pennsylvania is not New Jersey.

PA is among the group of states blazing the first trails into this wilderness, a wilderness that Congress had roped off until this month. There are countless logistics to sort out before the first bets can be placed. Regulations aren’t even finalized yet, for that matter.

The good news is that the keystones are coming into place. Workable regulations are on paper, and the first license applications should get submitted soon. From this point, six months or so seems like a reasonable timeline for launch.

In the spirit of speculation, we’ll set the over-under for the first PA sports bet at Jan. 1, 2019. The sharp money is on the over, though.

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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a gambling data and policy analyst for Catena Media sites, including PlayPennsylvania. In the lead-up and early years of legal sports betting expansion in the U.S., he was a reporter and writer covering poker, sports betting and DFS. Eric comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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