The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) took its first big step towards regulating sports betting on Wednesday. The group drafted and approved temporary sports betting regulations for the Keystone State.
Why does the state need temporary regulations?
Well, the main purpose they serve is to give casinos a framework to work off of as they put together sports betting applications. Category 1-3 casinos are eligible to apply for the $10 million Sports Betting Certificate. Additionally, interested casino groups can also apply for the interactive license that allows for mobile sports betting.
What are in the temp sports betting regulations?
The temporary regulations mostly feature broad strokes about the sports betting industry. PlayPennsylvania posted the complete regulations online. You can read them here.
To be honest, there is not much to see. The regulations are generally pretty vague. The document outlines some key definitions and what is necessary for an application. That is about it.
Reading through the regulations though, there can be some reading between the lines. For example, the $10 million fee and the 34 percent tax rate are not explicitly mentioned. While it is not a given those numbers will change in the future, leaving them open to interpretation potentially gives the law some wiggle room.
Do temp regs leave mini-casinos out in the cold?
Another interesting observation from the regulations is where sports betting facilities can be located. Per the temporary rules, these facilities need to be physically connected to the area’s gaming floor. Category 1 licensees, or racinos, apparently can run sports wagering via off-track betting facilities in the state.
What does not appear to get an exemption is mini-casinos. For the past few months, it has been up for debate whether or not these new Category 4 casinos could serve as sports betting facilities. Given the stipulation about being physically located on property and next to the gaming floor, it seems, at least for now, like satellite casinos will only have slots and table games.
After conferring with PGCB, it turns out mini-casinos do have a path to offer wagers. However, it appears to be rather expensive. Per the PGCB, these Category 4 properties can apply to be an off-track betting facility (OTB). However, that comes with the hefty $10 million fee. So, if any of the four casino companies that invested in mini-casinos want them in the action, it will apparently double the cost.
For a company like Penn National, this seems like an unlikely result. The company bid on two mini-casinos, one of which will be located in York County. The company already has an OTB facility in the area, so dropping eight figures to offer betting at a mini-casino 10 minutes away seems unnecessary.
It is certainly possible some companies drop the money, but given how expensive sports betting is becoming in the Keystone State, this might be something they enact later on down the line after seeing how sports betting performs.
What is the next step to launch sports betting?
Now that the regs are posted and approved by PGCB, the next big step will be applications. The properties get a head start assembling their applications based on these regulations. However, the official application packets are not available just yet.
Expect PGCB to release the official applications shortly. Once a property turns in an application, PGCB has 120 days to evaluate it, including running all the requisite background checks.
Pennsylvania and Mississippi are currently the only states with temporary regulations. Other states have laws in place to potentially offer sports betting. For now, at least, Pennsylvania is a bit ahead of the field in terms of progress. The head start is nice, but PennLive reports the PGCB is not committing to any sort of timeline for sports betting.
The hope is certainly to be ready to go in August in time for football season. At this pace, that is certainly possible. However, considering how slow going some other elements of gambling expansion has been so far, nothing is a given.