Pennsylvania is now at the forefront of sports betting in the United States. On May 14, 2018 the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting put in place by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). As part of Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion law of 2017, it set up a framework to offer sports betting should the law change.
Now that the law has changed, Pennsylvania is one of four new states that can start offering legal wagering. The other states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and New Jersey, all of which have launched wagering. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has not.
When can we expect sports betting to launch in PA?
As of Oct. 14, 2018, there are five casinos that have applied for sports betting licenses:
Hollywood Casino owner submitted paperwork on Aug. 17. On Aug. 24, Parx submitted two applications. One is for the $10 million license for the casino to offer sports betting. The other is a petition for the South Philadelphia Turf Club to take wagers on sports as well.
The secondary application does not feature another fee. If approved, the off-track betting parlor in Philadelphia could take wagers. It would be huge for the company, given that the Turf Club is located in the Stadium District next to the arenas for all major Philadelphia sports.
Stadium Casino will also be in that area of town. However, that property is not scheduled to open until 2020.
Nearly a month after Parx, Harrah’s Philadelphia submitted its application. Later that week, SugarHouse Casino threw its hat into the ring as well, as did its sister property in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino.
Other casino groups might be waiting for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to adopt permanent regulations before plunking down the cash.
In May the PGCB released temporary regulations after interested parties ranging from the leagues to the casinos wrote letters offering input and suggestions. They issued another set of regulations on Aug. 15.
On Oct. 3, PGCB approved the conditional sports betting licenses of Hollywood Casino, Parx, and South Philadelphia Turf Club. Hollywood was not particularly forthright with its timetable. Parx, on the other hand, gave us a sense of when to expect sports betting.
Parx aims to go live with its retail sports book during November 2018. The mobile app will hopefully launch in January 2019. Meanwhile, it seems as though the South Philadelphia Turf Club will not be able to launch concurrently with Parx. Instead, it will go live once PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Council is satisfied with Parx’s setup.
While the property has not applied, Mount Airy Casino committed to sports betting. It did so when it announced its partnership with The Stars Group. Valley Forge Casino is in a similar boat. Its partner, FanDuel, confirmed to PlayPennsylvania that it plans to be in PA as well. Still, neither has officially applied.
Where can I place sports bets in the meantime? New Jersey
While Pennsylvania struggles to drum up applicants, New Jersey sports betting is already well underway.
The first sportsbook to open in the Garden State was Monmouth Park back in June of 2018. The horse racing facility partnered with longtime sports betting provider William Hill.
Since then, seven more brick and mortar sportsbooks launched in the state. Most are located in Atlantic City, but Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands are outside of the gambling city. So far, The Meadowlands is the leader in the brick and mortar market.
There are plenty of other players in the NJ sports betting game though. Pennsylvanians need only cross the state line to take advantage of one of the eight following mobile sports betting options:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino
- William Hill
- 888 Sportsbook
- Caesars Casino
DraftKings Sportsbook was the first of the betting apps to launch, taking bets starting Aug. 1. In the month leading up to football season, the rest joined the market.
You’ll notice one distinctly Pennsylvanian name on this list too. SugarHouse Casino is in Philadelphia, but it has been part of the NJ online gambling scene for a couple of years. The casino launched a real-money online casino in New Jersey in 2016. When it debuted its sportsbook app on Aug. 23, it was the first in the state to combine the sportsbook and casino into a single interface.
Anyone over the age of 21 and located in the state of New Jersey can wager on these online betting apps. Moreover, unlike Nevada, New Jersey does not require customers to set up an account in person. So, all a PA bettor needs to do is pop over to NJ, open an online account, and take advantage of the action.
How big will the market be for Pennsylvania sports betting?
Getting a read on the size of the sports betting market in Pennsylvania is difficult, given several factors.
First, outside of Nevada, legal sports betting didn’t really exist in the US. And while there are estimates out there about how much is wagered at illegal sportsbooks — both domestically and offshore — those are just guesses.
Here’s what we do know. Nevada does just over $11 billion in gaming revenue each year. While gaming win on sports betting can vary from year to year, in 2016, total handle (amount of money wagered at sportsbooks) clocked in at $4.5 billion.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania checks in at about $3.2 billion of total gaming revenue. If there were a direct correlation between total gaming win and sports betting, then we would expect to see somewhere on the order of $1 to $1.5 billion in handle in a fully mature PA sports betting market.
However, there are reasons to think the Pennsylvania sports betting market could be even bigger than that. The aforementioned interest in pro sports makes the market primed for even more wagering as a percentage of gaming dollars in the state.
Assuming a hold of somewhere north of five percent for sportsbooks, Pennsylvania casinos stand to generate upwards of $50 to $75 million in revenue, possibly reaching nine figures.
Who will the major players be in the PA sports betting market?
There are many casinos in Pennsylvania. And undoubtedly all of them will want to offer sports betting. But some markets/casinos will be better for sports betting than others.
The three Philadelphia-area casinos should be the center of attention for PA sports betting, undoubtedly. The city is home to franchises in the four major professional sports leagues, featuring a rabid fan base for all those sports.
SugarHouse Casino, Parx Casino, and Harrah’s Philadelphia are best poised to cash in on the city’s intense interest in sports. Not only will the casinos benefit from the revenue from the handle on sports betting, it will also get more people in the door to enjoy the casinos’ other amenities and gambling options.
Rivers Casino already has a monopoly on the Pittsburgh market. But it should be poised to cash in even more with legal sports betting. The city has both NFL and NHL franchises.
As the second-biggest city in the state and one with a large sports fan base, it would be a boon to Rivers’ bottom line.
For years, racetracks have eyed sports betting as a possible way to woo bettors in their doors.
Penn National, near the center of the state — and far from Philly and Pittsburgh — benefits greatly from the change in the law. The complex now features both Hollywood Casino and the racetrack, and sports betting would be just one more draw.
With Penn turning in the first sports betting application, it could also benefit from being first to market.
Who regulates sports betting in the state?
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB)will oversees sports betting in the Keystone State. Both racetracks and casinos can accept wagers. There will be both in-casino wagering as well as mobile wagering.
In order to accept bets, casinos need to apply for a $10 million sports betting license. In addition to this hefty fee, there are also some hefty taxes to go along with it.
There is a 34 percent tax on gross gaming revenue from sports. Additionally, there is a .25 percent fee on handle and a two percent tax that serves as a local revenue share.