On October 30, 2017, Pennsylvania passed a bill introducing online gambling and daily fantasy sports to the state. The new regulations allowed casinos to offer sports betting as soon as the Supreme Court ruled on this matter. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court declared the federal ban on sports betting unconstitutional, overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.
Thus, the Keystone State became the fourth state to legalize online gambling. The local iGaming industry is expected to surpass that of Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware due to Pennsylvania’s large population – almost 13 million, compared to nine million in NJ or three million in NV. Pennsylvania already has a well-established land-based gambling industry, which is second only to Nevada in its size. In 2017, the combined revenue of all Pennsylvania-based casinos exceeded $3,000,000.
The biggest problems facing potential iGaming operators in Pennsylvania have to do with taxes and a high barrier of entry. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has been allowed to issue 39 licenses, and 32 have already been claimed by local casinos during the first two licensing phases. For the third licensing phase, outside entities will be allowed to submit their applications, but each license will cost $4 million, and the companies that receive them will be selected at random if there are too many applications.
What’s more, online casino winnings will be subject to a 34% tax – same as land-based casinos. Judging by other fenced markets, this is likely to have a negative impact on iGaming promotions as legal Pennsylvania sites won’t be able to offer generous bonuses to new or returning players.
This tax does not apply to the casino-style games offered by the Pennsylvania Lottery, which is state-owned and was unilaterally authorized by PA governor Tom Wolf to expand its services to this realm when the new regulations rolled in. Note that the primary function of the PA iLottery is to generate funding for state programs, so this doesn’t give it any competitive edge.
Still, the local casinos weren’t keen on competing with the Pennsylvania Lottery and ended up suing it over this recent expansion. They claim that the Lottery overstepped its boundaries and that the new games rely on imagery that makes them indistinguishable from slot machines. Predicting how the court will rule on this matter seems impossible. Even worse, the lawsuit could sabotage the relations between the casinos and the governor at a time when many important issues, such as interstate player pooling for online poker, haven’t been settled yet.
Pennsylvania Casino Laws
There are 13 land-based casinos in Pennsylvania: Parx (17.6% market share in 2017), Sands (16.9%), Rivers (10.4%), SugarHouse (9.2%), Harrah’s (8.2%), Meadows (7.8%), Mohegan Sun (7.7%), Hollywood (7.6%), Mount Airy (6.1%), Presque Isle (3.9%), Valley Forge (3.6%), and Lady Luck (1.1%). Aside from Lady Luck and Meadows, all of them applied for an online casino license for both slots and table games.
This means that in 2019, Pennsylvania-based gambling enthusiasts should gain access to at least 11 fully fledged casino sites similar to the ones available in New Jersey. Mount Airy signed a partnership deal with PokerStars but will offer casino games under the 888 brand. Boyd Gaming, the company that owns Valley Forge Casino, made a deal with PlayMGM. Parx casino already runs a social gaming site powered by GameAccount Network and will likely start offering real money games in conjunction with this partner. Both SugarHouse and Rivers Casino are owned by Rush Street Gaming and will launch sites that run on Rush Street Interactive software, which is also used by SugarHouse NJ.
Anything beyond that is pure speculation, but Mohegan Sun is expected to go for an SG Digital solution, just like in the Garden State. Harrah’s Casino is also predicted to team up with that company, but it is possible that it will stick to 888 software instead – if that’s the case, Harrah’s PA may end up being a local mirror of Harrah’s NJ. Presque Isle will most likely launch a site powered by its own proprietary software as its parent company has been developing a casino suite since at least 2014. Valley Forge signed a partnership deal with bwin in 2015, but it remains to be seen whether that’s still relevant – bwin was purchased by GVC in 2016, and Valley Forge was acquired by Boyd Gaming in 2017.
With two slot licenses and two table game licenses up for grabs, there are many possibilities for external entities. The most likely candidates include the Stars Group, Golden Nugget, Unibet, William Hill, Winamax, and Bet365.
Pennsylvania Poker Laws
Aside from Presque Casino, all PA gambling establishments that applied for casino licenses are also looking to get licensed for poker. However, only Mount Airy has confirmed its online partner, so it is possible that PokerStars PA might get a head-start on its competition. Harrah’s Philadelphia will likely team up with 888 under the WSOP brand, and Valley Forge is expected to use GVC software. Everything else remains a mystery, but judging by what’s been going on in New Jersey, we’re guaranteed to see all the major poker networks competing for a slice of the local market by the end of 2019.
As mentioned above, the issue of interstate player pooling between Philadelphia-licensed poker rooms and the sites operating on the remaining regulated US markets – namely New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada – has not been resolved yet. The new regulations do not explicitly prohibit such a solution, and it would be beneficial for local players.
However, solidifying such a deal would require the complete cooperation of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Because the local casinos have stepped on the governor’s toes with their lawsuit against the PA iLottery program, this cooperation should not be taken for granted.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting Laws
Online sports betting became legal in Pennsylvania as soon as the Supreme Court struck down the PASPA federal ban because local regulators signed the relevant bill in advance of this ruling. Every entity that holds a casino license for slots can apply for a sports wagering certificate, which means that 11 of the 13 local gambling establishments will soon be free to enter this game. Just like with casino games, the costs are expected to be high – a certificate costs $10 million, and the tax rate is 36% on overall revenue.
None of the eligible casinos have applied for a sports betting certificate so far, but some of them will undoubtedly try to secure a slice of that pie. Since the barrier to entry is very high, we don’t expect any second-league brands. Local casinos will undoubtedly go for the most popular and easily recognizable brands, such as William Hill, Bet365, Winamax, or even BetStars.
Pennsylvania Daily Fantasy Sports Laws
According to the new Pennsylvania iGaming bill, DFS contests are supervised by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, but the rules are slightly different than for other forms of internet gambling. Operators aren’t required to have a local partner, a five-year license costs $50,000, and the tax on gross revenue is 15%. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have already been approved, and the list of companies that are currently going through the licensing process is as follows:
– Boom Fantasy
– Fantasy Football Players Championship
– Sports Hub
It seems like Yahoo DFS and Eagle Strike, a local fantasy kiosk operator, are currently staying out of the fray, but there’s nothing stopping them from applying for a license in the future.
Finally, PGCB’s executive director, Kevin O’Toole, has announced that Pennsylvanians who already participate in DFC contests with any of the licensed companies won’t need to re-register with their sites and will experience no difference in gameplay.
Pennsylvania houses one of the oldest and most successful lotteries in the United States. The first ticket was sold in 1972, and the entire program has raised $29 billion so far. The PA lottery gives you access to 12 standard lottery draw games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, Wild Ball, Treasure Hunt, and Millionaire Raffle. Keno, Xpress Sports, and scratch-offs are also available.
After the recent iGaming bill was passed, the Lottery launched a new website called PA iLottery, which gives Pennsylvanians access to 25 casino-style games. Most of them are very similar to slots in terms of gameplay and style, and their continued availability depends on the outcome of the lawsuit filed by the local casinos, which was discussed in the opening section of this article.
Pennsylvania Bingo Laws
Online bingo hasn’t been given special treatment in the latest PA iGaming act. Instead, it’s been grouped with slots and video poker, which means that bingo games will likely become available in licensed Pennsylvania-facing internet casinos as they launch. Other than that, you can play a bingo-style game on the PA iLottery page, but its continued availability depends on the outcome of the aforementioned lawsuit.
Land-based bingo games are covered by the PA Small Games of Chance Act of 1988 and are widely available across the entire state – licensing fees are very low and start at $100 for non-profit organizations.
Top Pennsylvania Legal Sites
Pennsylvania statutes are ridiculously vague when it comes to gambling in general – and if that wasn’t enough, none of the gambling-related regulations mention online gambling. According to Section 5512 of the Pennsylvania code, all the forms of gambling are considered unlawful if they aren’t authorized by the state. However, the state doesn’t have any penalties for individual players participating in those unlawful activities, which means that Pennsylvania-based players are pretty much free to play on any offshore site they please.
Pennsylvania Online Gambling FAQ
What types of gambling are available in PA?
Land-based gambling in Pennsylvania is mostly about the local commercial casinos and racetracks, which also offer some casino-style games. Quite obviously, the state allows pari-mutuel horse race betting, which is also available at various off-track facilities. Charitable gambling is allowed within the borders of the state. Pennsylvania has a state-run lottery, which is a part of a number of national jackpots. Online gambling became regulated in 2017, so more legal Pennsylvania online gambling sites should be available in the coming years.
What laws cover online gambling in Pennsylvania?
Almost all of the issues that have to do with real money gambling are regulated by Section 5512 of Pennsylvania statutes. The current regulations do not penalize individual players who participate in illegal games – and if that wasn’t enough, it’s very hard to determine whether playing on offshore gambling sites can be really considered unlawful or not.
Is real money online gambling legal in Pennsylvania?
As mentioned above, Pennsylvania officials don’t prosecute individual players. This means that you shouldn’t really worry about getting into any trouble for playing on your favorite gambling site. Hundreds of players do so on a daily basis without suffering any legal consequences.
Which offshore gambling sites accept Pennsylvania residents?
Whether you prefer poker, casino games or online sports betting, as long as you live in Pennsylvania, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be accepted by any major site.
What are the most popular banking options supported by Pennsylvania-facing sites?
Making a deposit is easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort most of the time, as most sites support credit and debit card payments. Withdrawals, on the other hand, might require some patience, as offshore operators generally rely on bank wire transfers, which take a few days to process.
Does Pennsylvania offer any intrastate online gambling?
No, Pennsylvania doesn’t have any regulated iGaming sites.
Is it likely for Pennsylvania to regulate online gambling?
Pennsylvania is currently in the process of legalizing online gambling within the borders of the state. The online gambling bill has already been assigned to a legislative committee.
Pennsylvania Gambling Resources
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/public/cons_index.cfm
American Gambling Association – Pennsylvania: http://www.americangaming.org/industry-resources/state-information/pennsylvania
Council on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania – Resources: http://www.pacouncil.com/resources/
List of Casinos in Pennsylvania: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_casinos_in_Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Hearing Cools Off Online Gambling Expectations – Bluff Magazine: http://www.bluff.com/news/pennsylvania-hearing-cools-off-online-gambling-expectations-54041/