Pennsylvania’s real-world and online gambling options have expanded significantly in recent years. Major gaming reforms enacted in 2017 have allowed the state to offer new forms of gambling that were previously unavailable to residents. Today, we’ll be discussing what is legal right now as well as linking to some of the best Pennsylvania betting sites that are licensed and located right here in the USA.
Pennsylvania began the process of drastically changing its gambling landscape in 2017 when lawmakers passed a major gambling reform bill to legalize online casino games, online poker, fantasy sports and online sports betting.
Legal Pennsylvania Betting Sites
Sports Betting and Online Gambling:
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
The part of the 2017 bill related to online sports betting in Pennsylvania was contingent upon the Supreme Court striking the federal sports betting prohibition known as PASPA. The Supreme Court gave that decision in May of 2018. Shortly after the decision, Pennsylvania announced it would proceed with sports betting and began accepting applications from land-based casinos to open Vegas-style sportsbooks.
Less than a week after that announcement, the Pennsylvania Lottery issued an announcement of its own: online lottery games are now available to customers 18 and older. The first PA betting sites appeared in mid-2019, beginning with the launch of SugarHouse PA.
Between the many forms of gambling that are legal and available right now, there is much to discuss – so let’s dig in.
Mobile Sports Betting in Pennsylvania
A massive gaming overhaul bill approved in 2017 paved the way to legalize in-person and online sports betting, casino gambling and poker. Most Pennsylvania casinos applied for licenses to offer these forms of online gaming and the Gaming Control Board has issued multiple approvals since then. Online and mobile sports betting is now available in Pennsylvania.
Online sports betting began in May 2019 after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) gave SugarHouse Sportsbook the green light to commence operations. Now, Pennsylvanians have access to in-person and mobile sportsbooks alike.
Trouble with iOS Betting Apps in PA? Try SugarHouse, DraftKings, FanDuel or Parx
If you have an iPhone and live in PA, you may have noticed a distinct lack of support for iOS users among the state’s legal betting apps. Apple recently changed its App Store policy in a way that requires every existing sportsbook operator to completely redesign its mobile apps from scratch – hence the delay.
SugarHouse PA was the first to launch a temporary workaround for Apple users. If you’ve had trouble finding a place to bet online due to a lack of iOS support, SugarHouse is your best bet. SugarHouse has a deal in place with GeoComply in which you can download the GeoGuard app for free and then place wagers through the mobile-friendly SugarHouse website from your iPhone or iPad.
FanDuel PA launched a bit later with a native iOS app from day one. This offers an even simpler option that requires no extra steps. Just download the FanDuel app from the App Store and you’ll be in the action in no time.
Parx Casino PA also has a native mobile app for all iOS devices. You can find the app by visiting the Parx website on your iPhone or heading to the app store and searching for “Parx Casino.”
DraftKings PA launched mobile betting in Pennsylvania with native apps for iOS and Android users alike in November 2019. Customers can visit DraftKings.com to place wagers online and for links to download the official app for iPhone and Android smartphones.
Caesars Sportsbook launched for Pennsylvania residents in March 2020 after receiving the approval of the PGCB.
Retail Sportsbooks in PA
Most PA casinos have launched sportsbooks since the passage of the 2017 gambling expansion law. The following list of PA sportsbooks provides a basic overview of each along with information for online betting if offered by that casino.
SugarHouse Casino Sportsbook
- Mobile Betting
- SugarHouse Casino Sportsbook
- Address: 1001 N. Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
- Location: Just past the North Entrance lobby, across from the poker room
SugarHouse mobile sportsbook opened for business in May 2019 and now offers sports betting to customers 21+ who are within state lines at the time of access. You do not need to be a resident of Pennsylvania to play, but you do need to be physically present inside the state. Wagers may be placed online at PlaySugarHouse.com or through the iOS/Android apps.
The in-person sportsbook at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia went live in December 2018 after the construction of a brand new sportsbook complete with a TV wall and comfortable seating for all.
Note: SugarHouse has notified the Gaming Control Board it will be changing its name to Rivers Casino Philadelphia in a series of stages beginning this summer. The changeover will begin when the current SugarHouse rolls out online gaming in July under the name Rivers Casino. Later this year, the actual SugarHouse in Philadelphia will make the change as well.
Hours of Operation (subject to change):
- Mon-Fri: 10 AM to 1 AM
- Sat-Sun: 9 AM to 1 AM
Hollywood Casino Sportsbook
- The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino
- Address: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Grantville, PA 17028
- Location: Second floor near Skybox Sports Bar
Although Parx Casino was the first casino to confirm its intention to offer sports betting, Hollywood Casino was the first to actually submit a license application and begin taking wagers. Penn National Gaming originally aimed for a 1 September 2018 launch, but ended up launching on 15 November 2018.
The sportsbook at Hollywood Casino is operated by William Hill US and covers all the major sports of the world. All major types of wagers are accepted as well, including in-play betting during games. Hollywood Casino PA is also licensed to offer online sports betting and casino games with plans to launch soon.
Hours of Operation (subject to change depending on the season and what’s happening in sports):
- Mon-Fri: 11 AM to 12 AM
- Sat-Sun: 10 AM to 12 AM
Parx Casino Sportsbook
- Mobile Betting
- Retail Sportsbook
- Address: 2999 Street Road, Bensalem, PA 19020
- Location: Temporary sportsbook located in the former 360 bar and lounge; permanent sportsbook under construction
Parx Casino was the first in Pennsylvania to announce its intention to offer sports betting when it confirmed near the end of July that it has joined forces with software provider GAN plc to offer in-person and online sports betting in PA.
A temporary sportsbook opened in January 2019 and was followed by a permanent sportsbook later that year. The new, 7,400-square foot Parx Casino Sportsbook features nearly 200 seats, six live teller windows, 18 betting kiosks, a 156-foot video wall and full food and drink menu.
Mobile betting went live in June 2019 and an online casino followed the next month. Parx Casino now offers a mix of sports betting and gambling options for anyone 21+ and located within state lines.
Hours of Operation:
- Betting kiosks available 24/7
- Mon-Thurs: 12 PM to 12 AM
- Fri: 12 PM to 1 AM
- Sat: 10 AM to 1 AM
- Sun: 10 AM to 12 AM
South Philly Turf Club
- Address: 700 Packer Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148
- Location: Main betting windows plus nine self-serve kiosks
Located across the street from Citizens Bank Park and just a short walk from Lincoln Financial Field and Wells Fargo Center, the sportsbook at the South Philly Turf Club is ideally situated for sports fans on game day.
The South Philly Turf Club underwent about a million dollars’ worth of renovations prior to launching sports wagering and now accepts bets through a bank of staffed betting windows plus nine self-serve kiosks. The sportsbook at the Turf Club is managed by the same platform that runs the sportsbook at Parx Casino, which means you’ll get the same range of betting options and odds as you would at the main Parx Casino Sportsbook.
Hours of Operation:
- Mon-Fri: 12 PM – 11 PM
- Sat: 10 AM – 12 AM
- Sun: 10 AM – 11 PM
- The Book at Harrah’s
- Address: 777 Harrah’s Blvd., Chester, PA 19013
- Location: Look for “The Book” in the rear of the casino floor
Harrah’s Philadelphia was the third casino to apply for a sports betting license in Pennsylvania in September 2018. Harrah’s, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment and will offer online and in-person sports betting with Caesars Interactive and Scientific Games powering the operation behind the scenes.
Harrah’s received approval from the PGCB the following month to offer online and in-person sports betting in addition to other online casino games. Harrah’s Sportsbook began taking wagers in January of 2019 following the construction of a 4,300 square feet sportsbook featuring 19 lounge seats, more than 40 flat-screen TVs, six teller windows and a number of self-serve betting kiosks.
Hours of Operation:
- Mon-Fri: 11 AM – 12 AM
- Sat-Sun: 10 AM – 12 AM
- Mobile Betting
- Rivers Sportsbook
- Address: 777 Casino Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
- Location: Next to the high-limit table games and 446 Club
Rivers Casino submitted a sports betting application to the PGCB in September, received approval and went live in December 2018. Rivers Casino Sportsbook launched on the same day as SugarHouse and launched online betting in 2019.
Hours of Operation:
- Mon-Thurs: 10 AM to 12 AM
- Sat: 9 AM to 2 AM
- Sun: 9 AM to 12 AM
Valley Forge Casino Resort
- Mobile Betting (FanDuel)
- FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge
- Address: 1160 1st Avenue, King of Prussia, PA 19406
- Location: To the left of the main casino entrance
FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino launched with seven betting windows and nearly 30 TV screens as a full-fledge sportsbook in the Philadelphia area. Beyond simply having a recognized brand name, FanDuel has earned a reputation as a skilled sports betting operator. When betting here, you’ll have access to a long list of sports and a comfy experience.
Photos of the sportsbook show a sleek aesthetic, lots of big-screen TVs, bar seating and a collection of easy chair/table combos complete with cupholders. In all, you’ll find 1,800 square feet of sports betting action at Valley Forge.
Hours of Operation:
- Mon-Thurs: 10 AM to 1 AM
- Fri: 10 AM to 2 AM
- Sat: 7 AM to 2 AM
- Sun: 8 AM to 1 AM
Oaks Race & Sportsbook
- Address: 600 Cresson Avenue, Oaks, PA 19456
- Location: Just walk right in
Formerly known as the “Valley Forge Turf Club,” the Oaks Race & Sportsbook launched sports betting in March 2019 after extensive renovation including the addition of 100 new TVs, six sports betting windows and 14 betting kiosks.
Oaks Race & Sportsbook offers a lot of space with 26,000 square feet and plenty of seating to go along with a full food menu and bar service. Special events for major horse races were a common thing when Valley Forge was strictly horse racing, so look for something similar for major sports events moving forward.
Hours of Operation:
- Mon-Fri: 12 PM – 11 PM
- Sat: 10 AM – 12 AM
- Sun: 10 AM – 11 PM
Presque Isle Downs
BetAmerica Sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs is open for business. The sportsbook began a soft launch phase in July before being given the final all-clear from the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board. In addition to the sportsbook, Presque Isle has installed 50 BetAmerica-themed betting kiosks across the casino floor.
Churchill Downs Inc acquired Presque Isle Downs in early 2019 and now plans to launch mobile betting in Pennsylvania under the BetAmerica brand (which is also owned by Churchill Downs). BetAmerica currently operates as a horse racing betting site, but screenshots from the license petition Presque Isle submitted to the PGCB showed online casino games and sports betting markets at BetAmerica.com.
Mohegan Sun Pocono Sportsbook
- Unibet Sportsbook at Mohegan Sun Pocono
- Address: 1280 Highway 315, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
- Location: Near the front entrance
The Unibet Sportsbook at Mohegan Sun Pocono launched in late September with two tellers, six self-serve kiosks and a 28-foot HD video wall all inside more than 1,100 square feet of space. The video wall can be converted to two extra-large screens or play up to 16 games at a time while a ticker above provides scrolling scoring information.
The sportsbook also features a bar and seating for about 40 customers. The sports betting terminals accept cash and tickets but not credit cards. Mohegan Sun and Unibet say online betting will launch under the Unibet brand soon as well.
Hours of Operation:
- 7 Days a Week: 11 AM to Midnight
The Meadows Sportsbook
- Mobile Betting (DraftKings)
- The Sportsbook
- 210 Racetrack Rd, Washington, PA 15301
- Location: Middle of the casino near The Carvery and the Poker Room
The Sportsbook at The Meadows Casino was a bit late to the party having launched in October 2019 but is now up and running. Sportsbook visitors will find 15 ultra HD TVs, five ticket windows, 18 betting kiosks and a full-service bar.
The Meadows entered online sports betting in November 2019 in partnership with DraftKings. Under the deal, The Meadows offers mobile betting using the DraftKings brand name.
Hours of Operation:
- 7 Days a Week: 10 AM to Midnight
Wind Creek Bethlehem (Coming November 2020)
- Wind Creek Website
- 77 Wind Creek Blvd, Bethlehem, PA 18015
- Location: To be announced
Wind Creek Bethlehem is partnered with Betfred to operate a retail sportsbook at the casino and statewide mobile betting. Betfred is not a high-profile name in the US, but it is well-known on the international stage as one of the UK’s oldest online bookmakers (Betfred was founded in 1967) and an operator of more than 1600 retail sportsbooks.
Wind Creek and Bethlehem announced a partnership in January 2020 and have since offered more detailed plans to Pennsylvania regulators. According to recent documents filed with the PGCB, Betfred and Wind Creek plan to open a retail sportsbook in November 2020 and launch online betting sometime before that.
How We Got Here
As rumors spread that the Supreme Court was considering striking down the federal sports betting ban, Pennsylvania emerged as one of the states most interested in exploring new sports betting opportunities. Over the course of a single week in 2017, state lawmakers made two moves to bring real money sports betting one step closer to fruition.
First, there was the massive gambling overhaul passed in mid-October 2017 that declared live and online sports betting will be legal, taxed and regulated as soon as it becomes legal at the federal level. At the time the bill was passed in Pennsylvania, federal law still prohibited states other than Nevada from legalizing and regulating sports betting.
Second, Governor Wolf decided to allow the state lottery to begin offering virtual sports betting. This decision occurred within days of the legislature’s approval of the aforementioned gambling expansion bill. Virtual sports betting is designed to look exactly like real sports betting but with the one obvious difference being that virtual sports games are never contested in the real world.
At the end of October 2017, Governor Wolf signed the online gambling bill into law to legalize not just online casino games, fantasy sports and online poker, but also sports betting. After the Supreme Court struck down the federal sports betting ban in 2018, the portion of Pennsylvania’s new gambling law related to sports betting took effect.
Most of the news coming out of Pennsylvania these days is good for gamblers, with the exception being excessive tax rates applied to sports betting. Current gaming laws call for a combined state/local 36% tax rate on sports betting – one of the highest in the nation and more than 4 times higher than the tax rate levied on sports betting in New Jersey.
The Gaming Control Board had trouble attracting casinos to apply for licenses at first, with operators such as William Hill US plainly stating they had no intention to apply for a sports betting license due to the excessive fees and taxes. Others involved in the gaming industry expressed similar concerns.
Roughly two-and-a-half month after the Board invited casinos to apply for licenses, the Board received its first applicant: Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. Interestingly, Hollywood Casino has teamed up with William Hill US to offer sports betting despite the former previously saying it had no interest in Pennsylvania.
Online Gambling Legalized in Pennsylvania
HB 271 passed the Pennsylvania House and Senate in 2017 to legalize gambling and betting sites in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law days after the legislature sent it to his desk.
Most land-based casinos have applied for online gambling licenses and the first PA online casinos went live in July 2019.
PA online gaming law covers a lot of ground, but the most important parts of the law grant existing casinos as well as other “qualified entities” the ability to apply for licenses to offer online casino games.
Casinos and other “qualified gaming entities” are required to have licenses for each of three different types of online gaming:
- Non-peer-to-peer interactive games which simulates slot machines
- Non-peer-to-peer games which simulates table games
- Peer-to-peer interactive games which simulates poker
In other words, casinos must be specifically licensed for online slots, table games and poker. Each license may be applied for individually at a cost of $4 million. Existing Pennsylvania casinos were also given the option to purchase all three licenses in a package deal for $10 million during the first 90-day period after the law was passed.
High tax rates remain an issue with online slots facing a tax rate of 52% plus 2% local taxes. Likewise, table games and poker are taxed at 14% + 2% and sports betting at 34% + 2%.
Nine casinos opted for the package deal and submitted their licensing applications on or before July 16th, 2018. The following casinos now offer online gambling in PA:
|Land-Based Casino||Online Gambling Website|
|Harrah’s Philadelphia||Caesars Casino: pa.caesarsonline.com|
|Mohegan Sun Pocono||Unibet Casino: pa.unibet.com|
|Parx Casino||Parx Online Casino: pa.parxcasino.com|
|Mount Airy Casino Resort||PokerStars Casino: starsmtairycasino.com, pokerstarsmtairycasino.com|
|Hollywood Casino||Hollywood Online Casino: pa.hollywoodcasino.com|
|Hollywood Casino Second Skin||DraftKings Casino: Available through iOS/Android apps|
|Presque Isle Downs Casino||BetAmerica Casino: pa.betamerica.com|
|Rivers Casino Philadelphia||SugarHouse Casino: pa.playsugarhouse.com|
|Rivers Casino Philadelphia Second Skin||BetRivers Casino: pa.betrivers.com|
|Valley Forge Casino Resort||FanDuel Casino: Available through iOS/Android apps|
|Wind Creek Bethlehem||Not live; partnered with Pala Interactive for online casino|
|Live! Casino Philadelphia|
|Approved QGEs (Qualified Gaming Entities)|
|Borgata Hotel Casino Spa||Not live; partnered with Roar Digital (BetMGM)|
|Golden Nugget||Not live; operates Golden Nugget Online|
PA Horse Racing Betting
Online horse racing betting is legal for residents of Pennsylvania. Federal laws allow each state to determine the legality of horse betting and most states allow residents to bet on horse races online. All of the nation’s largest horse betting websites have a presence in the state.
Where to Bet on Horses in Pennsylvania
All of the following racing betting sites accept customers from Pennsylvania. Each of the sites listed below is headquartered in the United States and holds a license to offer real money bets on horses and greyhounds.
- BetAmerica: www.betamerica.com
- Twin Spires: www.twinspires.com
- TVG: www.tvg.com
- Watch and Wager: www.watchandwager.com
PA Horse Racing Tracks
Pennsylvania is also home to six live racing venues that accept wagers on races. Horse racing in the state is regulated by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission under the Department of Agriculture. Here’s a look at the six racetracks that call PA home.
1280 Highway 315
Wilkes-Barre PA 18702
777 Harrah’s Blvd.
Chester, PA 19013
777 Hollywood Blvd.
Grantville, PA 17028
2999 Street Road
Bensalem, PA 19020
8199 Perry Highway
Erie, PA 16509
210 Racetrack Rd.
Washington, PA 15301
Off-Track Betting in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania racetracks also operate a handful of off-track wagering (OTW) facilities across the state.
2090 Lincoln Highway East
Lancaster, PA 17602
351 Loucks Road
York, PA 17404
156 Eagles Glen Plaza
East Stroudsburg, PA 18301
1780 Airport Road
Allentown, PA 18109
1 Anchor Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
700 Packer Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148
600 Cresson Avenue
Oaks Corporate Center
Oaks, PA 19456
PA Daily Fantasy Sports
In October of 2017, the state legislature sent a massive gambling expansion bill to the governor’s desk. This bill covered a wide range of activities including online poker, online gambling, online sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
The governor signed off on the bill within days of receiving it and the portion of the bill relating to fantasy sports took effect on April 28th of 2018. Daily fantasy sports sites must be licensed to operate in Pennsylvania and are subject to numerous consumer protection regulations.
Among those regulations are requirements that all sites be licensed, that they only accept customers over 18, that they be subject to independent audits and that they keep players’ funds in a segregated account separate from operator funds (in order to protect customers’ deposits).
People were able to play daily fantasy online in Pennsylvania for years prior to the passage of the bill and little has changed for the players. The biggest DFS sites applied for licenses immediately and are currently authorized to continue holding real money contests in Pennsylvania. Our recommended sites at the top of this page are all licensed and legal.
How Fantasy Sports Sites Work
Fantasy sports betting is a whole different ballgame than traditional sports wagering. In a fantasy league, you are given a virtual salary cap which is used to draft players for your virtual team. Each player in the league is priced according to his perceived value. If you want to draft the best quarterback in the NFL, for example, you’re going to spend a good portion of your salary on that one player.
Once you have drafted your team, all you have to do is watch that week’s games. As your team’s real life counterparts amass stats in the real world, your fantasy team accumulates points online. The person whose team accumulates the most points wins the league.
You can compete against a single player in a heads-up match or join tournaments with massive prize pools. Each fantasy league only lasts for a single day or week so that each member of your fantasy team plays in exactly one game.
Fantasy sites in the United States cover the biggest pro leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA , NHL and PGA) in addition to college basketball and football. The goal in all fantasy leagues is to draft a well-rounded team, stay under the salary cap and rack up the most stats. If you win your competition, you win real money.
PA Online Lottery
The big gambling expansion law we discussed earlier also included reforms for the Pennsylvania Lottery. Most notably, the bill granted the lottery permission to offer lottery-style games online. Some of the types of games permitted include lottery tickets, instant scratch card games and keno, but the lottery is not authorized to offer games that resemble those found in casinos (such as blackjack or slots).
In June of 2018, the PA Lottery announced the launch of its new online gaming site located at PAiLottery.com. The new iLottery website launched with a small selection of chance-based games that function similar to the scratch you buy in the real world, but with all the animations, sound effects and bonus rounds you can only get by playing online.
Not long after the PA legislature sent that bill to Governor Wolf, the governor made a separate announcement that he would be authorizing the Pennsylvania Lottery to operate virtual sports betting terminals in authorized locations such as bars and taverns. The state lottery predicted that the change would result in up to $75 million in additional revenue over the next five years.
More About PAiLottery.com
The Pennsylvania online lottery site (see our review here) is open to anyone 18 and over. You can try demo games from anywhere in the nation, but real money play is limited to customers located within Pennsylvania state lines. The lottery website uses geolocation technology to detect your current location and ensure the real money games remain firmly inside state borders.
If you’re at least 18 and are located in Pennsylvania, you can create a real money account and fund it via debit card, ACH e-check or PayNearMe. The minimum deposit is $10 and there is no maximum withdrawal limit.
The state lottery takes problem gambling seriously and PAiLottery is built with several features designed to help keep things under control. Players can set daily, weekly or monthly deposit limits to combat overspending. Players may also set time limits and loss limits. Finally, the lottery website offers complete self-exclusion periods ranging from one to five years.
Sign up for an account at PA iLottery and Get $5 in Free Plays:
Past Efforts to Legalize Online Gambling in Pennsylvania
All legislation detailed below is dead today, but we figured it would be better to leave these overviews up rather than delete them outright. It’s interesting to look back at previous efforts and see that excessive tax rates and licensing fees are not a new thing in Pennsylvania. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of every bill ever proposed in Pennsylvania. We’re just sticking with the biggest bills that appeared the likeliest to pass at one point.
2013: House Bill No. 1235
Representative Tina Davis introduced House Bill No. 1235 a couple of times. The bill called for the legalization and regulation of online poker and casino games such as blackjack, slot machines and so on. A previous iteration of the bill included burdensome licensing fees and taxes. At one point, the bill required a licensing fee of $16,500,000 per operator and a 45% tax rate on the industry.
She reintroduced the bill in 2013 with considerably lower fees and taxes. The 2013 edition asked for a $5,000,000 license fee and a 28% tax rate. These updated rates brought Pennsylvania more in line with what we’re seeing in other states.
Overall, the bill was fairly lenient. It did not include a “bad actor” clause, which means sites such as PokerStars and Party Poker would be able to return to Pennsylvania and apply for licensing. The bill included an allowance for Pennsylvania to join interstate pacts with other states that legalize internet gaming. What this means is poker sites in Pennsylvania would be allowed to share player pools with poker sites operating in other states, thereby increasing the overall player pool for everyone.
The rest of the bill goes on to describe the measures that will be taken to ensure gambling remains fair, safe and free from the influence of crime. This bill was referred to the gaming oversight committee in April of 2013 and never came back.
2014: Senate Bill No. 1386
Senators Edwin Erickson and Bob Mensch introduced SB 1386 in June of 2014. Like the previous bill, this one paved the way for legalizing and regulating online casino games and poker. This bill too called for a $5 million licensing fee.
SB 1386 did contain several key differences. First, it proposed a tax rate of just 14%. Second, this one did include a bad actor clause. What that means is any gaming companies that accepted wagers from the United States after 2006 would be forever prohibited from offering their services in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, licenses would only be issued to existing brick-and-mortar operators in Pennsylvania. These operators could team up with 3rd party software providers, but all online operations would have to be promoted and marketed under the brand of the brick-and-mortar establishment.
2015/2016: House Bill No. 649, SB 900
HB 460: Full Text
SB 900: Full Text
HB 649 was first introduced in February of 2015 and hung around throughout part of 2016. This law wanted to direct the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to create regulations, license operators and monitor licensees.
HB 649 would allow brick-and-mortar casinos to apply for licensees for an $8 million fee and give them the ability to partner with existing online gaming providers who can provide the technology and expertise to take brick-and-mortar casinos to the digital realm.
State Representative John Payne, chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, told Trib Live in January of 2016 that he believes the state will find the potential income from legal online casino games too irresistible to pass on.
“Look, we need revenue,” he said. “They’re not going to find votes for taxes in an election year. So I would think gaming will be a component.”
One bill introduced in 2015 even proposed a ridiculous 54% tax rate for online gaming revenue. The tax rates specified in SB 900 were seen as ridiculous at the time, but unfortunately that bill did set the stage for high tax rates in the 2017 bill that was later approved by the House and Senate.
A pair of identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate in 2017. Those bills called for poker sites and online casinos to apply for licenses at a cost of $8 million up front and $250,000 per year thereafter. Technology providers would likewise be subject to hefty taxes and fees: $2 million up front and $100,000 per year thereafter.
These two bills also called for a tax rate of 16%, which was much, much better than what some other proposals have called for. Neither bill made it into law, but they did set the stage for what would come later.
Shortly after those two bills were proposed, a third bill came out of nowhere courtesy of state Senator Jay Costa. His massive bill consisted of 200+ pages of regulations that would ultimately legalize gambling as well as formally legalize fantasy sports. The problems with this bill included taxes and fees. This one called for a $10 million licensing fee for gambling sites, $5 million for software providers and a tax rate of 25%.
Timeline of Legal Gambling in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania legalized horse racing in 1959. The first racetrack to open was Meadows in 1963.
The Pennsylvania Lottery is established.
After several failed attempts to legalize casino gambling, Pennsylvania passed the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. The law legalized slot machines at up to seven racetracks, five stand-alone casinos, and two resort casinos.
In 2010, Pennsylvania updated the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act to include table games.
Online Gambling, Sports Betting, DFS, and More
Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive gaming expansion law in 2017. The highlights of the bill were the legalization of online casino games, online poker, online lottery, retail and online sports betting, daily fantasy sports, mini-casinos, and VGTs.