Las Vegas finally has some competition. Sin City no longer has a virtual monopoly on sports betting, and states like Pennsylvania are rushing to place their bets on the industry.
Residents in the Keystone State will be among the first to be able to bet on sports in person after the Supreme Court in May 2018 struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.
There are many regulations to work through and license applications to process, but sports betting operations in Pennsylvania will roll out slowly over a period of months beginning in November 2018.
Betting Laws in Pennsylvania
Almost 13 million people live in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg is the capital, while Philadelphia is its largest city with 1.5 million residents.
Gambling, whether it’s horse racing at Penn National Race Course or the slots at Sands Bethlehem casino, is regulated at the state level by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
All legalized gambling within Pennsylvania is limited to the following areas:
- Casino gambling
- Tribal casinos
- Online gambling
- Daily fantasy betting
- Horse racing
- Social gambling
- Charitable gambling
The minimum gambling age is 18 for pari-mutuel betting and 21 at casinos.
There are currently 12 casinos in the state. Six are racinos, four are stand-alone casinos and two are resort-style casinos. All Pennsylvania casinos are open 24 hours a day.
A $200-million renovation in 2006 dramatically transformed Pocono Downs into not only Pennsylvania’s first casino, but the area’s leading entertainment complex in Wilkes-Barre.
Interestingly, the biggest revenue generators in the state are not the mega-resort casinos. Instead it is the stand-alone Sands Bethlehem and the Parx Racino. Pennsylvania casinos set a revenue record for 2017 as a whole, generating $3.227 billion in revenues.
The six racetracks that feature casino gambling also offer two different breeds of horse racing — thoroughbred racing and harness racing.
The standardbreds compete at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Pocono Downs and The Meadows, which was the first track to open in the state in 1963. The runners head into the gate at Parx, Penn National and Presque Isle.
These locations also offer simulcast wagering from other racetracks, mainly in the U.S.
The Pennsylvania Lottery has been available across the state since 1972. In addition to regular drawings, the state also participates in Powerball and Mega Millions games and sells scratch card tickets.
Pennsylvania’s Sports Betting Laws
Anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision, Pennsylvania last year authorized sports betting when it becomes legal nationwide. The law, passed as part of the 2017-18 budget, allowed the state’s existing casinos to offer sports betting “through an Internet-based system” after acquiring a licensing fee.
The top court overturned the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018. The law in Pennsylvania now permits wagering on both professional and collegiate events. Bets can be placed in person, online or on a mobile device. Bettors must be at least 21 years old.
Five casinos have applied for sports betting licenses, and they should be taking bets before the end of the year.
Although casino gaming has only been legal for about a decade, Pennsylvania is second only to Nevada in commercial casino revenues. On Oct. 26, 2017, the House passed a bill that legalized online gambling at sites like Bovada, TopBet and BetOnline.
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Pennsylvania’s Major League Teams
National Football League
Founded in 1933, the Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC. Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowl titles (6) and both played in (16) and hosted more conference championship games (11) than any other NFL team.
The Eagles, who were established in 1933, have an intense rivalry with the New York Giants. This rivalry is the oldest in the NFC East and is among the oldest in the NFL.
National Basketball Association
Founded in 1946 and originally known as the Syracuse Nationals, the Philadelphia 76ers are one of the oldest franchises in the NBA, and one of only eight (out of 23) to survive the league’s first decade. They have won the NBA Finals three times — the last time in 1983.
Major League Baseball
Founded on Oct. 15, 1881 as Allegheny, the franchise has won five World Series championships. The Pittsburgh Pirates are also known as the “Bucs” or Buccos.”
The Philadelphia Phillies have won two World Series championships and seven National League pennants, the first of which came in 1915. The Phillies played 77 consecutive seasons before they won their first World Series.
National Hockey League
The Pittsburgh Penguins were founded in 1967 as one of the first expansion teams during the league’s original expansion from six to 12 teams. In addition to eight division titles, the Penguins have qualified for six Stanley Cup Finals, winning the Stanley Cup five times.
Part of the 1967 NHL expansion, the Philadelphia Flyers were the first expansion team in the post-Original Six era to win the Stanley Cup — victorious in 1973-74 and again in 1974-75. They have not won the Cup since the ’70s.