Pennsylvania is by far the most populous state with legal, regulated online gambling in the US. The omnibus expansion Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law in 2017 authorized interactive gaming across multiple verticals — including lottery, casino, fantasy sports, sports betting, and poker.
The online lottery is live, several sportsbooks are open for business, and the first Pennsylvania online casinos finally launched on July 15.
Keep reading for the latest news and analysis of the PA online gambling landscape.
Online casino games will drive the majority of revenue to the PA online gambling market over the long term. Operators may offer online slots, online table games, or both. Each licensee chose to secure permits for both during the application process at a cost of $4 million per category.
Here’s a look at which PA casinos offer online casino gambling:
Both Golden Nugget and MGM will offer online casino games in Pennsylvania after obtaining permits as Qualified Gaming Entities.
Here’s the current list of legal PA online sportsbooks:
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that allows sports betting over the internet anywhere within its borders. The 2017 law predates federal authorization, activated by the Supreme Court decision to repeal PASPA in May 2018.
Rush Street Gaming was the first to enter the PA online sports betting market in May 2019 with the launch of its SugarHouse platform. The company also operates the BetRivers sportsbook in the state and intends to merge its digital operations under the Rivers banner this year.
Like most forms of entertainment, gamblers in 2019 are increasingly looking to their smartphones or tablets to scratch their itch. Pennsylvania is the largest US market with legal online gambling, and consumer competition is suddenly a statewide game for every operator — regardless of the size or location of their brick-and-mortar casino.
PA online gambling apps have already begun rolling out into the market, led by the first few online sportsbooks in May 2019. PA online casinos began launching on July 15, and at least a couple of online poker sites are waiting to make their debut in the Commonwealth too.
A new policy from Apple, however, is wreaking havoc for developers as they work to deploy their iOS apps in PA.
A number of PA casinos also hold online poker permits. Like their online casino counterparts, licenses to offer PA online poker cost $4 million apiece — or the full suit could be had at a discounted $10 million.
Here are the PA casinos licensed for online poker:
There are no imminent plans to launch iPoker in Pennsylvania, but the first rooms could go live sometime in 2019.
Like the majority of US states, horse betting can be conducted legally over the internet in Pennsylvania. The PA horse betting law predates the 2017 expansion into full-scale online gambling and sports betting.
The Pennsylvania Lottery is now online for players 18 and older. The bulk of the product consists of interactive “instant win” tickets, though the state agency has since rolled out a number of modern games. It now offers Keno and virtual sports betting inside of licensed bars, for instance.
You can play sweepstakes online poker in Pennsylvania and win real cash prizes via Global Poker.
In part 3 of our NJ iGaming Tax Guide series, issues that might arise for players from other states are addressed.
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Below are some common questions and answers related to PA online gambling.
The key licenses are initially limited to land-based casino licensees. With some licensees electing not to participate, the door was opened to “qualified gaming entities,” who do not have to have a land-based presence in PA.
Casinos have partnered up with current and prospective online casino and poker operators, much as we’ve seen in New Jersey.
Interactive gaming permits are limited based on the number of casino licenses issued by the state. As things currently stand, that means there are 13 interactive permits available in each of these catgories:
That makes room for as many as 39 brands, but the number of licenses doesn’t necessarily equate to the number of sites.
New Jersey’s online casino market is a good example; there, permits are limited to the Atlantic City casinos. But each property can partner with multiple brands under its land-based license. Consider Golden Nugget, for instance, which has both Golden Nugget online casino and Betfair NJ online casino operating under its license.
Pennsylvania skins need to be partnered with a PA casino licensee and display their brand prominently.
Broadly speaking, individuals located in the state who are 21 and over can participate. You do not have to be a resident of Pennsylvania to play.
Employees of land-based licensees and key employees of platform providers are excluded, as are individuals who are barred from land-based casinos and individuals who have elected to self-exclude.
In simple terms, online casino games and online poker games are all available. But the bill gives regulators reasonable latitude to approve a wide array of games.
Due to the unique taxation structure that penalizes slot play and favors table games/poker, some new game variants may be developed for the PA market that attempt to appeal to slot players while remaining within the definition of a table game or a poker game.
Yes. As long as you are playing one of the regulated PA online poker sites, it is fully legal.
Yes. PokerStars will operate in Pennsylvania under the land-based casino license of Mount Airy. Both are regulated by the PA Gaming Control Board.
No. Bovada is not regulated by the PGCB, making its operations in Pennsylvania illegal under state and federal law.
The expectation is that they will — eventually. Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey currently share player pools under a multi-state online poker agreement.
The PA law clears the way for interstate play, and given that regulators in New Jersey have confirmed that talks between about sharing players have been ongoing, it appeared that there will be few hurdles on the path to interstate online poker for players in Pennsylvania.
There are three distinct tax rates for online games:
Tax is based on gross gaming revenue, defined as “the total of all cash or cash equivalent wagers […] minus the total of cash or cash equivalents paid out to to registered players as winnings.”
They vary slightly.
PA interactive gaming permits are valid for five years.
Visit this PA gambling expansion revenue page for a full breakdown to date.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) oversees and enforces all aspects of the industry.
Pennsylvania took multiple looks at online gambling, and gaming in general for years leading into the 2017 session. A bill finally made it to the finish line that fall, when H 271 became law. Passage bought to a close five years of discussion on the topic.
Other than iGaming, the law also legalized and/or regulated a number of other gaming formats, including:
The new law sprouted expanded gambling almost immediately, led by the lottery’s leap into online sales and modernized game types. Retail sports betting went live in the state in late 2018, followed by PA online sports betting in May 2019.
PA online casinos began to roll out on in July 2019, leaving PA online poker sites as pretty much the last things left to launch.
For a time, it looked like Pennsylvania was a slam dunk to legalize online gambling in 2016. Those hopes were dashed when the Senate failed to reach a consensus before the last scheduled session day.
After a strong but ultimately fruitless push in 2015, the latest legislative effort started off with more of a whimper than a bang. It wasn’t until late May that the wheels began turning. That’s when the House of Representatives considered two gaming reform amendments. This amendments, if passed, would become part of a separate gaming bill, HB 1925.
The first, A7622, packaged online poker/casino and other reforms alongside the inclusion of video gaming terminals (VGTs) at non-casino locations. The other, A7622, was a mirror of Rep. John Payne‘s omnibus gaming reform bill (HB 649) from the year prior, and did not include VGTs.
Confusion ruled the day, and both amendments were soundly defeated. (Although the margin of defeat for A7622 was significantly smaller.)
Momentum shifted to the side of online gambling proponents in late June. That’s when a new, multifaceted gaming reform bill that linked online gambling, daily fantasy sports, and other gaming reforms emerged in the House.
An amendment to allow VGTs nearly derailed the bill, failing by a vote of 118-79. But a last-minute amendment by Rep. Rosita Youngblood (the aptly titled Youngblood Amendment) calling for the exclusion of VGTs, turned the tide. The amendment ultimately passed 115-80.
In the week that followed, HB 2150 saw a whirlwind of activity. This culminated in the bill clearing a vote in the House.
In July, Governor Tom Wolf allowed a $1.3 billion revenue package that earmarked $100 million for gaming reform, to become law. All indications pointed to licensing fees from online gambling operators would be counted on to fill the gap.
Unfortunately, the Senate signaled that it would not be addressing online gambling legislation until the fall. In the interim, the legislature raised taxes on casino table games, while online gambling advocates spoke up about the need to pass legislation sooner rather than later.
Rep. John Payne introduced HB 649 in February 2015. Payne viewed online gambling as part of the solution to the state’s “projected $2 billion budget shortfall.” He backed his beliefs by championing online gambling legislation efforts for the next two years.
In the spring of 2015, two competing bills emerged in the House. One, HB 920, was from Tina Davis, a near replica of her 2013 bill. The other, Nick Miccarelli‘s HB 695, was an online poker only bill. Of the three, Payne’s became the most likely candidate for serious consideration.
Ahead of the June 30 budget deadline, there was the introduction of a fourth bill — this one from the State Sen. Kim Ward. SB 900 was significant in that it marked the Senate’s official entry into the conversation. Unfortunately, SB 900 was radically different than HB 649. It called for a 54 percent tax rate, a $10 million operator licensing fee, in-person registration, and the exclusion of Category 3 casinos.
Suffice it to say, the rigid nature of SB 900 would make it so license holders would have trouble operating profitably.
The Senate held two hearings on online gambling in June 2015. After that little was heard on the topic until the fall. In October, Pennsylvania was still in the midst of a budget stalemate. When Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax plan saw defeat in the House, he became willing to discuss new revenue sources, online gambling among them.
The following month, the GO committee passed HB 649 by a margin of 18-8. This marked the first time an online gambling bill passed a vote in Pennsylvania. But by then, an omnibus package was attached to the bill. It called for slot machines at non-casino venues and airports, Category 3 casino expansion, and a report on daily fantasy sports, among other reforms.
It’s believed that the controversial elements of the bill, namely allowing video gaming terminals at non-casino locations, was one of the reasons efforts stalled in 2015.
The results were published in May 2014, and were cause for optimism. Econsult estimated that online gambling would yield $68 million in first year tax revenue, and $110 million annually going forward. It also concluded that online gambling would have a complementary impact on land-based casino revenue.
Granted, the revenue estimates are always taken with a massive grain of salt, as they presumed a blended 20 percent tax rate on online poker and 60 percent on slots.
In either case, the results proved favorable enough for State Sen. Edwin Erickson to introduce a new online gambling bill (SB 1386) in June 2014. There was little action on that particular bill, but it set the stage for what would prove a very active 2015 session.
Online gambling first appeared on the legislature’s radar in April 2013, when State Rep. Tina Davis introduced HB 1235. The bill would permit both online poker and casino within the commonwealth. It also set operator licensing fees at $5 million, and called for a 28 percent tax rate on gross gaming revenue.
By June of this year, a general lack of interest among lawmakers resulted in the House Committee on Gaming Oversight chair Tina Pickett recommending the bill be stalled until 2015. But it wouldn’t take nearly that long for the ball to begin rolling again.
In December 2013, the Senate took a mammoth step forward when it passed SR 273. The resolution tasked Econsult Solutions with conducting a study that would measure the economic impact of online gambling.
Pennsylvania is currently home to 12 land-based casinos. Together they create the second-largest gambling economy in the US. It’s hard to believe that the industry was non-existent just over a decade ago.
The ball got rolling in 2004, when lawmakers authorized 61,000 slot machines at existing horse tracks, resorts and slot parlors. Concurrently, the state set up the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The PGCB would issue licenses and provide regulatory oversight for the nascent industry.
On December 20, 2006, six licenses for existing horse racing venues and five more for standalone casino were awarded. Of the 11 licensed operators, 10 opened or expanded their facilities by 2010. And by 2011, two Category 3 casinos — Valley Forge and Lady Luck Nemacolin — had also flipped over the open sign.
The industry took a monumental step forward in early 2010, with the legalization of table games — including poker — at slots casinos. By July 2010, top earners Sands Bethlehem (now Wind Creek), Parx, and Harrah’s had all instituted table games.
It was then that land-based casino revenue really began to take off, growing from $1.62 billion in 2008, to $2.49 billion in 2010, and $3.16 billion in 2012. For fiscal year 2015-16, PA recorded a record $3.2 billion in revenue.
In the time since, the industry has mostly stabilized, possibly even showing a few chinks in the armor.