First legal bets placed in Pennsylvania

16 November 2018

Pennsylvania became the seventh US state to process a legal sports wager yesterday (Thursday) when Penn National Gaming tested out its system with punters at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

A further test phase will take place from 2pm to midnight today next to the newly renovated Skybox Sports bar at the venue before a full implementation in the coming days. Research by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates $12bn could be wagered annually in Pennsylvania when the market matures – nearly three times more than Nevada.

Penn National confirmed that it started processing sports bets at 3pm local time, with the test launch allowing staff to get to grips with the new system and iron out the kinds of teething problems that have been reported with sportsbook launches in some other US states in recent months.

“We are extremely appreciative for the tireless effort and support of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board,” Hollywood Casino general manager Dan Ihm said. “They moved heaven and earth to get us to this point and we couldn’t be more excited to be Pennsylvania’s first sportsbook.”

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Parx Casino last month became the first casinos to receive approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to launch sports wagering. It is understood that Parx could also go live with its sportsbook before the end of this month.

Since then, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, SugarHouse Casino and Valley Forge have also applied for sports betting licences. Any casinos that wish to launch sports betting in Pennsylvania have to cough up an initial licence fee of $10m (£7.7m/€8.7m) and will face a 36% tax rate on sports wagers.

Pennsylvania follows Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and West Virginia in offering sports betting following the repeal of PASPA by the US Supreme Court in May.

Penn National CEO Timothy Wilmott said that the company was “excited to be the first casino to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania”.

He added: “The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”

The PGCB is also currently processing out-of-state applications for online gambling licences in the state.

A PGCB spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com in September that a “co-ordinated launch” was possible before the end of the year, with applicants for the remaining licences set to face the luck of a draw to see if they have been successful.

Penn National has previously said it expects the first online bets to be taken in Q1 2019.