William Hill takes first legal bets in Pennsylvania

20 November 2018

Sports betting is now live in Pennsylvania after William Hill began taking wagers in the state just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.

The gaming giant took the first legal bets at the Penn National Gaming-owned Hollywood Casino on Saturday (November 17th) after two days of testing on Thursday and Friday. The operator was also the first to take bets in New Jersey when it launched at the state's Monmouth Park Racetrack in June.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course is around 100km from Philadelphia in Grantville, with the William Hill sportsbook located in the venue’s newly renovated Skybox Sports Bar.

"Penn National is excited to be the first casino to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania," Penn National chief executive Timothy Wilmott said. "The enthusiasm around sports betting has been growing since the federal ban was repealed in May, and we look forward to providing our patrons with another great amenity to enjoy at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.”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 Pennsylvania sports betting market has been tipped to be worth $12bn annually by industry analyst Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. With almost 13 million residents, the seventh state to allow sports betting is the largest in terms of population, though is not expected to give the green light for operators to launch until the early part of next year. Penn National has previously said it expects the first online bets to be taken in Q1 2019.

Hollywood Casino and Parx Casino last month became the first casinos to receive approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to launch sports wagering. However, Parx - located just 15km from Philadelphia - and its partner Kambi would only commit to opening its retail venue "before the end of the year" in a statement released last week.

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 must pay an initial licence fee of $10m (£7.7m/€8.7m) and all wagers will be subject to a 36% tax rate.

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.

The PGCB is also currently processing out-of-state applications for online gambling licences in the state through a raffle, after a number of licences were not claimed by the state's land-based casino.