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When did Online Gambling become Legal in Pennsylvania?

The landscape of the US gambling industry is changing, and the internet is a significant player in the sector’s evolution. For example, even the likes of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, which are American betting strongholds, use online gambling revenues to diversify and enhance their positions. Online operators, meanwhile, have improved the markets to the point where they turn over billions of dollars annually.

Pennsylvania is at the heart of US gambling because it’s one of the few regions where all forms of betting are legal. PA is one of the foundations on which the industry has been built recently. To find out more about online gambling in Pennsylvania and why it’s essential, please continue reading.

Tom Wolf & Bill H271

Pennsylvania was like many of its peers and neighbors in the sense it had dipped its toes into the water of gambling. For example, while there are some facilities, such as the Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, the few betting establishments that existed couldn’t tame the demand in PA and the rest of the nation.

This changed in 2017 when Governor Tom Wolf signed Bill H271 into law. As a result, everything from online casinos to sportsbook markets was legalized, making Pennsylvania the fourth state to pin its colors to the mast of remote betting.

It has since doubled down by regulating the local industry through the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The board, as this online gambling legal in Pennsylvania information page points out, distributes 12 digital licenses to land-based licenses holders in the state.

A direct knock-on effect of this was that several of the biggest gambling brands in the US offered services to Pennsylvanians by 2019, including Unibet, DraftKings, and FanDuel. BetMGM, Barstool, and Caesar’s followed in 2020, making PA a hub for betting activity in the United States.

Why Did It Take Operators Two Years to Go Live?

Although Bill H271 was signed into law in 2017, the first providers didn’t go live until two years later. Considering the size of FanDuel and DraftKings, it seems strange that it took them so long to enter the market. Of course, there were the obligatory teething problems, including localizing the platform to PA bettors and testing services before going live.

But there was another issue that impacted gamblers in Pennsylvania – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. For years, this piece of legislation prevented states from providing legalized sports betting markets to their residents, creating what was akin to a federal ban (excluding Nevada and New Jersey).

Good news for Pennsylvanians, and betting fans in the US, came in the form of a Supreme Court ruling in 2018. The PASPA was struck down and declared unconstitutional thanks to a 6-3 decision that effectively means states get to have the final say on whether their people can wager on sports. As soon as this occurred, there was nothing to prevent Pennsylvania from following through with its intentions, hence why sportsbooks went live a year later.

Terms & Conditions for Licenses

Not every applicant is automatically awarded a permit to start trading. Pennsylvania is extremely picky regarding who it awards licenses to, which is why the main names are reputable brands that have presences across the US. To obtain approval, legalized applicants must adhere to certain rules, including the following:

  • Have a relationship with a land-based casino in Pennsylvania
  • Agree to be regulated by the PGCB
  • Pay the necessary amount (for example, it’s $10 million for a sportsbook permit)
  • Only provide services approved by the state of PA

These rules are stricter than you may imagine. To put it into perspective, some significant operators have only just proved they can follow the regulations. Borgata is a prime example as it went live in February 2021 and took longer than its rivals to join the PA market.

The Impact of Legalization on Pennsylvania

Haters wanted the move to fail. That way, they could stop gambling in Pennsylvania in its tracks. But it didn’t happen, because online wagering services in PA were welcomed with open arms. Sports betting revenues for the region highlight this because they have steadily risen from 2018 onwards, with the figure for October 2021 almost reaching $50 million. In August 2019, it was under $10 million.

This encouraged more operators to enter the market, which has diversified offerings for customers because they can select between several platforms. Also, the role of promotions is essential to the user experience since betting companies must use added value to stand out from the crowd, such as cash back, free spins or free bets deals.

The range of options is greater, too. Whether it’s the libraries themselves – live dealer games are widespread now – or payment methods such as e-wallets and cryptocurrencies, the user experience in Pennsylvania is among the best in the US.

Officially, online gambling became legal in 2017. It took a couple of years for services to go live, but now that they have, the PA industry hasn’t looked back.

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