Pennsylvania has one of the biggest gambling market in the country, so of course, we can expect large sports betting market in the Keystone State as well. Pennsylvania was looking towards legal sports betting even before the Supreme Court ruling. Although they wouldn’t have been allowed to legalize sports betting unless the Supreme Court removed the federal ban. So once the ban was removed, Pennsylvania was among the first to get things in gear.
Supreme Court Decision
Back in 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The idea behind this act was to protect the integrity of sports in the wake of a growing desire for Americans to wager on sports. PASPA effectively banned all states from allowing regulated sports betting. The only states that were exempt from this were Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and Nevada. However, Nevada was the only state that actually had a complete sports betting industry and remained the only state with one until 2018’s ruling.
For about 19 years, everything remained the same in regards to legal sports betting across the country, then came 2011. New Jersey challenged that PASPA ruling in 2011. After the state passed a bill to decriminalize sports betting, the four major sports leagues and the NCAA sued to stop that law from taking effect. A judge ruled in favor of the leagues. After a number of appeals, including one to the Supreme Court who refused to hear their case, it appeared the leagues had won.
In 2014 New Jersey tried again. This time, the state tried to work its way around the federal law by passing a law of their own that instead of legalizing sports betting, repealed its own betting prohibition. Once again the leagues sued, and once again they won. New Jersey responded by appealing to the Supreme Court yet again. This time, the Supreme Court agreed to hear their case.
Both the leagues and the state of New Jersey presented their cases in front of the Supreme Court. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey and the PASPA ruling was no more. With that ruling, states were now free to legalize and regulate sports betting.
How Pennsylvania Sports Betting Came To Be
The road to Pennsylvania actually started back in 2015. Representative Rick Kotik hinted that he would be planning to introduce legislation to legalize sports betting in the state. Kotik did just that on October 14th by introducing H 1627 into the House. The goal of the bill was to repeal that state’s prohibition on sports betting. Representative Rob Matzie co-sponsored Kotik’s bill. Nothing became of the bill, but it was an eye-opener in the Pennsylvania legislature.
In January of 2017, Matzie took the lead on the push for legal sports betting in Pennsylvania. Matzie introduced H 519 as a follow-up to Kotik’s 2015 bill, albeit more in-depth.
Matzie’s bill called for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to issue regulations “establishing the rules and procedures for sports wagering.” His bill called for a $5 million licensing fee and an 18 percent tax on sports betting revenue. The bill’s effects would be on hold pending a ruling in Christie vs NCAA. As with Kotik’s bill, the House Gaming Oversight Committee signed off on the bill that April, but that was all for this particular bill.
Pennsylvania was dealing with a substantial budget deficit and some lawmakers were pointing to a gambling expansion to help fix that issue. Representative Jason Ortitay ended up introducing the key piece of legislation, H 271, that acted as a stepping stone for a comprehensive gaming package.
The bill was introduced to help modify the state’s problem gambling hotline. However, lawmakers said the purpose was to introduce much bigger plans. “We put in one thing, tablets in airports, and basically said, ‘You load it up with what you want in it,’” said Representative George Dunbar.
The bill went through a number of changes over the next several months. The House eventually added in Matzie’s sports betting provisions. Matzie’s provisions are what helped Pennsylvania bring legal sports betting to the state. The bill eventually passed and on October 30, 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law. Sports betting was now legal in Pennsylvania, pending a change in the federal law.
Less than seven months later the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting by a vote of 6-3. Pennsylvania now had the green light to launch its sports betting industry.
Future Of Pennsylvania Sports Betting
Retail Pennsylvania sportsbooks opened in November 2018. Online sports betting has been waiting to launch since the beginning of 2019. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania residents, the launch date keeps getting pushed back. There are currently eight retail sportsbooks open in Pennsylvania with two more expected to be opening later this year. Mobile sports betting is finally believed to be coming to Pennsylvania any day. We’ve heard that Surgarhouse Sportsbook will perform a pilot test in May and that FanDuel Sportsbook App should be live in June 2019.