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August 12, 2020

A History of Online Sports Betting in Pennsylvania

A History of Online Sports Betting in Pennsylvania

Sports have always been an integral part of Pennsylvanian culture. But now, loyal fans living in the Keystone State can legally place bets on their favorite teams. Whether they’re rooting for the Philadelphia 76ers or the Eagles, PA bettors have a myriad of sports betting options to choose from.

Ever since the first legal land-based sportsbook launched in 2018, Pennsylvania online gambling market has been firing on all cylinders. SugarHouse Sportsbook broke the ice in May 2019, and by the end of the football season that year, a whole bunch of top-tier betting sites was up and running. DraftKings jumped on the bandwagon in November 2019, followed by Caesars Online Sportsbook that went live in March 2020 — right in the time for college hoop’s March Madness.

Currently, nine online PA sportsbooks operate and accept bets from thousands of diehard sports fans across the state.

Read on for a complete breakdown of the entire PA online sports betting industry. This guide will show you everything you need to get started — from information on depositing and withdrawing, to types of bets you can place along with links to fantastic bonuses and answers to frequently asked questions. Stay tuned!

Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Pennsylvania?

With online gambling strictly prohibited under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, online sports betting was a taboo topic for residents of Pennsylvania for a long time. But when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, it cleared the way for state-based legislation and so PA took full advantage of the opportunity to offer sports betting services.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is a regulatory body that oversees all casino gambling activities in the state, including wagering on horse races and sports betting. This agency was founded in 2004 and is responsible for licensing and rigorous background checks of online sportsbooks before they go live.

All sports betting operators applying for the license are required to pay a one-time fee of $10 million. If given the license, licensees are taxed at the rate of 34% plus the 2% local share assessment. As per PGCB regulations, the licensed operators are allowed to offer online and retail betting on sporting events across a variety of sports.

Bottom line — you can now bet on all pro sports, international sporting events, and even college games in Pennsylvania. The only legal requirements are that you are of legal age (21 or over), not listed in any self-exclusion programs, and inside the state’s borders at the time you’re placing the bets — this applies to both land-based and online wagers. So, you don’t have to actually be a citizen of Pennsylvania to be allowed to place bets. You merely have to be physically present in the state during your betting sessions.

There are some sports betting rules you need to know, though:

  • You can only bet on sports; betting on political events or Oscars is not allowed
  • E-sports betting is prohibited
  • Personnel involved in sports leagues (coaches, officials, and so on) are not allowed to bet on their own sports

Horse racing betting is also legal in Pennsylvania, though it is licensed separately. There are several online horse racing sites in the state as well as OTB (off-track betting) facilities and actual racetracks.

How Online Betting in Pennsylvania Works

Unless you’re living in New Jersey, chances are that the world of online sports betting is still a mystery to you as a US citizen. You don’t know how to get started, where to play, which deposit methods to use in these sites, and so on. Don’t worry though, as I’m going to help you solve all the dilemmas you might have at the moment. Let’s begin with the fundamentals, the easy part — registration.

To register in a Pennsylvania betting site, you have to follow these few simple steps below:

  • Click on one of the links to visit one of the online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania
  • Find the Register or Sign Up button
  • Fill out the required fields (name, email, location, the last four digits of your Social Security Number)
  • Confirm that you agree with the sportsbook’s T&C
  • Make the initial deposit
  • Enjoy!

As I’ve said earlier, it’s easy to sign up with Pennsylvania online sportsbooks. Now that you’ve registered, it’s time to top up your sports betting account, and I’m going to show you how in the following section.

How to Deposit and Cash Out in Pennsylvania Sports Betting Sites

Once you have successfully set up your account, you must get it funded before you start placing bets. Pennsylvania bettors have several ways of depositing into sports betting sites. Let’s check them out together.

  • Credit cards — Typically, all betting and casino sites accept credit cards (Visa and Mastercards). These payment methods are universally recognized and are probably the easiest to use. Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to always use them for depositing on betting sites. In some instances, your credit card might be declined because credit card issuers won’t facilitate gambling transactions.
  • PayNearMe — Transactions made via PayNearMe are 100% private, with no credit card statements or records on banks. First, you must generate a barcode on the app to activate the account you intend to use. Then, you need to take the barcode to a local store (CVS or 7-Eleven), pay for it, and the retailer will give you a receipt. Once the funds reach your sports betting account, you will be instantly notified.
  • E-check or ACH — ACH or Automated Clearing House is an electronic banking system available in the US. An ACH deposit is processed when the user gives a betting site authorization to transfer money directly from their savings account or cheque. It’s similar to making a bank wire transfer, with the benefit of ACH being processed instantly, unlike bank wire that may take up to several days. ACH deposits can only be made by US residents who have a savings account or cheque set up with a credit union or US bank.
  • Prepaid cards — Most Pennsylvania online sportsbooks offer Play+ prepaid cards to their patrons. This payment solution allows bettors to buy a sportsbook-branded card and then use it to fund their account.
  • E-wallets (PayPal and Neteller) — Almost every sportsbook in the world supports e-wallets, but unfortunately they are still not particularly prevalent in Pennsylvania. E-wallet providers impose high licensing fees and tax rates, which is why many online sportsbooks in PA are hesitant to team up with these payment institutions.
  • Cash at the cage — Every sportsbook in Pennsylvania gives its users the option of going to the cage of a local land-based casino affiliated with the sportsbook and fund their account from there. You must provide to the cashier valid information, like ID card, driver’s license, or passport, as well as the account information. Tell the cashier the amount you want to deposit, and the transaction will be processed almost instantly.

Note that the number of payment options supported varies from sportsbook to sportsbook. For instance, the FanDuel sportsbook supports all of these payment methods, but some up-and-coming betting sites in Philadelphia that just went live might not offer them.

Withdrawing Funds from Pennsylvania Sports Betting Sites

As far as withdrawing money from your sportsbook account is concerned, the choice is generally more limited. Because of this, sometimes customers must cash out using the same payment methods that were used for depositing. As a result, keep in mind that some sportsbook withdrawals may come with certain fees, depending on the sportsbook you’re betting with.

Here’s how you can get money off your sportsbook account:

  • Visit the sportsbook’s homepage
  • Log into your account
  • Go to your profile and look for the Withdraw or Cash Out tab
  • Click on the preferred payment method from the list
  • Fill out your banking details as well as the amount you wish to withdraw
  • Confirm the payment (usually via email)
  • Depending on the payment methods, you should be able to get your money within 2–10 days.

Pennsylvania Online Sportsbook Bonuses

Online sportsbooks offer a wide array of bonuses to bettors, each of them giving unique draws. This is the case because sportsbook operators use these incentives to entice bettors to join their sites and keep them engaged for a prolonged period of time.

There are two main types of bonuses:

  1. Welcome or sign up bonuses — These apply only to new customers
  2. Ongoing bonuses — The bonuses intended for existing customers

Understanding the different types of sportsbook bonuses is paramount to getting the most value out of your online sports betting experience. Below, I’ll break down the most common types of bonuses offered by online sportsbooks.

Sign Up or Welcome Bonuses

Welcome bonuses are designed to attract new bettors and are usually the highest in size compared to other promotions. Sign up or welcome bonuses come in many forms. Some sportsbooks will give you some free bets to place or match a percentage of your deposit. Others will multiply the winnings of your first bet or refund your losses in case your first bet fails (risk-free bet).

These bonuses are available only to newcomers on the site, which means that you can claim them only once.

Bonuses for Existing Customers

If your plan is to stick with a sportsbook for a sustained period, you will undoubtedly find these treats appealing. Here are the most commonly offered bonuses for existing customers:

  • Refer-a-friend bonuses — This bonus is pretty self-explanatory. For every friend that you refer to a Pennsylvania sportsbook, the operator will give you a hefty deposit boost once your friend makes their initial deposit. The size of the refer-a-friend bonus varies significantly, but the percentage usually hovers between 25–50%. The maximum amount you’ll get isn’t mind-blowing. Regardless, it’s a useful type of promotion if you have some buddies who like to place wagers online.
  • Reload bonuses — They are almost identical to welcome bonuses, with the only difference being that reload bonuses are smaller in size than sign up offers. So, you’re probably not going to see 75-100% reload bonuses, but they are a great incentive to stick out with an online sportsbook nonetheless.
  • Cashback bonus — These are the most popular types of bonuses offered by online sportsbooks. They are fairly straightforward — for every dollar that you spend (or lose) on the site, you will get a certain percentage back in your bankroll. Cashback bonuses basically give you a second chance. Instead of having to chase down losses by making another deposit, you can do it by using funds from your initial deposit.
  • Sports-specific bonuses — To promote betting during major sports events, sportsbooks offer bonuses specific to those events, whether it be a basketball, tennis, or football competition. For instance, an online sportsbook in Philadelphia may offer a free Super Bowl bet of 60% of your deposit. That means that if you deposit $100, the operator will credit you with a $60 free bet that you can place on the Super Bowl games.  
  • High-roller bonuses — Most sports betting sites in Pennsylvania run some kind of a VIP or Loyalty scheme, offering outstanding perks for those who spend the biggest sums of money on their respective sites. Therefore, the more money you spend, the higher you’ll climb on the loyalty ladder. Once you reach the elite level, all kinds of bonuses will be offered to you.

What Bets Can I Make Online at Pennsylvania Online Sports Betting Sites?

Sports bettors in Pennsylvania can discover just about any betting market one might find in a retail sportsbook in New Jersey or Las Vegas. PA online betting platforms have fantastic sports coverage, providing a plethora of betting markets on all major leagues and matchups and with no closing times. Here’s a look at some of the types of bets you can find in PA online sports betting sites:

  • Straight
  • Moneyline
  • Totals
  • Futures
  • Prop
  • Parlays
  • Live
  • Point spreads  
  • Teasers
  • Team props

Most Popular Sports to Bet On in PA Sports Betting Sites

Pennsylvania has plenty of first-class sports teams in all the major sports and universities. Diehard fans in PA can place a variety of bets on the favorite local team in any of the nine sportsbooks in the state. The Keystone state’s college and professional teams include:

  • NBA — Philadelphia 76ers
  • NFL — Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers
  • NHL — Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins
  • MLB — Philadelphia Phillies
  • MLS — Philadelphia Union
  • College sports — Bucknell, University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, University of Pennsylvania (Ivy League), Villanova, Lehigh, Temple, and others.

With the NFL attracting the most betting attention of all the major sports in the US, Eagles and Steelers should bring plenty of action. Thousands of loyal fans start placing bets coming into the NFL week 1 as soon as online sportsbooks release the odds for the event.

Apart from the NFL, college football is also big in Pennsylvania. Nittany Lions and Penn State are regularly among the top teams in the Big Ten conference, drawing massive attention from the state’s bettors.

Horse Betting in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to six first-class racetracks — three are harness racing only, while three host thoroughbred races. PA bettors can bet on races from all across the country via simulcast at these venues. They can also wager at off-track betting (OTB) facilities, some of which offer full sports betting services alongside horse racing.

Horse racing is quite popular in Pennsylvania, with several graded races being hosted throughout the state each year. Pennsylvania Derby, a grade 1 race with a purse of over $1 million, is the most esteemed event. Other major races include Penn Mile Stakes, the Governor’s Cup, and the Greenwood Cup.

Mobile Betting Apps in Pennsylvania

Mobile betting is becoming increasingly popular, with every sportsbook in Pennsylvania offering its users a chance to place bets on the go. In general, PA bettors can place bets on their mobile phones via one of two ways:

  • Mobile browsers
  • Dedicated sportsbook apps

Mobile betting via browsers (instant-play) is identical to placing bets on the desktop version of the site. The mobile version of a sportsbook’s site is the exact replica of its desktop counterpart and provides all the features the PC version does. This means that if you access the site via a mobile browser, you will be able to place bets, claim bonuses, use live streaming services, make payments, and all the other perks that the sportsbook offers.

Mobile betting experience via a dedicated sportsbook app is slightly different from what desktop computer users find when accessing sports betting websites. To use the sports betting app, you must first download it. Pennsylvania sports betting sites that have dedicated apps provide a downloadable link on their homepage, but they also give users the option of downloading the app on Google or Apple Store.

In terms of compatibility, all sports betting apps in Pennsylvania work on Android devices. Unfortunately, some of these apps are not optimized for iOS-powered devices due to Apple’s restrictions on gambling apps. Namely, Apple’s App Store policy insisted that sports betting apps must be coded natively for iOS rather than be a part of an HTML web app.

The Google Play Store also has certain restrictions, but since Android is an open system, bettors can download the app directly from sportsbooks’ sites. On the other hand, this isn’t possible with iOS where all apps have to go through the App Store.

The only exception to this was FanDuel that doesn’t have a sportsbook app in the App Store but rather uses the same app in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Obviously, this was a major industry-wide problem, as PA sportsbooks couldn’t guarantee that their iPhone and iPad apps will work for their users until they comply with the new rules. Some PA sports betting operators have found a way to outwit this regulation.

Namely, SugarHouse teamed up with GeoComplay, a leading geolocation technology company that’s widely used in New Jersey and other states. By installing GeoComply on an Apple device, PA bettors should be able to access mobile sites hassle-free.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pennsylvania Sports Betting Apps

While sports betting apps are incredibly convenient and easy to use, they do have some drawbacks. But first, let’s talk about the pros of using sports betting app in PA:

  • Reduced loading time
  • Easy to navigate
  • All the features are neatly arranged in categories
  • You can place bets whenever you want wherever you are

Using a sports betting app, however, is not all roses. This is because:

  • PA sportsbooks are obliged to re-code their apps due to Apple’s regulations
  • Apps may take up space on your mobile phone
  • You may need to install additional geolocation software or a VPN

Live Betting in Pennsylvania Sports Betting Sites

Live betting has become an increasingly popular way of betting on sports because it’s more interesting, more engaging, and, most importantly, provides a chance to get instant money. For this reason, many avid PA bettors who are engaged in gambling love to place live bets. Online sports betting sites in Pennsylvania offer a plethora of live games to bet on, be it football, basketball, or some other sport.

For those uninformed, live or in-play betting refers to wagering on a game that is already underway but hasn’t yet finished. As the live-action takes place, the odds will constantly fluctuate. It’s as if a new game takes place every minute or so, so the sportsbooks must change the odds in realtime to reflect the changes in the field accordingly.

Standard live betting markets include Moneyline odds, point spreads, and totals — just like with regular bets. Most sports betting sites in Pennsylvania have excellent live betting coverage, offering odds for dozens of sports matches every day.

Live Streaming

Some sports betting sites in Pennsylvania utilize live streaming services. Live streaming gives you the chance to place bets as you watch your favorite match in real-time. With high-speed broadband and increasingly high processing feeds, live streaming is massively growing in popularity. Regardless of the sport that you enjoy betting on, you can now tune in on the action without subscribing to satellite networks or leaving your home.

The best part about live streaming is that it’s 100% free. So as long as you have an account with PA sports betting sites, you can watch live streams for free — even if you don’t intend to place bets on the event!

Bet Responsibly with PA Sports Betting Sites

Most people enjoy placing occasional bets for fun, even if it means they lose some cash. However, some people become problem gamblers to the point where they can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences on their loved ones. Those with compulsive gambling constantly chase bets that lead to losses, accumulate debt, deplete savings, and often turn to theft to support their addiction.

In Pennsylvania, there are several measures in place to ensure that everyone gambles responsibly. In addition to the Gaming Control Board-managed, land-based self-exclusion program, there is also an online gambling self-exclusion scheme for those who want to prevent themselves from betting online.

To sign up for a self-exclusion program, you must fill out some paperwork, provide proof of identity (ID card or passport), and ask to be “self-excluded” from betting sites for a set amount of time — it’s usually one or five years.

On top of the self-exclusion programs, PA sports betting sites have a few more methods to help you bet responsibly. These include deposit limitations, notifications of your time spent on the site, and links to esteemed organizations that help people with problem gambling.

Online Sports Betting Operators in Pennsylvania

There are currently nine online sportsbooks operating in Pennsylvania, with more coming up soon:

  • FanDuel
  • PlaySugarHouse
  • DraftKings
  • Fox Bet
  • Unibet
  • Parx
  • BetRivers
  • Caesars
  • BetAmerica

Several online casinos in Pennsylvania will be launching sports betting apps in the foreseeable future:

  • Wind Creek
  • Hollywood Casino
  • Philly Live! Casino (estimated launch in December 2020)

Retail Sportsbooks in Pennsylvania

Sports betting fans from Pennsylvania are spoilt for choice. On top of the aforementioned sports betting sites, there are a dozen legal retail sportsbooks in the state. So if you want to bet the old-fashioned way, you can visit some of the following establishments:

  • Hollywood Casino
  • Parx Casino
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • FanDuel Sports Book at Valley Forge Casino
  • South Philadelphia Turf Club
  • BetAmerica Sportsbook at Presque Isle Downs
  • The Oaks Race and Sportsbook
  • Mount Airy
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • The Meadows

Benefits of Playing in Pennsylvania Sports Betting Sites

You may be wondering why you should bet in a state-regulated betting site with so many bettors in the US opting for offshore sites. The first and the most significant reason is that if you bet with sports betting operators licensed outside the US, you will be actively breaking the law. Secondly, you should avoid offshore betting sites for safety reasons.

The biggest advantage of regulated sports betting markets is consumer protection. Namely, if you get ripped off in an offshore site, there’s almost nothing you can do to get your money back. And if something like that were to happen in a Pennsylvania betting site, you can reach out to the authorities and report the issue. You can rest assured that the PGCB is closely monitoring all PA sportsbooks and ensuring that they abide by all the regulations.

Future of Sports Betting in Pennsylvania

The online sports betting industry in Pennsylvania is thriving. Dozens of sportsbooks, as well as several poker rooms and real money casinos, are anticipated to go live in 2020. There is a lot of political support for online sports betting (and gambling in general) due to the revenue this pastime could generate. The revenues in the New Jersey gambling industry are skyrocketing, and with a larger population, Pennsylvania could surpass the Garden State.

However, PA sports betting operators will have to overcome some hurdles. High licensing tax rates, Apple’s strict policy, and the future introduction of sports betting in New York will all be factors to consider for up-and-coming brands in the Pennsylvania sports betting market.

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