Pennsylvania Online Gambling

Pennsylvania gambling laws received a substantial update in October 2017 when Gov. Tom Wolf signed an omnibus gambling bill into law. The new statutes legalized online poker, online casinos, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and several other forms of gambling. The bill ushered in a new era of gaming for Pennsylvania, while unleashing a wave of regulatory activity. Longtime operators sought licenses for iGaming and sportsbooks, while a bevy of international online gaming software companies sought licensing.

Even before the latest update to its gambling laws, Pennsylvania was one of the leaders in brick-and-mortar gambling in the United States. The state’s dozen combined casinos and racinos generated tremendous revenues for the Pennsylvania Department of the Treasury. Almost every version of gaming is licensed, regulated, and taxed.

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Pennsylvania State Gambling Laws

Laws That Pertain to Pennsylvania Gambling

Pennsylvania’s gambling industry is one of the most substantial in the United States. Though states like California and Oklahoma have more casinos, no other state but Nevada collects more gambling taxes than Pennsylvania. Penn National Gaming, SugarHouse Casino, and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment base their operations in the state. Bethlehem Sands Resort & Casino, until recently owned by Las Vegas Sands, is the most lucrative casino in the state.

After several stops and starts, Pennsylvania also is a leader in the online gambling industry. In October 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf singed an omnibus gambling bill into law which legalized online poker and casino sites. Since then, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting. With tablet computer gambling in airport terminals and VLTs in truck stops, Pennsylvania has more legal ways to gamble than most US states.

18§5513 and 4§325.101. Gambling Defined.

The “elements of gambling are: consideration, element of chance, and reward.”

Pennsylvania’s definition of gambling is succinct. Gambling has three parts and must have these three parts to be considered gambling. If the game has an element of chance and a reward, it is gambling. “Consideration” is a term from English common law which is now used in the United States. It is a necessity for simple contracts and is defined as a “benefit which must be bargained between parties” – in gambling terms, the payout on a bet.

Ban on Bookmaking.

Pennsylvania law bans “Pool selling and bookmaking; punch boards, drawing cards; private wire for gambling information; cockfighting; bullet play illegal.”

Pennsylvania has a series of lesser known bookmaker bets illegal, including betting pools, punch boards, and drawing cards. Cockfighting is illegal, including wagering on cockfighting. Like the 1961 Federal Wire Act, Pennsylvania makes it illegal to send private wires for gambling purposes. That is an expansive definition of electronic gambling, but luckily, Pennsylvania made online poker and online casinos legal in 2017.

Yes. Pennsylvania has legalized most forms of gambling. It was not always so. Until 2017, the state had land-based casinos, racetracks, lottery betting, and charitable bingo halls — but banned most other forms of gambling. Since House Bill 271 was passed into law in October 2017, Pennsylvania allows sports betting, online poker, online casinos, daily fantasy sports, airport tablet computer gambling, and video lottery terminals.

The omnibus gambling bill in 2017 was a long and tenuous slog for gambling proponents. For three years, the Pennsylvania state budget was underfunded. By late 2017, the state was facing a $2 billion deficit and threats by credit reporting agencies to downgrade the state’s credit rating. Republicans in the legislature had blocked any effort to tax the Marcellus shale reservoir, one of the country’s largest natural gas reservoirs. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, refused to sign a bill which did not make up the shortfall in the budget.

Eventually, an expansion of gambling and alcohol sales were key features in making up the budget deficit, but it came after many rounds of negotiations. The original version of H271 would have placed video lottery terminals (VLTs) in bars, restaurants, and other places where alcohol was served. The state’s casino operators fought hard to keep VLTs from being installed in taverns, claiming there would be VLTs in laundry mats and nursing homes.

Whether those claims were true is debatable, but the tactics worked and the VLTs eventually were limited to truck stops across Pennsylvania. Each truck stop can have up to 5 video lottery terminals, which are similar to slot machines. Pennsylvania’s international airports can offer gambling on tablet computers to anyone who had a valid airline ticket. The tablet computer, which can be found at bars and restaurants in the airports, allow slot machine-type gambling. Among the non-international airports, Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Pittsburgh also is allowed to offer tablet computer betting.

2013 Tavern Games Law

Pennsylvania passed a law in 2013 which allows “tavern games”, a game of chance which certain establishments can hold. These are tavern raffles which liquor licensees can hold for charitable purposes. Daily drawings and pull-tab games are allowed. Casinos, sports venues, and grocery stores cannot host tavern games.

Pennsylvania Gambling Laws

Type of Gambling – Offered/Licensed? – Notes & Restrictions
  • Online Gambling – Yes – Online gambling legalized in 2017, launching in 2018-2019.
  • Land-Based Casinos – Yes – 6 casinos, 6 racinos, and 5 satellite casinos on the way.
  • Charitable Gaming – Yes – Bingo if you are listed as an “Association”.
  • Lottery Betting – Yes – State Lottery (1972), Powerball (2002), Mega Millions (2010).
  • Minimum Gambling Age – 18 for lottery, bingo, pari-mutuel bets. 21 for land-based casinos and racinos.

Is Online Poker Legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes, online poker is legal in Pennsylvania. Poker brands like PokerStars and 888 Poker have deals with local land-based casinos (in this case Mount Airy Casino & Resort). 888 also has a deal with Harrah’s in Philadelphia, as it 888 and Caesars Entertainment properties often do. Hollywood Casino (Penn National Gaming) is partnered with IGT, while Mohegan Sun Pocono is linked to Scientific Games’s TBD. Presque Isle works with SBTech, while Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia work with Rush Street Interactive (which owns SugarHouse).

Parx Casino works with GAN and Kambi, while Sands Bethlehem has a deal with TBD. Valley Forge Casino has an ambitious partnership with IGT, GAN, GVC Holdings, and Party Poker. The upcoming Stadium Casino has no deal yet, but will in due time. Lady Luck Nemacolin and Meadows Casino have no licensing deal.

Most of Pennsylvania’s casinos plan to launch their sites in 2019, with mid-2019 as the listed launch date for about half of the operators. 2018 involved the lengthy licensing process by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Since the PGCB also is licensing land-based sportsbooks and online casinos, the process took most of the second half of 2018.

Even Sands Bethlehem, then owned by anti-online gambling casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, applied for an online gambling license. Because prospective Sands Bethlehem owner Wind Creek Hospitality wanted to launch an online poker and casino site — and because a license application had to be filed in 2018 before Wind Creek could take possession — Las Vegas Sands had to apply for the license. That led to the spectacle of LVS lawyers defending the application in a public hearing, even as they expressed a certain embarrassment for doing so.

Most of the licensed operators have both online casinos and online poker sites, which cost a $10 million licensing fee. Presque Isle and the Stadium Casino project chose online casinos, but do not have an online poker component yet. Launching an online casino costs a $7.5 million fee, so Presque Isle might not pay the additional $2.5 million to launch an Internet poker site. Given the fact a federal ban on interstate poker will keep Pennsylvania from joining the Multi State Internet Gambling Act (MSIGA) — which would have allowed shared player liquidity with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware — the Stadium Casino might choose to do the same.

Pennsylvania Online Poker Laws

Name of Bill – Year Submitted – Lawmaker – Supported – Opposed
  • House Bill 271 – 2017 – Joe Scarnatti – Mike Turzai, Tom Wolf – Republican backbenchers.

Is Sports Betting / Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Pennsylvania?

Yes, sports betting also is legal in Pennsylvania. HB 271 that legalized online gambling also legalized sportsbooks, contingent on the US Supreme Court repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). They did, so several of Pennsylvania’s top casinos have launched sportsbooks so far:

Hollywood Casino in Reading, Rivers Casino near Pittsburgh, and Parx Casino in Philadelphia. Eventually, SugarHouse Casino, Harrah’s Philadelphia, and Mount Airy will have sportsbooks. Even the satellite casinos are likely to install land-based bookmaker operations, while each of the sportsbooks eventually will have live sports betting apps for Android and iOS mobile devices.

Daily fantasy sports also were legalized by HB 271. DraftKings and FanDuel can sign up competitors in the country’s 5th-largest state (by population). The sports betting industry is expected to generate $200 million a year in tax revenues for Pennsylvania, while the DFS industry should generate another $5 million in taxes.

Does Pennsylvania have land-based casinos?

Yes, Pennsylvania has 6 land-based casinos and 6 casino-racetracks, more commonly known as racinos. In the early stages of 2018, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held auctions for placement of satellite casinos, also known as mini-casinos. Development continues on 5 more satellite casinos, which could not be within 25 miles of any other brick-and-mortar casino in the state. The PGCB planned to license up to 10 mini-casinos, but interest in doing so was limited.

One reason is Las Vegas Sands Corp. decided to get out of the Pennsylvania market. LVS, which owns Bethlehem Sands Resort & Casino, sold the casino to the Poarch Band of Alabama (Wind Creek Hospitality). Bethlehem Sands is the most lucrative casino in the state, but Sheldon Adelson was unhappy with the online gambling bill, special local taxes on casinos ($10 million), and the unionization of the Sands Bethlehem. Stories circle that LVS plans to seek a land-based casino in New York state in the coming years.

CASINOS

City Name Of Casino Address Phone Number Details
Bethlehem Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem 77 Sands Boulevard, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015-7705 (877) 726-3777 3,053 Gaming Machines, 26 Poker Tables, 189 Gaming Tables
Farmington Lady Luck Casino – Nemacolin 4067 National Pike, Farmington, Pennsylvania 15437-1332 (724) 329-7500 597 Gaming Machines, 27 Poker and Gaming Tables
King of Prussia Valley Forge Casino Resort 1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania 19406-1372 (610) 354-8118 600 Gaming Machines, 50 Poker and Gaming Tables
Mount Pocono Mount Airy Casino Resort 312 Woodland Road, Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania 18344-7172 (877) 682-4791 1,868 Gaming Machines, 9 Poker Tables, 72 Gaming Tables
Philadelphia SugarHouse Casino 1001 North Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125-4326 (267) 232-2000 1,855 Gaming Machines, 28 Poker Tables, 108 Gaming Tables
Pittsburgh Rivers Casino 777 Casino Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212-5840 (877) 558-0777 2,969 Gaming Machines, 30 Poker Tables, 93 Gaming Tables

Does Pennsylvania have any legal betting tracks / shops?

Yes, Pennsylvania has six legal betting tracks. In 2006, the traditional racetracks convinced the legislature to approve slots parlors for all six tracks, which would help the traditional thoroughbred racing and harness racing industry remain viable. Since then, several of the racinos opened full casino operations.

The creation of the Pennsylvania racetrack-casino industry, along with the building of traditional casinos like Bethlehem Sands, is arguably the biggest reason Atlantic City had such a marked decline in revenues from 2006 to 2014 (going from $5.4 billion to $2.4 billion). Of course, the Global Recession and Hurricane Sandy also hurt, but having the huge population of Pennsylvania stay home and play in local racinos had a huge impact on the bottom line for Atlantic City casinos.

Long story short, Pennsylvania has 6 racinos which have strong revenue streams and appear to be going nowhere. Here is a list of those sites.

HORSE TRACK RACINO

City Name Of Casino Address Phone Number Details
Bensalem Parx Casino 2999 Street Road, Bensalem, Pennsylvania 19020-2060 (215) 639-9000 3,330 Gaming Machines, 45 Poker Tables, 128 Gaming Tables, Race Book
Chester Harrah’s Philadelphia 777 Harrah’s Boulevard, Chester Pennsylvania 19013-4505 (484) 490-1800 2,448 Gaming Machines, 28 Poker Tables, 79 Gaming Tables, Race Book
Erie Presque Isle Downs & Casino 8199 Perry Highway, Erie, Pennsylvania 16509-6640 (866) 374-3386 1,594 Gaming Machines, 7 Poker Tables, 33 Gaming Tables, Race Book
Grantville Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course 777 Hollywood Boulevard, Interstate 81 Exit 80, Grantville, Pennsylvania 17028-9237 (717) 469-2211 2,384 Gaming Machines, 16 Poker Tables, 56 Gaming Tables, Race Book
Washington The Meadows 210 Racetrack Road, Washington, Pennsylvania 15301-8966 (724) 503-1200 3,114 Gaming Machines, 14 Poker Tables, 68 Gaming Tables, Race Book
Wilkes-Barre Mohegan Sun Casino 1280 Highway 315 Boulevard, Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania 18702-7002 (570) 831-2100 2,332 Gaming Machines, 18 Poker Tables, 73 Gaming Tables

RACE BOOKS

City Name Of Casino Address Phone Number Details
Philadelphia Northeast Turf Club Cottman Avenue and Bustleton Avenue, Roosevelt Mall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19149 (215) 338-1887 Race Book
Philadelphia South Philadelphia Turf Club 700 Packer Avebue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148-5320 (215) 551-8270 Race Book
Pittsburgh Meadows Harmer Township OTB 1 Anchor Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15238-1374 (412) 828-0610 Race Book
York Penn National OTW – York 351 Loucks Road, Unit 17, York, Pennsylvania 17404-1757 (717) 854-7334 Race Book

Does Pennsylvania allow off-track betting?

Yes. Several of the racinos have off-track betting facilities. For instance, Parx Racing has five OTBs (“turf clubs”) in and around the Philadelphia area. Search for businesses like Northeast Turf Club, South Philadelphia Turf Club, and Valley Forge Turf Club to learn more about Pennsylvania OTBs.

Penn National Gaming is the same way. Search for Penn National Lancaster and Penn National York to read about OTBs associated with Hollywood Casino. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs also has OTBs, such as the Downs at East Stroudsburg and the Downs at Lehigh Valley.

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington, Pennsylvania also has opened three OTBs over the years, though only one still remains open: Meadows Harmar.

OFF-TRACK BETTING

City Name Of Casino Address Phone Number Details
Allentown Allentown Off-Track Betting Bureau 1780 Airport Road, Allentown, Pennsylvania 18109-9528 (610) 266-6559 Race Book
East Stroudsburg The Downs at East Stroudsburg 6 Eagles Glen Plaza, Suite 210, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania 18301 (570) 426-1818 Race Book
Lancaster Penn National OTW – Lancaster 2900 Lincoln Highway East, Suite 5, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602-3396 (717) 396-0999 Race Book
Oaks Valley Forge Turf Club 600 Cresson Avenue, Oaks Corporate Center, Oaks, Pennsylvania 19456 (610) 650-0100 N/A

Does Pennsylvania allow charitable gambling?

Yes, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board issues bingo licenses for non-profit charitable gaming organizations across the state. Under the terms of the Bingo Law, they are called “associations”. Read our section above on the bingo laws of Pennsylvania for more information. Here is a small sampling of the charitable bingo parlors in Pennsylvania.

BINGO HALLS

City Name Of Casino Address Phone Number Details
Harrisburg Uptown Bingo II 2926 North Seventh Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110-2108 (717) 234-8640 50 Bingo Seats
Reading Scott’s Bingo 1030 Exeter Street, Reading, Pennsylvania 19604-1535 (610) 376-3839 N/A
Reading Shelbourne Walk-In Bingo 5474 Perkiomen Avenue, Reading, Pennsylvania 19606-3670 (610) 582-2733 250 Bingo Seats
Reading Westlawn Program Bingo 3024 Penn Avenue, Reading, Pennsylvania 19609-1444 (610) 670-8105 140 Bingo Seats

Is social gaming allowed in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Private poker games and other forms of social gaming are legal, so long as the host does not charge fees or otherwise making a profit off the gaming. If you organized a social gaming event for friends, you can win pots from the card game, but don’t charge a door fee or collect a poker rake.

Free-play social gaming casinos like Double Down Casino, Slotomania, Zynga, and Big Fish Games can sign up players in Pennsylvania. These are free online casinos which allow players to play on Facebook or in their own downloadable mobile gaming apps. It is free to sign up, but players can pay for additional coins (which cannot be converted into real cash).

Also, freeplay online casinos like PlayMGM and Play4Fun Casino are available. These are operated by brand name real casino operators like MGM Resorts and Mohegan Sun. The Play4Fun social casino is notable, because Mohegan Sun operates a racino in Pocono. Pennsylvania gamers can sign up for a free account and, with luck, win Mohegan Sun rewards that can be used in any Mohegan Sun casino in the United States. Instead of driving to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City or Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, you can go to Mohegan Sun at Pocono to redeem your freeplay credits.