In October 2017, Pennsylvania legalized and licensed casinos and poker sites. Once the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in May 2019, Pennsylvania passed land-based and online sports betting, as well. Sites continue to launch, with most brick-and-mortar casinos and racetracks now having online gambling portals. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania residents can play at offshore online gambling sites without legal consequences.

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Pennsylvania Gambling Laws

Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf signed a gambling omnibus bill in October 2017 that was designed to raise $200 million in taxes each year. The bill included regulated online casinos, online poker rooms, and (eventually) online sportsbooks.

The new law also included video lottery terminals (VLTs) at truck stops, tablet gaming at international airports, and daily fantasy sports. Once the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA, land-based sports betting and mobile sports betting apps were added to the list of approved gambling.

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Pennsylvania Casino Gambling

Pennsylvania boasts six land-based casinos and six racetrack-casinos — essentially slots parlors that are called racinos.

Each of the licensed casinos were offered access to a bidding process for satellite casinos in 2018. None of the new venues would be within a 25-mile radius of an existing casino. The bidding process ended with Las Vegas Sands Corp — famous for its anti-online gambling stance — bidding on a casino, because it was selling its Pennsylvania operations to Wind Creek Hospitality (the Poarch Bank of Creek Indians from Alabama).

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Pennsylvania Horse Betting

Pennsylvania has six legal betting horse tracks with pari-mutuel wagers.

In 2006, Pennsylvania approved slots parlors for their racetracks. The state was tired of its gamblers visiting Atlantic City to play the slots. Along with the Global Recession, the opening of these six racinos had a direct link to Atlantic City’s financial woes over the next 5 to 10 years.

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Pennsylvania OTBs

The horse betting tracks has satellite OTBs. Often, these are called “turf clubs”.

For instance, Parx Racing has 5 OTBs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Penn National Gaming, which owns gaming venues in 18 US states, operates OTBs in Lancaster and York. Mohegan Sun also owns an OTB in Lehigh Valley.

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Pennsylvania Bingo Halls

Pennsylvania also allows charitable organizations to run bingo halls.

Church, veterans’, police, and fire department organization across Pennsylvania host bingo nights. These are regulated by the Bingo Law of 1981.

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Pennsylvania Sportsbooks

All of Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos opened online gambling portals: SugarHouse Casino and Parx Casino near Philadelphia, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Hollywood Casino in Reading, and Wind Creek Bethlehem in Philadelphia’s suburbs.

Each of these casinos partnered with world famous online gaming operators for gambling sites, poker sites, and in-play sports betting apps. Online gaming groups active in Pennsylvania include FanDuel, DraftKings, Unibet, Kambi, Rush Street Interactive, 888 Group, BetRivers, GAN, William Hill, and PokerStars.

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Pennsylvania Social Gaming

Pennsylvania allows private poker games and other social gaming, as long as the host/organizer doesn’t charge fees. For instance, a poker game organizer cannot collect a rake from the game.

Social gaming casinos are legal, too, if it’s a free-play social gaming site. You can play at Slotomania, Zynga, Big Fish Games, and Double-Down Casino if you like. PlayMGM and Play4Fun Casino, owned respectively by MGM Resorts and Mohegan Sun, are available to players. Each of these sites are free, but pay out in rewards that can be used in their regional casinos.

Pennsylvania Gambling History, Laws, and Timeline

Pennsylvania regulates most forms of gambling. In fact, Pennsylvania collects more taxes from legal gambling than any state besides Nevada.

  • 18th Century: Horse Racing in Pennsylvania

    Betfred UK Sportsbetting Tote Horse Racing Monopoly 1

    Betting on horse racing was allowed in Colonial Pennsylvania. In fact, proceeds from lotteries and horse racing helped fund the Continental Congress during the American Revolution.

  • 1820: Pennsylvania Bans Horse Racing

    19th Century Horse Racing Ban

    In 1820, the people of Pennsylvania not only banned gambling on horse racing — they banned horse racing itself.

  • August 1972: Penn National Race Course Opens

    Penn National Racecourse Grantville

    In 1972, horse racing returned to Pennsylvania in a big way. Penn National Race Course in Grantville (17 miles from Harrisburg) opened. The venue hosts thoroughbred racing 52 weeks a year.

  • 1974: Parx Racing Opened in Bensalem

    Parx Racing

    Parx Racing opened two years later in Bensalem, a suburb of Philadelphia. Parx Racing hosts two major races each year — one with a $1 million purse and one with a $500,000 purse.

  • 1981: Pennsylvania Bingo Law

    Bingo Hall Raids

    Pennsylvania approved charitable bingo for nonprofit organizations. It includes bingo, jackpot games (raffles), and bona fide gaming. While the state has updated these laws in the 40 years since, the 1981 Bingo Law continues to govern charitable bingo.

  • July 2004: Act 71 Approves Racinos

    Slot Casino

    To help the horse racing and harness racing tracks of Pennsylvania, the legislature passed Act 71 (“Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act”). Act 71 allows Pennsylvania race tracks to open slots parlors.

    Act 71 has been a major success. Race tracks near Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, and Erie have slots parlors.

  • 2004: Land-Based Casinos Legalized

    Online Poker California

    The same 2004 law approved land-based casinos. Under a trade-off to save the horse racing tracks, slots revenues from the new casinos would be used to subsidize horse racing purses. By 2021, over $3 billion has been used to help the Pennsylvania horse track and harness track industry.

  • 2007: Presque Isle Downs

    Presque Isle Downs - SugarHouse Casino Philadelphia

    Presque Isle Downs in Summer Township (near Erie) opened in 2007. It was part of the major 2006 race track update to Pennsylvania gambling law.

  • October 2017: Online Gambling Bill

    Michigan Online Casino Apps

    After months of negotiation with the Republican-led legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed the Online Gambling Bill. This legalized a wide range of online and offline gambling, leading some to call it the “gambling omnibus” bill.

    Along with online poker and top online casinos, the bill approved daily fantasy sports, truck stop gambling (VLTs), and airport terminal gambling (tablet computers). It also stated that sports betting would be legal, if the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA.

  • November 2018: Pennsylvania Land-Based

    Pennsylvania Sports Betting

    HB 271 specifically approved sports betting in Pennsylvania. After the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA on May 14, 2018, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board moved quickly to license land-based sportsbooks.

    The first of these opened in November 2018, as casino owners wanted to offer sports bets on the second half of the 2018-2019 NFL season. Hollywood Casino was the first, while SugarHouse Casino, Rivers Casino, Parx Casino, Harrah’s Philadelphia, and Valley Forge Casino opened sportsbooks over the next 4 months.

  • May 2019: Pennsylvania Online and Mobile Sportsbooks

    Bovada Mobile Roulette

    The same bill allowed online sportsbooks and mobile sports betting apps. Starting in May 2019, SugarHouse Sportsbook launched. Throughout June and July 2019, another half-dozens interactive sportsbooks opened.

  • 2021: Remaining Ban on Bookmakers and Sports Betting Pools

    Pennsylvania Daily Fantasy Sports Revenues 1

    Some  types of bookmaker bets remain illegal in Pennsylvania. Punch boards, betting pools, and drawing cards are specifically outlawed under Pennsylvania law. Cockfighting also is expressly forbidden.

  • What is Considered Gambling in Pennsylvania?

    European Blackjack

    To be considered gambling in Pennsylvania, an act of gaming must have three parts: consideration, an element of chance, and reward. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, “consideration” is defined as a “benefit which must be bargained between parties. In short, it’s the agreed-upon terms of a payout.