By Peter Gleason
Yesterday’s U. S. Supreme Court decision striking down the antiquated 1992 law prohibiting sports betting in any state not named Nevada has set off a gusher of expectation.
Especially in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf and the state legislature made sure last fall that the Keystone State would be added to the list of gambling that could become legal if the Supremes stepped up as they did yesterday.
What could we bet on?
All professional and collegiate sporting events that an authorized “bookie” lays odds on. Most experts expect that to apply to major-college sports, like Division I football and basketball.
Who takes the bets?
All the state’s licensed casinos — such as Bensalem’s Parx Casimo — are eligible to run sports books, or take bets on these games.
They will be required to file petitions with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board seeking this expansion in their menu of legal games, including how they would physically set it up at their casinos.
Racetrack casinos could also take bets at off-track betting parlors they operate.
Eventually, it is expected that players will be able to make those bets on-line, through smartphones and computers, too. Not immediately clear if that option will be available at the start.
Will all casinos participate?
Time will tell. Some analysts do say that Pennsylvania’s 34 percent tax rate, in particular, could be high enough to keep some companies out of the game here.
But experience here makes it hard to imagine any operator staying on the sidelines given the relatively small capital investment and the large pool of new players sports gambling could attract.
Online gaming newsletter Play Pennsylvania asserts that the Philadelphia-area casinos, Pittsburgh and Penn National – with its vast Central Pennsylvania market – will likely benefit most from this new line of business.
When will it happen?
The exact timelines remain to be seen.
Gaming Board spokesman Doug Harbach said that the board’s legal staff is still reviewing the court’s decision, and there is no timetable for the launch of sports betting in Pennsylvania.
Who can bet?
First off, note that this is still only for 21-year-olds and over.
The language of the state law also restricts legal betting to people who are physically within the state. So it looks like, for budgetary purposes, each state intends to preserve its own market.
Pennsylvania could, under the terms of the law, strike agreement to take bets from other states that may not get into the game, but that seems unlikely in the long-term, doesn’t it?
What does the state get?
More money, but maybe not a game-changing amount for the state budget.
First off, each of the casino operators will be assessed the aforementioned $10 million for the sports wagering certificate. That should be an easy $100 million-plus for the state.
Going forward, there would also be a 34 percent tax on the gross gaming revenue from sports betting: meaning, the total handle, minus the cash paid out in winnings.
It’s a little harder to know how much that will generate, since casino profits on sports betting are usually only on the order of 5 percent.
But if Pennsylvania play is proportionate to Nevada, according to the online newsletter Play Pennsylvania, an optimistic projection would be $2 billion in bets, resulting in about $100 million in sports wagering revenue.
That would mean $34 million in recurring revenue for the state.
What do the casinos get?
Many experts believe that legal sports books will be a draw that will bring more people in the casinos’ doors, helping fatten their bottom line from all other lines of gaming, too.