Pennsylvania is a state with a relatively short history of gambling. With sports betting only legalized in 2017, there have been huge strides in the development and growth of the market in just six years.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at how the state has managed legalization. We’ll review the current betting laws and reflect upon recently reported figures in relation to betting revenue to identify the causes of recent growth.
First, let’s take a look at the current legal framework.
About betting in Pennsylvania
Gambling laws in Pennsylvania have been subject to something of an evolution over the last 20 years. Gambling was first legalized in 2004, with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board responsible for licensing and enforcement.
There are 12 casinos in the state and many more are licensed online. This has led to the state developing one of the largest gambling markets in the country, with billions of dollars in annual revenue generated each year.
In Pennsylvania, these days it’s legal to bet both online and in casinos on sports through licensed operators. The rules surrounding sports betting were relaxed in 2017. Other laws in place include the need to be 21 years old or older. Regardless of whether you bet online or in casinos, all players need to register before they can play.
What has driven growth in Pennsylvania?
The gambling market has achieved significant growth in Pennsylvania in what is a very short period of time.
The main reason for this marked growth is a relaxed legal framework coupled with a large population. The fact that legalization has extended to sports betting too has only fueled additional growth.
To get a sense of the value of the market, it was reported by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) that the state’s gambling industry generated more than $3.8bn in revenue in 2020, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this being a huge sum, it actually represented a decline from the previous year due to casino closures and reduced capacity limits. The industry is a major contributor to the state’s economy.
In 2021, the state reported an all-time record for gaming revenue, with a total of $4.7bn. Of that amount, a staggering $2.2bn was spent on slot machine games, $1.1bn was spent on iGaming and $924m on casino table games.
This growth has continued into 2022 and 2023. In February 2023, for example, it was reported that gambling revenue was up by 21.6%.
According to the PGCB, revenue for the month increased to $456.8m, up from $375.7m in February 2022. The figures are just 1.6% below the $464.4m generated in January of this year.
Retail slots were the primary source of gambling revenue in the state, accounting for $202.8m, a 4.2% increase over the previous year. Retail table games revenue also grew slightly, rising 0.2% to $74.5m.
In the online casino sector, there was year-on-year growth in the slots and table games segments. However, the revenue from internet poker decreased.
In sports betting, revenue improved significantly, with a jump from a loss of $442,847 in February 2022 to a positive of $43.2m this year, marking a whopping increase of 9,861.9%.
The state’s handle, or total amount of bets placed, also rose slightly by 0.4%, reaching $599.5m.
This big surge could be fueled by interest in this year’s Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles, one of the state’s most popular teams, made it all the way to the Super Bowl finals, but fell in an exciting and engrossing game to the Kansas City Chiefs.
It seems that the popularity of classic casino games is still strong in Pennsylvania, but recent changes to the laws have helped add significant revenue to the market in the form of iGaming.
What does the future hold?
With such a relaxed approach in the state and consistent growth year-on-year, the future looks bright for the gambling industry.
With gambling companies offering betting offers like free spins and offering to match bets upon sign-up, players remain interested in gambling and are keen to explore the different gaming experiences available.
Advances in mobile technology combined with vast improvements in mobile apps have helped make the industry accessible to a lot more people and it’s therefore unsurprising to see massive leaps in the iGaming market over the years.
In 2019, it generated just $33m in revenue. In 2020, it generated $565m, and that doubled again in 2021.
It appears that this sector of the industry has the potential to be a major player, even rivaling the established slots. If you’re not familiar with what iGaming is, it simply means interactive gaming for casino games such as poker, as well as sports betting and lottery games.
Players can now play live casino games, such as roulette and blackjack, all from the comfort of their own homes. These live casino games are so popular that even traditional land-based casinos have expanded their offerings to include online gambling services, which has contributed to the rapid growth of the iGaming market.
The sky is very much the limit for the gambling industry in Pennsylvania