Gambling in Pennsylvania is deep-rooted.
Even though it was prohibited by state law, betting on horse racing flourished in the state during the 1700s and 1800s. Watching and wagering on our four-legged friends remained an unshakable pastime for Pennsylvanians. It wasn’t until 1959 when horse racing in PA was legalized, the state eventually caving in to pressure from the industry which was regularly taken out of PA to avoid state law.
Meadows Racetrack and Casino, still in operation today having opened in 1963, became one of the first horse racing tracks to house the sport under the new law. By legalizing racing, Pennsylvania was able to keep the money generated in-state, much like how online sports betting came to be today, you could say.
The state’s horse racing tracks were to become home for a gaming expansion not long after the new millennium. With legislation passed in 2004, the path was laid out for seven racetracks to apply for slot licenses and five standalone slot casino licenses to be created.
The revenue generated from slot machines together with licensing fees left the state flush. From here, it was a case of never go back.
The economic collapse of 2008 brought a deficit in terms of the state’s budget, leaving another gaming expansion as one of the only viable ways to generate funds.
A quick fix was to allow existing casinos to introduce table games. This was legalized in 2010. Despite concerns from the man signing off the bills, Governor Ed Rendell, the $3 billion in gross gaming revenue generated each year in the state’s 12 casinos resulted in PA becoming the second-largest gaming state.
In 2015, HB 649 was crafted to legalize online gambling in Pennsylvania.
However, it was another two years until another bill HB 271, allowing for online casinos, Online Poker, Daily Fantasy Sports, Video Gambling Terminals, and Sports betting, was signed into law.
The PA online gambling expansion began with sports wagering in summer 2019 and was quickly followed by online casino gambling a couple of months later. The launch of online poker in November 2019 made it a full house in terms of PA online gambling options.