It has been five years since the Supreme Court legalized sports betting. Before this it was illegal everywhere except in Nevada and a handful of other states. It would probably not have been legalized in other states if it wasn’t for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004. Without this, there may never have been the eventual explosion in sports betting, with more than 30 states now permitting some form of legal sports betting. 

Pennsylvania gambling history

Racetracks struggled to stay in business in the early 2000s. To help them, lawmakers in Pennsylvania drafted and passed the 2004 act. It established the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and legalized casinos and racetracks within the state. For the first time, people could play casino games such as slot machines in racetrack casinos.  

Even with legal horse betting and slots, people in Pennsylvania were still missing out on casino table games. In 2010, casino table games became legal. This included roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat, craps, and more.   

The year 2017 was a monumental one for gambling in Pennsylvania. The gambling expansion package legalized online poker, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting. It took a while for the industry to go live. The doors for mobile wagering opened in 2019. Pennsylvania generated over $1 billion in revenue from online casinos in 2021 and sports gambling brought in about $340 million.  

The Pennsylvania market is a huge one today, and Parx Casino is currently the largest land-based casino in the state. The majority of brick-and-mortar casinos hold online slot/table game licenses, and Parx Casino is no exception. It offers online betting on casino games through its betPARX app. The app also has a sportsbook, and sports bettors can place bets using the mobile app from anywhere within the state limits.  

Competition and recession

As a result of casino gaming being legalized in Pennsylvania, gaming revenues in New Jersey decreased. This was exacerbated by the Great Depression. In 2014, Atlantic City Casinos started to close. The state tried many things to try and stop the slide. It relaxed regulatory structures, passed constitutional amendments for betting, and passed a sports wagering act. It also took certain actions that ended up in a lawsuit and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) being overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. The introduction of legitimate online casinos by many states since this date has created more competition than ever before.

Sports betting freedom

With the overturning of PASPA, individual states could now control and license sports betting themselves. Sports betting was no longer limited to Nevada and a few other states.

In 2018, lawmakers in Pennsylvania approved two more lottery games. Keno launched in May and the PA Lottery launched its own virtual sports betting program. The gambling revolution in Pennsylvania didn’t stop there.

Pennsylvania is still at the forefront when it comes to online gambling and sports betting. It now has 13 online sportsbooks available to bettors located anywhere in the state. If sports bettors are over 21 and physically located in Pennsylvania, they can bet on sports right on their mobile phones at any online sportsbook. 

Today sports fans can decide which games they want to watch by looking at any sports schedule. Betting odds form an integral part of most broadcasts. The sports betting industry in Pennsylvania hasn’t stopped growing since those early days. It is thanks in part to Pennsylvania’s gambling history that legal betting is now firmly part of the mainstream sports culture in the United States.