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Gambling Laws in Pennsylvania

Key Points

  • In 2004, Pennsylvania passed Act 71 (Pennsylvania Racehorse Development and Gaming Act), legalizing casinos and racetracks in the state
  • Pennsylvania legalized online gambling through the Expanded Gaming Act in 2017
  • Online gambling, lottery, and daily fantasy sports are legal
  • Gamers must be at least 21 years and located in the state to play online games and at least 18 years old to participate in fantasy sports, bingo or the PA lottery.
  • Racing betting is legal in Pennsylvania (House Bill 941, 2016)

Pennsylvania's Criminal Code makes all forms of gambling illegal except those specifically authorized by law. The authorized forms of gambling in the state include Pennsylvania Lottery, horse racing, bingo, slots, and table games.

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Small games of chance done by non-profit organizations and taverns in certain circumstances are forms of gaming authorized by law.

Some illegal gambling activities in Pennsylvania include quarter auctions, Monte Carlo/casino/poker nights (outside of authorized casinos), and numbers games (outside the Pennsylvania Lottery).

Online gambling, lottery, and daily fantasy sports became legal in the state after House Bill 271 was passed in 2017. This bill took effect in 2018 as the Expanded Gaming Act.

There are a number of gambling regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gambling Commission (PGCB) is responsible for most gambling regulatory activities, including granting licenses to participants, overseeing testing, enforcing legal requirements on gambling, and prescribing necessary regulations.

Section 1202 of Title 4 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes tasks the PGCB with supervising casinos, slot machines at racetracks, online casino gaming, and sports betting. However, the PGCB is not responsible for regulating the state’s lottery and non-profit gambling activities.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board consists of seven voting members appointed by the Governor.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission primarily oversees the racing industry, including pari-mutuel wagering, track licensing and management, and horse and jockey welfare. It was established in 2016 by Act 7, consisting of nine commissioners, with five appointed by the Governor. The Pennsylvania Lottery Bureau is a part of the State Department of Revenue. It manages all lottery games, collects revenues and taxes, and disburses benefits to specific programs.

The legal Pennsylvania gambling age required to participate in wagering differs based on the activity. You must be at least 21 years before participating in sports betting, casino and poker. Persons that are 18 years and above can play the lottery, horse betting, bingo, and online casinos.

Gambling History

Pennsylvania legalized lottery games in 1971 by passing the Act 91 (State Lottery Law). The law stated the procedure for ticket sales, commercial advertising, and disbursement of prizes. After the passage of the Act establishing the state lottery, there were several failed attempts to legalize gambling in the state between the 1980s-1990s.

In 1988, the state’s legislature enacted the Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act. The law permits non-profit organizations and taverns to run raffles, punchboards, pull-tab games, pools, and other small games of chance. The licensing criteria for these offerings are outlined in the law.

In 2004, Pennsylvania passed Act 71 (Pennsylvania Racehorse Development and Gaming Act) to legalize casinos and racetracks in the state. This law also established the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as the gambling regulatory body in the state.

The success of Act 71 prompted requests for the passage of more gambling-related legislation in the state. And in 2010, table games were legalized in casinos. However, there were many rejected bills seeking to legalize online gambling.

In 2017, House Bill 271 (Expanded Gaming Act) was enacted, legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania. This Act also legalized daily fantasy sports, online lottery, sports betting, video gaming terminals at truck stops, and tablet gaming at airports.

Online Casino Laws in Pennsylvania

Online casinos are legal in Pennsylvania by the Expanded Gaming Act (House Bill 271). The law was passed in 2017 to create an iGaming industry in the state. It was a significant gaming expansion law that legalized online casino games like poker, slots, and table games in Pennsylvania.

The Expanded Gaming Act made Pennsylvania the fourth state to legalize online casinos.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulates online gaming activities in the state. Some of its powers include licensing operators in the industry, ensuring fairness by operators to players, ensuring responsible gambling and that participants are within the legal age range, and regulating overall compliance with the provisions of the law.

According to the law, land-based casino operators in Pennsylvania qualify to get up to three online casino licenses and an option of purchasing a package that covers up to three at once.

The first online casinos in the state were Parx Casino and Hollywood Casino in 2019. As of 2023, there are 10 licensed casinos, with a total of 18 online casinos in the state:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia (Caesars)
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse (Hollywood, DraftKings, BetMGM, Barstool)
  • Live! Casino Philadelphia (Betway, PlayLive!)
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono (Unibet)
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort (Stars Casino)
  • Parx Casino (Parx)
  • Presque Isle Downs (TwinSpires)
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia (BetRivers, SugarHouse, Borgata)
  • Valley Forge Resort Casino (FanDuel, Stardust)
  • Wind Creek Casino Resort (Wind Creek)

Casino apps in Pennsylvania offer great sign-up bonuses and promos with exciting games. The legal age to play online casino games is 21 years.

Furthermore, you must be within state lines to play online casino games in Pennsylvania. The online casino apps use geo-location technology to accurately pinpoint your location and ensure you are in the state before you can play.

In-Person Casino Laws in Pennsylvania

The enactment of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act (Gaming Act) in 2004 legalized casino games in the state. The Gaming Act permitted licensed casinos to provide casino games to legal participants. The law established the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to regulate the industry and enforce the law.

The PGCB licenses casinos that offer casino games in the state. As of 2023, there are 14 land-based casinos in Pennsylvania. They are:

  1. Harrah’s Philadelphia - Chester
  2. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course - Grantville
  3. Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin - Farmington
  4. Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia - Philadelphia
  5. Live! Casino Pittsburgh - Greensburg
  6. Mohegan Sun Pocono - Wilkes-Barre
  7. Mount Airy Casino Resort - Mount Pocono
  8. Parx Casino And Racing - Bensalem
  9. Presque Isle Downs & Casino - Erie
  10. Rivers Casino Philadelphia - Philadelphia
  11. Rivers Casino - Pittsburgh
  12. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino - Washington
  13. Valley Forge Casino Resort - King Of Prussia
  14. Wind Creek Bethlehem - Bethlehem

Table games in casinos became legal in 2010. In 2017, before the legalization of online casinos in the state, land-based Pennsylvania casinos set a revenue generation record of over $3 billion in 2017. Generally, Pennsylvania has one of the largest land-based casino industries in the country.

Daily Fantasy Sites Laws in Pennsylvania

Before 2017, daily fantasy sports were technically allowed in Pennsylvania. They were seen as a game of skill and never regarded as prohibited in the state. However, the state formally legalized daily fantasy sports through the Expanded Gaming Act (House Bill 271) in 2017.

According to the law, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) oversees daily fantasy sports tournaments. Also, their regulations differ slightly from those that apply to other types of online gambling.

Operators are not obliged to have a local partner. There is a five-year license that costs $50,000 and a 15% tax on gross revenue.

You must be at least 18 years old to participate in fantasy sports in Pennsylvania.

Sports Betting Laws in Pennsylvania

Sports betting became legal in Pennsylvania in 2017 after House Bill 217 (the Expanded Gaming Act) was passed. The law provided for the regulation of sports betting in the state pending necessary changes in federal law.

In 2018, the US Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibits sports gambling as unconstitutional and left the question of their legalization in the hands of each state.

This decision gave the Expanded Gaming Act effect in the state. As of 2023, Pennsylvania residents and visitors can partake in in-person and online sports betting in the state. In 2019, sportsbooks in the state started taking bets.

All types of sports betting are allowed, including professional and college sports and international sporting events. However, residents may not bet on politics, esports, high school sports, and amateur sports.

Popular sports that most residents and visitors bet on include football, basketball, baseball, hockey, golf, and tennis. You must be at least 21 years old to participate in sports betting in Pennsylvania. You must also be within state lines when placing your bets.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulates sports betting and licenses sportsbook operators in the state. While online sports betting is legal, the online sportsbook must partner with a land-based sportsbook.

The first online sportsbook in Pennsylvania was the PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook, partnering with Rivers Casino Philadelphia in 2019.

As of 2022, there are 12 land-based sportsbooks and 16 online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania. The land-based sportsbooks in the state are:

  1. Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack
  2. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  3. Hollywood Casino Morgantown
  4. Live! Casino
  5. ​​Mohegan Sun Pocono
  6. Mount Airy Casino Resort
  7. Parx Casino and Racing
  8. Presque Isle Downs & Casino
  9. Rivers Casino Philadelphia
  10. The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
  11. Valley Forge Casino Resort
  12. Wind Creek Casino

The online sportsbooks (and land-based partners in bracket) include:

  1. Barstool Sportsbook (Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course)
  2. BetAmerica (Presque Isle Downs Casino)
  3. BetFred Sports (Wind Creek Casino)
  4. BetMGM (Hollywood Casino Morgantown)
  5. betPARX (Parx Casino)
  6. BetRivers (Rivers Casino)
  7. Betway (Live! Casino)
  8. Caesars Sportsbook (Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack)
  9. DraftKings Sportsbook (The Meadows Racetrack and Casino)
  10. FanDuel Sportsbook (Valley Forge Casino Resort)
  11. FOX Bet (Mount Airy Casino Resort)
  12. PlaySugarHouse (Rivers Casino Philadelphia)
  13. PointsBet (Penn National Gaming)
  14. The Book Sportsbook (Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack)
  15. TwinSpires (Presque Isle Downs & Casino)
  16. Unibet (Mohegan Sun Pocono)

It should be stated that there are no sports betting rules that forbid locals from laying wagers at foreign bookmakers that are properly running under the required license credentials. Federal gaming regulations in the US operate similarly.

Lottery Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania runs one of the oldest and most popular lotteries in the country. The state made the lottery legal in 1971 by votes from residents of the state. Since the first ticket was sold in 1972, the program as a whole has raised over $30 billion. It generates an average of $4 billion yearly.

The State Lottery Law governs the Pennsylvania state lottery. The Pennsylvania Lottery Bureau administers this law. Under the law, there are three multi-state games and eight state-specific lottery types.

Generally, players have access to 12 common lottery draw games through the PA lottery, including Millionaire Raffle, Big 4, Cash 5, Powerball, Mega Millions, Wild Ball, Xpress Sports, Keno, and scratch-off games. The State Lottery Law specifies the appropriate payouts for each game, the price of lottery tickets, and the cost of playing the lottery.

In 2017, the Expanded Gaming Act legalized online lottery. This allowed the state to open a website called PA iLottery. The website provides users with over 140 online games.

You must be at least 18 years old to participate in the state lottery.

Racing Betting Laws in Pennsylvania

Racing betting is legal in Pennsylvania. Act 7 (House Bill 941, 2016) regulates horse race wagering, including off-track betting, and repealed the previous law on horse racing in the state. The law established the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission to oversee the state’s racing industry, including pari-mutuel wagering, track licensing and management, and horse and jockey welfare.

As of 2022, there are six racetracks in the state:

  • The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • The Meadows Racetrack
  • Parx Racing
  • Presque Isle Downs

These racetracks also offer off-track betting facilities and slot machines.

Pending Legislation on Gambling in Pennsylvania

Between 2019 and 2022, there have been a number of legal changes to the gambling industry proposed by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

  1. In April 2021, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania considered House Bill 1113, which seeks to amend Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to include new definitions of gambling, gambling devices, and slot machines.

  2. In April 2021, House Bill 1310 was considered to amend Title 4 (Amusements) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in revenues, and provide for transfers from State Gaming Fund. The proposed bill seeks to extend the definition of “local law enforcement” to include the Pennsylvania State Police when carrying out unlawful gambling enforcement and prevention activities in a municipality that does not have a municipal police department and in which the Pennsylvania State Police provide the municipality with primary police coverage. It also seeks to make “unlawful gambling” an offense in the state.

  3. Many bills have been proposed to amend the Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act. House Bill 290 (2021) and Senate Bill 243 (2021) propose to amend the Act by adding a section to read on games of chance operations during disaster emergencies. Senate Bill 758 (2021) proposes to amend the Act to extend the definition of “games of chance” to include event games, subset pull-tab games, pick-board games, and progressive pull-tab games, among other things. House Bill 1256 (2021) and House Bill 1327 (2019) seeks to extend the definition of “social card games and tournaments” to include non-banking games and tournaments like poker games, hearts, rummy, pinochle, and bid whist. It also includes provisions on the procedure for authorization to conduct social card games. Furthermore, House Bill 1292 (2021) and House Bill 1274 (2019) seek to amend the definition section to include tavern games, daily and weekly drawings, and raffles, make amendments to licensing procedures and enforcement, and distribution of net revenue.

  4. House Bill 386 (2021) and House Bill 863 (2019) seeks to amend the State Lottery Law to provide a statement of purpose, powers and duties of the secretary, and for disposition of funds and providing for instant lottery games to benefit veterans.

  5. House Bill 826 (2019) seeks to establish a Sports Raffle Charities Act to conduct 50/50 drawings at athletic events to raise funds by certain non-profit associations and promote charitable or civic purposes in the public interest.

Pennsylvania is one of the most liberal jurisdictions for gambling in the country. Although gambling is generally illegal in the state, the state’s laws permit many forms of gambling. The forms of gambling include:

  • Bingo
  • Casino games
  • Charitable gambling
  • Horse race betting
  • Lottery
  • Poker
  • Online gambling
  • Sports betting
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