Regulated Casino, Poker and Sports Betting Sites in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania recently overtook New Jersey in terms of casino revenue – taking second place behind Nevada. With a long gambling history, the passing of H-217 opened the doors online wagering within state borders.
This guide covers everything you need to about PA legal online casinos, sportsbooks and poker rooms. 2019 is shaping up to be a busy year in the Keystone State, with big international gambling brands forming partnerships with B&M casino licensees.
Here is what you’ll find in this detailed Pennsylvania online gambling guide:
- Legal Overview: Recent law changes and current news
- Online Casinos in PA: The partnerships we know about so far
- Sports Betting Sites in PA: Betting on sports online
- PA Poker Sites: Partnerships and the possibility of shared player pools
- What to Look for: What makes one online casino better than another?
- Gaming Options: Slots, table games, live dealer options and online poker are all covered here.
- PA Online Gambling FAQ: Everything players need to know before heading online
- The Road to Regulation in PA: History and timeline of the legislative efforts
PA Gambling Sites Overview: What is New?
2019 will be a busy year for Pennsylvania. Licenses have been issued and partnerships are forming, with both real money PA casinos and poker sites poised to come online. The initial licenses are awarded to holders of existing gaming licenses (brick and mortar casinos). A second batch will be awarded to ‘qualifying gaming organizations’ bringing increased choice for players further down the line.
Many big brand names including Scientific Games, 888 and PokerStars have already found partners – and are preparing to launch. While some live casinos declined to move online (for example Sands Bethlehem), other big names including Harrah’s Casino, Mohegan Sun and Hollywood Casino are all posed to make this move.
Sports betting started recently in PA live casinos, following New Jersey’s victory at the Supreme Court. Licenses have since been issued for online sports betting to be added to the casino and poker options – these are also expected to go online in 2019.
Slots are taxed differently to table games and poker in PA. With a 54% tax on gross gaming revenues, these games will not be as profitable for the casinos as in other states. This high tax rate also applies to slots at existing B&M casinos – and help make PA the state with the highest tax take from casinos, even beating out Nevada.
PA Online Casinos
Most of the license holders have formed technology partnerships already, though at the time of writing we are still waiting for the first online casinos in Pennsylvania to open. Big international brands and equivalents in New Jersey give some clues as to how the new casinos will look and operate. Part of the licensing agreement in PA is that the logo / brand of the B&M casino must be prominently displayed.
Here is a list of Pennsylvania casinos and known partnerships to date:
- Harrah’s: 888 / Scientific Games
- Hollywood: IGT
- Mohegan Sun: Scientific Games
- Mount Airy: PokerStars
- Parx: GAN / Kambi
- Presque Isle: SBTech
- SugarHouse: Rush Street Interactive
- Valley Forge: GVC / IGT / GAN
Pennsylvania Casino Bonus Guide
With the online casinos about to open, players have a unique opportunity. The brands (and their partner land-based casinos) will be keen to get a great start. This means bonuses and promotions for new players should be both generous and easy to come by.
You’ll find the latest PA casino bonus codes here as soon as they are announced. In the meantime, here are some pointers of the types of bonus and promo deals to expect – and how to take advantage of each one.
- Free Play Bonuses: Over in New Jersey, all NJ online casinos offer new players free play on real money games without the need to deposit. This is money is placed in a bonus account – and can’t simply be withdrawn. You can keep what you win with it, subject to a play-through requirement (and at some casinos a deposit). PA casinos will be keen to register as many new players as possible, free play or free slot spins is a great tactic to achieve this.
- Matched Welcome Bonuses: As well as showcasing games with free-play, Casinos will be keen to encourage deposits. To do this, matched bonuses will be on offer. A typical casino deal is 100% matched to your first deposit, up to $500 (sometimes more). You’ll then need to wager this bonus money a number of times before it can be withdrawn.
- Other Deposit Deals: Some casinos offer extras along with your deposit. This can be entry into a slot tournament, a free chip for live-dealer casino games or free slot spins.
- Reload Bonuses: You might need to top up your account at times, and casinos are keen that you stay with them instead of seeking a fresh welcome bonus elsewhere. You’ll find reload bonuses similar to your matched welcome offers, with a percentage match and play-through requirement. Remember to check for these if you decide to reload, that simple casino bonus code can make a big difference to your bankroll!
- Comp / Loyalty Schemes: These work in a similar way to schemes at live casinos. You get points based on your play. Instead of swapping them for drinks, you’ll get extra bonuses online instead.
One significant type of casino bonus you can expect from PA casinos as they compete for your play is one-off and special promos. These can be tied to holidays, sporting events or sometimes just new slot games. A solid number of one-off promos shows that a casino is serious about looking after their regular players, and not just attracting new ones.
PA Sportsbooks & Betting Sites
With a successful launch of sports betting in live casino and racetrack venues in 2018, 2019 will see the first online sportsbooks open. At the time of writing, 7 live casinos have applied for online sports betting licenses. These are:
Expect announcements on launch dates and the first technology partnerships soon.
PA Online Poker Sites
The big question when it comes to online poker is whether the Pennsylvania poker sites will share player pools with NJ, NV and DE. Poker relies on a larger number of players to offer bigger prize tournaments and a wider choice of games / formats. It was assumed that a link-up would happen, though the recent reassessment of the opinion on the Wire Act has now bought this into question.
PA has a big enough population (12.8 million) to make online poker viable alone – though the benefits to players of the extended player pool would be considerable.
Giant brands including PokerStars, 888 and Party Poker are preparing to enter PA. Here are the sites and partnerships announced so far:
- Harrah’s: 888 Poker
- Hollywood: IGT
- Mount Airy: PokerStars
- Parx: GAN / Kambi
- Valley Forge: Party Poker
- Sugar House: Rush Street Interactive
What to Look for in Pennsylvania Gambling Sites?
With so many options available, choosing the best PA online gambling site might not be easy. This section draws on years of casino, poker and sportsbook experience to bring you the key things to look out for before you sign-up.
For casino fans, the software, games, bonuses and live-dealer options all come into play. Casino site software has come on a long way since the big brands left the US back in 2006. This is now responsive to your screen size, with animations and 3D effects which will blow you away.
In the past, casinos required you download a software package onto your PC. These days, your choices are mostly browser-based – with some smartphone apps. Instead of games from a single software provider, casinos curate their own choice of slots, table games and novelty titles. You’ll find games from giants like SG, IGT and MicroGaming alongside titles from new and innovative software houses. I recommend you try out casinos (with free no-deposit money where possible) to find the game selection and software that you like best.
Poker fans will also have some choices to make. While a lot depends on whether player pools are shared or PA-only – there are differences between the games and formats each site offers. With poker, size matters. While you might prefer software on one site, if all the opponents (particularly the recreational ones) are playing elsewhere, then it makes sense to switch. As well as welcome bonuses, ongoing offers make a big difference to your bottom line in poker games. The best PA poker site will combine a lot of players, a great selection of games and regular reward.
Finally, sports bettors will know that the lines on offer at PA sports betting sites are more important than the software client. That is not to say bad sportsbook software should be tolerated! This area is one where having a choice of site (and the ability to shop for the best lines each time you bet) is more important than a long list of features or gimmicks.
What Casino Games Will Be Available to PA Residents?
Taxes on slots for Pennsylvania casinos are higher than for table games, sports and poker. This will be unlikely to stop the casinos offering an excellent range of slot titles. I do expect to see the table games incentivized – and pushed a little harder than in other states.
The choice of slots online these days will come as a pleasant surprise to many new players. You can enjoy online versions of slots from live casinos (including many movie and TV show themed games). You will find the depth of game-play in online-only slot titles has significantly improved. Increased competition from smaller software houses, combined with classics from the likes of MicroGaming, IGT and others will give you a huge choice.
If you prefer your slot play more traditional, then you’ll be happy to know 3-reel slots – which mimic the original mechanical machines – are also widely available. Many online slots have huge (million+) jackpots these days too.
Table games can be played via casino software, or with live dealer via a real-time video link. Live dealer games are hugely popular – adding a social element to online casino gambling. You’ll find plenty of options including blackjack, roulette, baccarat and casino poker variants. Software based table games give you even more choices including many innovative side-bets and rules variations.
Between table games and slots, you’ll already have 1000’s of games to choose from. Add in video poker, keno, scratch-cards and novelty games – and your choices get even better.
PA Online Gambling Sites FAQ
Here are answers to many of the common questions asked by PA residents about the new online gambling sites.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes. A bill was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on October the 30th, 2017. This kick-started a licensing process, initially awarding online gambling licenses to live casinos in Pennsylvania. 12 licenses covering the 3 main gambling verticals (casino, sports betting and poker) have been awarded. Anyone over 21 physically inside the state borders can legally gamble online at licensed sites. There is no requirement to be a permanent resident of Pennsylvania.
What are the Regulations for Licensees in Pennsylvania?
Licensees are currently required to hold a licensed for a brick and mortar casino. There are additional requirements involving taxation, the purchase of 5-year licenses, player protection and game fairness testing. These are overseen by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
When Will Online Poker and Casino Sites go Live in Pennsylvania?
2019 is the year that PA online gambling sites will go live, with the first ones expected in the spring.
What are the Age Requirements to Play Real Money Games?
You need to be 21 to legally gamble in PA, this applies to both online and brick and mortar establishments.
Will I be Able to Play Casino Games for Free?
Most real money casinos also offer free-play versions of their games for new players to try out. In addition to these completely free slots and games, many casinos offer free bonus cash to new players. This allows you to play casino games with no personal financial risk. You can keep your winnings, subject to play-through requirements and other terms.
What are Bonuses and Will I be Able to Receive One?
Gambling site bonuses are common – and will be available to new players at all online gambling sites. These take various forms. Typical incentives include free play (no-deposit) bonuses, matched bonuses based on your first deposit, matched bonuses for existing players (reloads), comp point schemes and one-off promotions.
You’ll be able to take bonuses from each casino, as long as nobody else in your household has already claimed the same bonus.
Will I Need to Pay Tax on my Winnings at PA Online Casinos?
All gambling winnings need to be declared on your tax return and are treated as any other form of income. This is separate from the tax that the casinos pay on their ‘Gross Gaming Revenue’.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Recent clarification at the Supreme Court means that individual states are free to offer sports betting on pro sports. Currently, residents in Pennsylvania can bet on sports at existing casinos and race tracks. Online sportsbook licenses have been issued, with the first sites due to come online in 2019.
Why Should I Play at PA Casinos and Not Offshore Sites?
There are two main reasons to stick to the regulated casinos in PA. These are safety and quality.
Safety: Offshore casinos are lightly regulated, giving you little or no recourse should you have issues or a dispute. In addition to the risk of encountering a rogue operator, you’ll find it difficult to get money off quickly in the event of legal action from the US. If you stick to PA casinos, you have protection and can ensure that games are completely fair.
Quality: The offshore casinos rely on software supplied by companies willing to turn a blind eye to where it is used. While some games are good, these generally don’t match the quality of the big international game / software developers like IGT and MicroGaming. You’ll have a choice of better-quality gaming options at online casinos PA.
How Do I Deposit and Withdraw from PA Gambling Sites?
Playing at the legal PA online gambling sites makes payments much simpler than with the grey-market offshore casinos. You’ll be able to use your credit cards in the same way as making any online purchase. Common brands like Amex, Visa and MasterCard are all welcomed by online casinos. In addition, electronic wallets like PayPal and Skrill should be available. If PA gambling sites follow the lead of New Jersey, you’ll be able to move money around via the cages at live casinos and sportsbooks too.
PA Gambling Sites: The Road to Regulation
Like many East coast states, Horse Racing, and the gambling associated with them, were popular as far back as the 1830’s. A lottery and limited charity gambling options were all that was available for a long stretch – until 2004.
In that year ‘Act 71’ was passed, legalizing live casinos and betting at horse racing tracks. These forms of gambling would become a big source of income for the state coffers. High tax rates (particularly on slot and casino gaming), meant that more tax revenue came from gambling in PA than in any other state in 2018. This includes Nevada, where the revenues are higher – though tax rate is significantly lower.
On Oct. 25, 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a comprehensive gaming expansion package that includes online gambling in the form of online poker, online slots, as well as online table games. The next day, the PA House passed the bill as well, making Pennsylvania the fourth state in the nation to authorize online gambling.
The package then went to Gov. Tom Wolf, who signed the bill on Oct. 30, 2017, officially cementing PA’s status as the fourth US state to legalize online gaming.
The legislation, H 271, permits a variety of other gambling expansions, including daily fantasy sports, sports betting both online and off (should the federal government repeal PASPA), video gaming terminals (VGTs) in authorized truck stops, and tablet gaming at qualified airport locations.
Now that Wolf signed the bill into law, it will likely be around nine months before the first legal online gambling sites launch in Pennsylvania. Regulations will need to be promulgated, licenses issued, sites tested, and so forth.
When legal NJ online gambling was passed, it was roughly nine months before sites went live.
As of early 2019, many licenses have been awarded for poker, casino and sports betting online. The first fully legal and regulated PA online gambling sites are expected to open in the spring of 2019.