Over this past year, many of us have been looking for new ways to relax that don’t involve leaving the house. Some people have turned to cooking or baking to de-stress, others to new hobbies, and some have found online equivalents of their real-life hobbies. One of the hobbies that has translated best from the real world to the virtual one is online gambling. In 2017, Governor Tom Wolf legalized online gambling in Pennsylvania, ushering in a new era for gamblers and providing the state with a new revenue stream. Let’s examine the current state of online gambling, and sports betting in particular, in Pennsylvania.
History of gambling in Pennsylvania
Like many states in America, Pennsylvania has a long history with gambling. Its religious roots meant it got a later start in the industry than its neighbors New York and New Jersey. The first form of gambling to be legalized in Pennsylvania was horse racing. This was made possible by the Race Horse Industry Reform Act of 1959. The state, however, still does not allow greyhound racing. The state lottery soon followed, being established in 1971. Pennsylvania did not enter the casino gambling game until very recently – casino gambling wasn’t legalized in the state until 2004 and for a while those casinos could only have slot machines, as table games weren’t legalized until 2010!
It seems as if the citizens of Pennsylvania felt they had some catching up to do. Up until 2020, Pennsylvania had the second-highest casino revenue in the country (after Nevada, of course) with $3.4 billion brought in by only 12 casinos in 2019. That’s a lot of gambling! 2020 has been a less lucrative year for traditional casinos, due mainly to pandemic-related shutdowns, but online gambling has remained popular. It is likely that 2021 will see a rebound in revenues as people try to make up for lost time.
In 2017, the state of New Jersey brought a case to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The 1991 act had made betting on college and professional sports illegal, with the exception of Nevada sports pools and some state sports lotteries. PASPA didn’t necessarily end sports betting, it just pushed it into the control of organized crime, just as attempts to ban gambling in the earlier part of the century had done. The Supreme Court agreed with New Jersey and PASPA was ruled unconstitutional. This did not immediately make sports betting legal across the country but it allowed each state to pass its own laws on the industry.
Pennsylvania was one of the very first states to legalize sports betting, both in person and online. Individuals can place bets on both college and professional sports. In the three years since legalization, sports betting has exploded in popularity around the state.
BetMGM in Pennsylvania
BetMGM is one of the online sportsbooks that has rushed to satisfy consumer calls for legitimate sports betting platforms. BetMGM was one of the very first companies to offer sports betting services to American audiences. Their parent company is MGM Resorts, the same company behind some of the biggest Vegas casinos, including Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage and Excalibur. They also have casino properties in China (MGM China), as well as a number of other casinos and golf courses around the United States. It is safe to say that they have a pretty good understanding of the gambling industry!
BetMGM is now licensed in many of the states that have legalized online sports betting, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado, New Jersey and Indiana. Those looking to bet on a range of professional sports can use BetMGM’s app. Many kinds of bets are offered, including point spreads, totals bets, moneylines, futures, parlays and props. It is one of many options for sports betting available in Pennsylvania and has been rated by World Sports Network as comparable to other available sportsbooks.
These days, online casinos have made taking the long flight to Las Vegas feel a bit unnecessary. Online casinos provide all the excitement of real casino games without any of the other temptations, and that’s not always such a bad thing – after the Covid lockdowns, most of us could probably do without the buffets! Gambling laws are relaxing all across the country and if the revenue boost that casinos have given Pennsylvania is taken as an example, this should be a benefit for the national economy.