Pennsylvania has a large number of casinos, though a lot of them are different than the casinos you would find in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Some casinos are an extension of a horse or dog racing track, while others exist as a casino and resort destination. With changes to the way casinos and gambling were able to function in the state being made in the middle of 2010, the casino and gaming atmosphere in Pennsylvania is growing and changing quickly. Pennsylvania online gambling is legal as of 2018.
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Mount Airy Casino Resort
Parx Casino/Philadelphia Park Racetrack
Presque Isle Downs Casino
The Rivers Casino
Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem
Valley Forge Casino Resort
Pennsylvania Online Casinos
In the United States, the idea behind legalized and regulated real money online casinos is often one that is met with a lot of skepticism and doubt. After all, the number of states currently offering legalized online gambling is fewer than the fingers that exist on two hands. Having said this, you might find it downright shocking that the historically conservative state of Pennsylvania is one of the four total US states that currently legally allow for online gambling to take place.
Though states like Nevada and New Jersey made the transition into a legal online gambling landscape seamlessly, the story behind Pennsylvania becoming the 4th state to legalize gambling is a bit different.
History of Online Gambling in Pennsylvania
To provide some perspective as to why Pennsylvania is considered to be a pioneer in the legalized online casino realm, you must first understand that casinos were only legalized in 2004. During that year, a bill was passed by the name of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. Though one of the seemingly obvious purposes of the bill was to bolster the beleaguered horseracing industry in the state, another, perhaps more important, purpose of the bill was to transform the gambling landscape in the state. The passage of the aforementioned Act meant that 14 brick and mortar facilities would be able to lay claim to real money slot machines come 2006. By virtue of the Act, the facilities were to be broken down in such a way that favored horse tracks. Of the 14 brick and mortar slot machine sites, it was mandated that 7 of them be horse tracks, 5 be standalone casinos, and the final 2 were to be resort casinos the likes of which dot the Las Vegas Strip.
In the following years, the scope of gambling was expanded bit by bit, until 2010 saw the legalization of table games. By the time the first decade of the 21st century was complete, Pennsylvania had gone from a state with next to no gambling to becoming a state that was rivaling the historic casinos in Atlantic City when it came to annual revenues. The sheer amount of money being made by the casinos in the state and, by extension, the state itself via taxes was difficult to ignore. As revenues increased, so too did the tax dollars being brought into the coffers. As the budgetary situation in Pennsylvania grew bleaker with each passing year, the idea for increased gambling seemed like a quick, proven way to the scope of casino (and online casino) gambling expanded.
If we flash forward to 2014, Tom Wolf was elected governor and the now strong push to legalize and regulate online gambling was severely threatened. It quickly became no secret that Wolf seemed to be more likely to increase taxes than he was to legalize gambling, and the belief that online casinos would have to wait until at least 2018 caught hold. Of course, this is when the aforementioned financial problems of the state come back into play.
In attempting to create a budget that would help Pennsylvania decrease its overall deficit, Republicans and Democrats were at a stand-still. Republicans, who laid claim to a majority of the legislature, did not want to raise taxes. Democrats, including the governor, on the other hand, were not willing to compromise as they saw no other way to raise more money for the state. After going back and forth for what seemed like a decade, the governor and his allies and the Republicans came to an agreement–legalized online gambling was the best way to quickly increase state revenues. It was at this point that Pennsylvania joined elite, exclusive company in the US, as the 4th state to legalize online play of slots, table games, and so much more.
Gambling Laws and Regulations
As is the case with New Jersey, any person wishing to gamble online in Pennsylvania will need to be at least 21 years of age. Perhaps the biggest rule regarding online gambling in Pennsylvania has to do with where, exactly, you do your gambling. The internet is looked at as an entity that is not governed by state boundaries, but the reality of the matter is that your location will be tracked when you attempt to gamble at Pennsylvania online casinos. To make a long story short, if you are so much as a few feet outside of the state, the state’s online casinos will be rendered inaccessible.
Gambling in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is currently transitioning from prohibiting gambling to regulating it. After 2013, PA began to rapidly open casinos across the state but has yet to legalize table games. Any establishment with a liquor license may legally operate the games of chance defined as legal by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), including video poker.
Some of the most popular casinos in Pennsylvania include:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia located in Chester.
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course located in Grantville.
- Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin located in Farmington
- Mount Airy Casino Resort located at Mount Pocono
Since the legalization of casinos in Pennsylvania is still fresh, all of the state’s gambling establishments benefit from the perks of modern construction. Players looking to gamble from home can use our list of recommended Pennsylvania online casinos. These offshore casinos also offer table games – online Blackjack, Roulette, and Craps.
Pennsylvania residents may legally own and operate an antique slot machine older than 25 years within their private residence as long as they don’t generate revenue from it.
Types of Casinos
In Pennsylvania, there are a few different types of casinos, some are full casinos, and some are run by Native American tribes, while others offer a resort experience that bases its theme on more attractions than the casino alone.
Full casinos are exactly what their name implies, a casino with every type of table game and slot imaginable. These casinos are often accompanied by a hotel and other amenities and labeled as a resort. As opposed to places like racetracks, full casinos center their business around the casino only, often offering many more slots and a wider variety of table games than dog or horse tracks. Standalone casinos refer to a casino that does not have all the amenities of a casino and resort, meaning they are usually lacking things like a hotel, spa, and shops.
Racinos are another name for dog or horse tracks which also offer some slots and table games. Since racinos concentrate on dog or horse racing more so than the casino aspect, you can expect to find a much less diverse offering of games than you would expect to find at a full casino. Nonetheless, games like Texas Hold’em poker, Craps and Blackjack can be found in abundance at many Pennsylvania racinos.
Native American Casinos
Some casinos in Pennsylvania, such as Mohegan Sun, are owned by Native Americans and operate on Native American reservations. With that being said, apart from the fact that these casinos are on reservation land they do not differ greatly from any other full casino.
Pennsylvania Sportsbooks & Betting
Although sports betting isn’t legal in Pennsylvania yet, this is likely to change soon. In late 2017, Governor Tom Wolf agreed to sign a bill (HB 271) approving the legalization of sports gambling once it’s permitted on the federal level.
With the 2018 Supreme Court decision allowing states to pass their own sports betting laws, the final legislation needed for legalization in Pennsylvania began pushing its way through the various processes required to implement sports gambling. State Representative Rob Matzie hopes sports betting will be legalized by the end of 2018.
eSports and fantasy gambling
Pennsylvania law does not include any special exemptions or definitions for electronic (eSports) gambling, placing it in the same category as traditional sports gambling. Once sports gaming is legalized, eSports gaming will be legal too – unless an additional clause prohibiting it is added to the bill.
The same bill signed by Tom Wolf also legalized fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports (DFS) gambling in Pennsylvania, making it the 17th state to provide legal DFS. HB271 outlined the licensing structure for operators, instilled regulations for customer protections, and set the tax rate on all fantasy gambling operators at 15%. Players located in Pennsylvania can currently access popular DFS websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is also responsible for the regulation and taxation of horse race betting. So far, the PGCB has legalized bets on horse/harness racing, interstate simulcast gaming, and both on-track and off-track pari-mutuel wagering.
Pennsylvania is home to numerous horse racing tracks. Here are some of the most popular establishments:
- Ladbroke at the Meadows located in Pittsburgh.
- Penn National Race Course located at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
- Philadelphia Parx located in Philadelphia.
Poker Games in Pennsylvania
Poker is currently illegal in Pennsylvania, even in private residential homes.
The state considers illegal gambling a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying charges of up to $10,000 in fines and five years in prison.
Players looking to fulfill their poker needs may do so at online poker sites that accept Pennsylvania residents.
In 1971, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly formed the Pennsylvania State Lottery and began selling tickets to citizens over the age of 18.
The Pennsylvania State Lottery offers a great selection of draw games, including:
- Pick 2, 3, 4, and 5
- Wild Ball
- Cash 5
- Match 6
- Treasure Hunt
Although the Pennsylvania State Lottery has been around since the 70s, it wasn’t until 2010 that multi-state lotteries were introduced. Currently, players can choose to gamble with popular multi-state lotteries such as:
- Mega Millions
Lottery winners receive 40% of the payout prize. After operator expenses are paid, the state of Pennsylvania claims the remainder of the winnings. Lottery winners must claim their money within one year; otherwise, it all goes to the state. Prizes can also be subject to garnishment.
Unlike most states that use lottery taxes to fund public education, Pennsylvania requires all lottery revenue to be spent on social programs such as senior center staffing and social security checks.
Pennsylvania Bingo Games
According to Section 301 of Pennsylvania Bingo Law, Pennsylvania allows any qualified charity to host Bingo games. The Bingo game category includes punchboards, daily drawings, raffles, and pull-tabs.
Popular Bingo hall locations include:
- Astor Bingo Hall located in Allentown.
- Hamlin Fire & Rescue Bingo located in Hamlin.
- Uptown Bingo II located in Harrisburg
History of Gambling in Pennsylvania
Before 2006 the casino presence in Pennsylvania was close to nil. While you could place wagers on horses and dogs at racetracks, slots, poker, blackjack, and the like were all illegal. This changed in 2006 when the PA state government determined that it would allow for the existence of six permanent casinos so long as they are located at preexisting racetracks. The state government of PA also decided that it would allow for the existence of 5 stand-alone casinos and 2 more “resort” casinos which were to be built as an attachment to preexisting hotels/resorts. It must be noted however, that at the time these licenses were granted approval by Pennsylvania’s state government, they only allowed for the existence of slot machines at the casinos.
In July of 2010, it was decided that the casinos of PA were now able to allow for the play of table games. This news was greeted with mixed attitudes, but allowed PA casinos the chance to offer a casino experience that you would otherwise have to travel to Atlantic City or Las Vegas for.
Since most casinos in Pennsylvania got their start as dog racing or horse racing tracks, they are scattered all around the state; some located in large metropolitan areas, while others are in isolated, secluded parts of the state. Since the inclusion of table games in 2010, the presence of casinos in major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh has grown and continues to grow. Overall, the casino industry in PA is budding to say the least and has been growing steadily since the inclusion of table games.
Because Atlantic City and its many casino attractions are located within close proximity to some PA casinos, it goes without saying that Atlantic City is PA’s biggest competitor. With that being said, however, the allowance of table games has made many of Pennsylvania’s casinos a viable alternative to travel sometimes great distances to Atlantic City. Additionally, a lot of Pennsylvania’s casinos have been established within the last few years and are newer and more modern than a lot of Atlantic City’s casinos, many of which have been around for 3 or more decades.
Casino online play is currently nearing regulation. Though the process is very slow and tedious, many expect online casino play in PA to be legal sooner than later, especially with neighboring and competing, New Jersey already having online play in effect.
General Pennsylvania Casino Rules
In Pennsylvania, you must be 21 years of age to gamble at casinos
In Pennsylvania, you must also be 21 years of age to drink alcohol at casinos
As of now, sports betting is not permitted in Pennsylvania casinos
Pennsylvania Online Gambling FAQ
How Do I Get Started?
Getting started isn’t much of an issue if you already know which site you want to join. Your next step should be to open a new gambling account, make the first deposit and validate your account by submitting a scanned photo ID. Once that final step is out of the way, you should be able to start playing real money games or placing wagers.
How Do I Get My Money if I Win?
The funds tied to your on-site account are always at your disposal, so if you need a payout all you need to do is open the cashier menu and place the appropriate request, which will usually take about 2 days to process. Most sites prefer to use wire transfers for cash outs, so, all in all, you’ll probably have to wait about two weeks before you receive your winnings.
What is the minimum age to gamble online in Pennsylvania?
You have to be at least 18 years old in order to open a real money online gambling account. Please note that this isn’t affected by the Pennsylvania legal casino age, which is set to 21.
How do I open an account?
All you need to do is visit the site in question and fill out a simple form by providing the necessary personal information. Keep in mind that you’ll have to confirm your identity before you’ll be allowed to engage in real money gambling.
Where can I open my account from?
Pennsylvania residents are free to open an account from anywhere in the United States.
From where can I access Pennsylvania online gambling sites?
You can access most of the offshore sites from anywhere in the US. Some operators even allow logging in from abroad. Just keep in mind that not every US state is iGaming friendly: both Washington and Utah have very strict anti-online gambling regulations.
Where can I familiarize myself with the official regulations over gambling in Pennsylvania?
Your first step should definitely be to check out Section 5512 of Pennsylvania Statutes.
How do I deposit to my online gambling account?
Most sites will encourage you to deposit via a standard Visa/MasterCard credit card payment. Other options are available with very few sites.
How do I withdraw my winnings?
Most Pennsylvania-facing sites allow you to cash out via wire transfer or via check by mail.
Is my money safe?
Your money will be safe if you stick to trustworthy sites such as the ones listed here. There are many scammers that host faux Pennsylvania-friendly iGaming sites, so you should be very careful when it comes to transferring your money to any sites that you aren’t well familiar with
What body regulates gambling in Pennsylvania?
Legal gambling in Pennsylvania is handled by Pennsylvania Horse & Harness Racing Commissions and Pennsylvania Lottery.