HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday approved rules for sports betting, made legal by a May U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Just don't expect to be able to place a legal bet on opening day of the college or NFL seasons.
Under the state's new rules, fans will be able to bet on both professional and collegiate sports, said Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the board.
But while Gaming Control Board officials believe the necessary regulatory framework is now in place for sports betting, the state’s casinos still must apply for the right to take the wagers.
No casino had applied by Wednesday afternoon, Harbach said.
Regulators have made clear that they don’t expect casinos in the state to be able to offer sports wagering until well after the college and pro football seasons get underway, he said.
Harbach said the board’s next meeting isn’t until Sept. 12. The NFL season kicks off on Sept. 6. The board has no intention of scheduling special meetings before then to get sports wagering in place, he said.
Harbach said the earliest the board could likely take action on sports wagering applications would be in October.
Some industry analysts growing pessimistic the state will have its sports betting apparatus up and running before the end of the year, said Robert Dellafave, Senior Analyst for PennBets.com, a web site tracking the gambling industry.
Other states have moved ahead of Pennsylvania.
New Jersey’s sportsbooks generated $3.8 million in gross revenue on $40.7 million in wagers in July, according official reporting cited by PlayNJ.com. Both metrics are up from the $3.5 million in gross revenue generated in June on $16.4 million in wagers completed.
It's not the only state that's gotten ahead of Pennsylvania in the sports betting horse race. Delaware launched its legal sports betting in June.
Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming, said the Wyomissing-based company isn’t necessarily disappointed that Pennsylvania isn’t moving more quickly.
“Our focus at this point is on getting operational in Mississippi and West Virginia by Sept. 1,” Schippers said.
Dellafave said that casino companies have been put off by the 34 percent tax rate set in Pennsylvania.
While the casinos will almost certainly eventually opt to offer sports wagering in Pennsylvania, “there isn’t enthusiasm” to come to this state ahead of others, he said.
Dellafave said he thinks it could be January before sports betting is available in Pennsylvania.
Also slowing the sports betting rollout in Pennsylvania is the fact that the Gaming Control Board has been asked to set up online gaming at essentially the same time as sports betting, he said.
An indication that the casino industry is certainly interested in embracing the expanded gaming opportunities in Pennsylvania came Wednesday as the Gaming Control Board approved the sale of Presque Isle Downs to Churchhill Downs, the company most-famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby.
Speaking at a public hearing Wednesday before the Gaming Control Board, company officials made it clear that sports wagering and online gaming opportunities were two of the reasons coming to Pennsylvania was attractive.