On October 30, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 271, a gaming expansion bill that legalizes, among other things, online sports betting in Pennsylvania. Wolf’s signature comes a week after the state legislature passed the bill, which legalizes and regulates daily fantasy sports, online gambling, and sports betting. The bill includes a steep 36% state tax on all revenue generated from sports betting, and it allows for mobile and online sports wagering on both professional and collegiate sports. Mobile betting also means that patrons will have the ability to make wagers within stadiums.
However, Pennsylvania has not yet overcome every legal hurdle to rolling out sports betting online and in casinos. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”) of 1992 prohibited the introduction of sports betting in all states except for Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, which had already created sports betting laws at the time Congress passed PASPA. However, due to social and legal pressure from professional sports leagues, only Nevada continues to allow single-game sports betting.
PASPA may not stand as an obstacle to sports betting in Pennsylvania for long. In 2014, another state vying for legalization of sports betting, New Jersey, passed a law to allow sports betting. The bill has received an onslaught of opposition from the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National College Athletic Association. The leagues have continued to defeat New Jersey’s bill in court on PASPA grounds, but on June 27 of this year, the Supreme Court unexpectedly decided to hear New Jersey’s case. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments supporting New Jersey’s sports betting law on December 4th, and a decision from the Court is expected in March or April of next year.
Pennsylvania is undoubtedly hoping that the Supreme Court rules not only to uphold New Jersey’s law, but also to find PASPA unconstitutional, thus paving the way for Pennsylvania and other states to enter into the world of sports betting. Pennsylvania’s bill exemplifies a growing tolerance for sports betting throughout the country. Las Vegas now boasts a professional hockey and football team, and the NFL has shown no resistance to in-state wagering on the state’s hockey games.
Jason Colin is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2020).