In July 2004, Pennsylvania land-based casinos were legalized by the state legislature and the state introduced the newly defined Pennsylvania Gaming Laws. The new law allowed for 14 slot parlors across the state. As at September 2022, all 14 are currently in operation. Most of these casinos were located at race tracks that mainly featured horse racing as the major betting type until the mid-2000s gambling expansion.
Pennsylvania casinos have survived multiple challenges to their existence yet continue to thrive. Opponents to the lucrative ventures fought to block casino gambling in 2005 through a legal battle. The State of Pennsylvania prevailed in the following court case.
Going back to 2007, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution that allowed for a referendum that would have permitted the city to have a voice in the location of land-based casinos. The city attorney determined that state law took precedence over Philadelphians in the location of casinos. The state filed suit and subsequently prevailed. The casinos were constructed as planned.
Six additional racing licenses were granted on September 27, 2006. These race tracks were permitted to operate slot machines until the regulatory process was completed. A few months later, on December 20, 2006, the six tracks were approved for permanent licenses. On the same day, five stand-alone casinos received permanent licenses from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Pennsylvania currently operates a total of 14 casinos providing the latest gaming machines and tables, in addition to access to on-site racing venues for additional betting. Some offer in-house sports betting, with their own-branded online sportsbooks also available. Most casinos are also entertainment hubs that offer concerts and top entertainment show venues and a plethora of both high-end and affordable dining options.
Online Casinos in Pennsylvania
Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law on October 30 2017, making Pennsylvania the fourth state across the United States to legalize some form of online gambling. In the case of Pennsylvania, the law authorizes most forms of online gambling, including poker, table games, slots, lottery, daily fantasy sports, and PA sports betting, now that the federal ban has been overturned since May 2018.
Legal online casino play began in Pennsylvania in 2019.
Which Online Casinos Are legal in Pennsylvania and Which are Not?
Off-shore online casinos are best avoided if you don’t want run-ins with law enforcement. The following online casinos are all current legal and licensed for play in Pennsylvania;
- Barstool Sports
- Stars Casino by PokerStars
- PlayLive! Casino
- Hollywood Casino
- Wind Creek
- Borgata Casino
Poker in Pennsylvania
Whilst many types are gambling are actively encouraged in Pennsylvania, unlicensed Poker is not.
For the time being, unlicensed poker (for example, playing for money in your own home is actively discouraged), baccarat and roulette are all seen as a form of unlicensed and illegal prohibited gaming and can theoretically be charged as first-degree misdemeanors in Pennsylvania. Possible punishments are up to 5 years in prison and as much as $10 000 in fines.
If you’d like to play Poker in PA legally without any hassles, see section below for information on the State’s Poker Rooms, or use one of the state’s legal and licensed online casinos.
Of course, you can play many different types of poker (Casino Hold’em, Texas Hold’em, Caribbean Stud Poker, No Limit Hold’em etc.) perfectly legally and without fear of breaking the law at any one of Pennsylvania’s 14 brick-and-mortar casinos.
Pennsylvania’s casinos offer more than 300 tables of legal poker play for the state’s residents and visitors.
Online Poker Laws
Legal PA online casinos offering online poker among their suite of games were officially launched in 2019.
History of Online & Land-Based Gambling
1959: Betting on horse racing made legal for the first time.
1967: Pennsylvania Racing Commission created to oversee racing activities across the State.
1971: Act 91 makes a PA State lottery legal for the first time with the first draw was held in 1972.
1991: Chapter 901 of the State laws - ‘Local Options Small Games Of Chance’ allows for charity bingo, raffles and limited pull-tab type games.
2004: Commercial Casinos legalized in Pennsylvania, initially with slots only.
2010: Senate Bill 711 allows casino table games at PA’s licensed casinos. This cemented the gains already made and led to record breaking revenues from the casinos 3 years later.
2017: New State law HB 271 legalizes sports betting, online casinos and DFS in Pennsylvania.
November 2018: The first two of Pennsylvania’s casinos began to offer legal sports betting
December 2018: Two more casinos began sports betting operations.
2019: Online sports betting and online casinos began operations in Pennsylvania.
Chick Here to read about Pennsylvania's online sportsbooks and the states sports betting laws.