Pennsylvania’s Slow Expected Start to Online Sports Betting

Pennsylvania’s Slow Expected Start to Online Sports Betting

With online sports betting expected to begin any day now in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, it’s prudent to temper your expectations on how successful the online sports betting industry might be straight out of the gate.

Yes, its true that New Jersey’s online and bricks-and-mortar sportsbooks like 888sport have been experiencing month-after-month of record sports betting revenue numbers after passing the $1 billion mark last December.

On the other hand, only those with long memories note that its worthwhile to remember that even the Garden State took awhile to get their legal sports betting industry into full swing.

With the online sports wagering beginning is not known exactly, one way or another, Pennsylvanians should expect to have plenty of sports betting options and chances to bet on Phillies and Pirates throughout the summer.

What the sports betting industry shouldn’t expect is to have any meaningful revenues earning reports or statistics on the Pennsylvania online sports gambling market’s potential earnings until at least September at the very earliest.

It’s a lesson the industry learnt well in 2018, and we need look no further than neighboring New Jersey’s results during the corresponding months last summer.

Pennsylvania’s bricks and mortar sports betting numbers so far in 2019 without the extra potential of online and mobile have been less than stellar.

Total sports betting handle at the eight land-based sports books in the Keystone State was $36.76 million — the second highest monthly total to date for any month since the first Pennsylvanian books opened in November 2018, only behind March’s (driven the March Madness College Basketball Betting bonanza) $44.52 million sports wagering revenue result.

The resulting hold for April 2019 was a hefty 11.5%, leaving a total revenue of $4.22 million — of which 36%, or $1.52 million ended up in the pockets of the taxman. Although it’s a quite a reasonable performance given the season (with the NFL, NHL, NBA approaching their summer off-seasons), those Pennsylvanian numbers don’t stack up well compared to those from neighboring New Jersey.

Or do they?

Pennsylvania’s sports betting tax rate is higher than in any other state that has legalized sports betting, with the exception of Rhode Island’s incredible 51% rate filling Federal Government coffers.

In addition to the high tax rate, the state of Pennsylvania also requires a weighty $10 million license fee for all prospective sports betting venues.

Even New Jersey struggled in first few months

Now, more than 80 per cent of New Jersey’s sports betting handle each month comes from the online sector. In New Jersey’s first month with multiple online options, the Garden State saw its gross revenue grow by 161 per cent and its overall sports betting handle jump by 92.3 percent. However, of course, those numbers started from zero. It would take two or three months for the online sports betting sector to become mature.

Interestingly, Pennsylvania will possibly begin its relationship with online sports betting during the slower summer months where MLB is king, but the big gaming sports of NFL, NHL and NBA are in hiatus.

New Jersey too began legal online sports betting in summer and last July and August resemble where Pennsylvania is now in terms of a beginning summer season, and an unknown take-up of online sports betting and initial teething problems to overcome.

Pennsylvania can learn a lot from a detailed analysis of New Jersey’s first full three months of online sports wagering in 2018;

July 2018

$3.8 million revenue

$40.6 million total online sports betting handle

August 2018

$9.2 million revenue

$95.6 million total online sports betting handle


September 2018

$23.9 million revenue

$183.9 million total online sports betting handle

New Jersey’s dramatic increase from August to September was critical in the Garden State becoming the online sports gambling success story it is now.

During the August – September 2018 boom period;

  • The Garden State had an influx of new sportsbooks,
  • People in New Jersey (and in surrounding states like New York, where football mad citizens flocked across the border to log-on to New Jersey’s geolocation protected online sportsbooks) came to grips with the new technology, and;
  • September marked the return of college and NFL football, by far the most popular betting sport across the United States, creating a perfect storm of factors to awaken the sleeping online sports betting giant in the Garden State.

For certain, Pennsylvania will have a huge ‘curiousity’ spike when online sports betting begins. Of course, the numbers will be starting from zero, so any numbers in that first month will naturally be significant.

However, don’t expect to see the huge initial numbers in the Keystone State straight out of the box that New Jersey is now reporting regularly month-to-month.

For example, here are New Jersey’s latest numbers and they give an example what Pennsylvanians might look forward after a year or so of legal online sports betting;

April 2019

$49.2 million revenue

$253.9 million total online sports betting handle

Once Pennsylvanians have had the opportunity to bet on NFL and college football from September 2019, and perhaps not even until the twin betting bonanzas of the early 2020 calendar year, (the 2020 versions of the Super Bowl and March Madness) should we expect anything other than average numbers.

What is fantastic is that many Pennsylvanians have already crossed the border into New Jersey to experience for themselves first-hand what exactly online sports betting entails and how it operates.

The first couple of months of legal sports betting in Pennsylvania should allow industry experts and sports bettors alike to iron out the kinks and getting used to what will be a brand-new sports betting method for the residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

When online sports betting eventually goes live in Pennsylvania, whether it’s next week or is delayed until later in the summer, don’t expect anything concrete until September. As with NFL and NBA goes sports betting; the summer is preseason and fall is when the real competition begins.