History of Gambling in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania casinos became legal in July 2004, thanks to the state legislature.

The law allows 14 slot parlors across the state; however, there are currently 12 in operation. Many of these casinos were located at racetracks that primarily featured horse racing before the gambling expansion.

Pennsylvania casinos have survived multiple challenges. Despite opponents attempt to block casino gambling in 2005 through a legal battle, Pennsylvania prevailed in the court case.

In 2007, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution that allowed for a referendum that would have allowed the city to have a voice in the placement of casinos.

The potential location for two casinos in Philadelphia angered some residents. The city attorney acknowledged that state law preempted Philadelphians from having any voice in the location of casinos. The state filed suit and prevailed. Subsequently, the casinos were constructed as planned.

Six racing licenses were granted on Sept. 27, 2006. These racetracks were permitted to operate slot machines until the regulatory process was completed.

On Dec. 20, 2006, the six tracks were approved for permanent licenses. On the same day, five standalone casinos received permanent licenses from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Three resort licenses were also approved. Only two of these properties have been completed.

Regarding the number of gambling devices, Parx is the largest Pennsylvania casino. It offers players more than 3,300 machines and 165 table games. Sands Bethlehem is a close second place with more 3,000 machines and 183 tables.

Pennsylvania’s slot tax revenue is at 55 percent, the highest casino tax rate in the country. However, table games, including poker, blackjack, roulette and craps, are taxed at 14 percent.

Currently, Pennsylvania is the second-largest casino state, surpassing New Jersey. Though Atlantic City casinos blame PA casinos for the loss of gaming revenue, NJ casinos are down more than 40 percent since 2007. Only Nevada casinos win more money than Pennsylvania.

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