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History of Gambling in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania casinos were legalized by the state legislature in July 2004. The law allowed for 14 slot parlors across the state. There are currently 12 in operation. Many of these casinos were located at race tracks that primarily featured horse racing before the gambling expansion.

Pennsylvania casinos survived multiple challenges. Opponents fought 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. City residents were angered about the potential location for two casinos in the city. The city attorney acknowledged that state law preempted Philadelphians from having any voice in the location of casinos. The state filed suit and prevailed. The casinos were constructed as planned.

Six racing licenses were granted on September 27, 2006. These race tracks were permitted to operate slot machines until the regulatory process was completed. On December 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.

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

Slot revenue is taxed at 55%. This is the highest casino tax rate in the country. Table games, including poker, blackjack, roulette and craps, are taxed at a 14% rate.

Pennsylvania is now the second largest casino state. It surpassed New Jersey in 2012. Casinos in Pennsylvania are blamed for the loss of gaming revenue in Atlantic City. New Jersey casinos are down more than 40% since 2007. Only Nevada casinos win more money than Pennsylvania.

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