Pennsylvania Lawmaker Stresses Opportunity For Esports Betting

Written By Derek Helling on January 31, 2023
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Philadelphia has been the site of several prominent esports events in the past and figures to continue hosting such competitions into the future. Despite that, Pennsylvania esports betting remains off the board for residents.

One member of the state’s legislature wants to address that, citing the economic opportunity. He is seeking allies in his endeavor ahead of introducing a proposal in Harrisburg to change the state’s regulations around gambling in esports competitions.

Pennsylvania esports betting could be on the docket in 2023

On Jan. 27, Pennsylvania Rep. Ed Neilson issued a memorandum to his colleagues. The main thrust of the memoranda is a call for co-sponsors for a forthcoming piece of legislation concerning the status of legal betting on esports in the state.

Neilson makes a few key arguments for the general concept of legalizing such gambling.

  • Neighboring states allow betting on esports
  • The estimated value of the esports industry in 2022 was $1.1 billion
  • A facility dedicated to esports competitions, Fusion Arena, is under construction in Philadelphia

For these reasons, Neilson says he believes “Pennsylvania should quickly add esports to our gaming portfolio.” He concludes the memorandum by stating he is looking for co-sponsors for the bill he will submit. However, Neilson gives no timeline for when he will do so.

The memo is also devoid of details of his proposal. That might be another reason why Neilson is seeking feedback and partners in this endeavor.

The details of Neilson’s bill will be crucial

Neilson’s task is an unenviable one to some degree. He needs to find a precarious balance in his legislation.

On one hand, he needs to make the bill broad enough that regulators in Pennsylvania can adapt to the frequently changing demands of the esports landscape. At the same time, the bill must have strict parameters to garner enough support in Harrisburg to become law.

When Pennsylvania first legalized sports betting, it intentionally carved out esports. At the time, legislators simply lacked an adequate understanding of the industry. Thus, they felt safer restricting regulated gambling to traditional sports.

Lawmakers could have concerns about the integrity of esports competitions. It will be Neilson’s job to educate and reassure them. However, if the bill is too narrow, it won’t capture much of the revenue that Neilson seeks.

The details of Neilson’s proposal will be evident once he files the bill. When that time comes, he hopes not to do that alone.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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