Despite Delay, Pennsylvania Is Actually Doing Mobile Betting, Right?

Written By Martin Derbyshire on May 31, 2019 - Last Updated on June 5, 2019

Perhaps Pennsylvania is getting this whole sports betting thing right after all.

Sure, the state likely left millions on the table delaying the launch of online and mobile sports betting until now. And yes, PA legalized sports betting with what most experts expect to be a business killing tax rate almost three times higher than any other state.

However, the state’s long-view, slow-and-steady approach to creating a brand new Pennsylvania sports betting industry is starting to look like the right one.

Most of the week’s headlines about the soft launch of SugarHouse Sportsbook PA, the first sports betting app in Pennsylvania, will have the word “finally” in them.

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Pennsylvania took its sweet time on mobile sports betting

Sure, PA took its sweet time putting together regulations to govern sports betting in the state.

Delaware and New Jersey had retail sportsbooks open just weeks after the US Supreme Court lifted the federal ban. It took months until the first Pennsylvania retail sportsbooks launched.

And yes, while NJ has spent the past six months proving the online and mobile side of things represents an 80% piece of sports betting’s billion dollar pie, PA hasn’t seen a single legal bet placed over the internet. (Unexpected problems with the App Store didn’t help the timeline either.)

But now that it has, maybe it all makes perfect sense.

PA missed out on the bonanza that was online betting on the Super Bowl and March Madness this year. But maybe that was the point.

The launch of online and mobile sports betting in PA comes during a little downtime in the world of sports.

The Super Bowl and March Madness are distant memories. The NFL season is still months away from starting. And now, the NBA playoffs and NHL playoffs are down to the finals and just a pair of teams remaining.

Major League Baseball is really just getting started. Since it boasts the longest schedule of any major sport, nobody is really paying too much attention right now.

On the upside, Pennsylvania online and mobile sports betting enters the fray at a time when there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks.

Perfecting the product

Operators have the time to perfect their products. Plus, regulators have the time to see what this market is really about. Both sides have the time to fine-tune. The fall and the frenzy of the NFL season, MLB playoffs and the start of the NHL and NBA seasons are months away.

It’s not just a few days of a soft launch for the first PA sports betting apps. It’s a launch into a soft time in the sports betting market that will last the next few months. One that gives everyone involved the time to figure out exactly what they’re dealing with here.

You’d better believe that operators want their products to be working flawlessly by the time fall rolls around, as it’s the prime season for big betting dollars.

If nothing else, it’s an approach that ensures PA won’t run into the same $82,000 in-game odds debacle they had in the first few months in NJ.

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Pennsylvania’s approach to online betting

It is a tempered, cautious and perhaps even wise approach. It looks at sports betting as more than just something to get in on while the getting is good.

Pennsylvania is saying sports betting is here to stay. Plus, it shows the state has a keen understanding of the fact that it has probably already been here for a long time. It’s a slow and sensible approach to the legalization of what is potentially a very valuable market.

So far, the outrageous tax rate PA is charging operators hasn’t been passed on to consumers. The lines at retail sportsbooks have been competitive with those in neighboring states with legal sports betting.

If that continues online, and the state’s cautious approach to the launch of the first PA sports betting apps allows the industry to grow into its potential slowly, it’ll be time to admit Pennsylvania is getting sports betting right.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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