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August 29, 2018

Sports betting 101: Your ultimate guide to gambling on football in PA, NJ and DE

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082918_Betting_usat Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY

Workers prepare their stations as Delaware launches the country's first full-scale sports betting operation outside of Nevada.

Hello, PhillyVoice readers. Kyle Scott of Crossing Broad here. I’ve spent the better part of the summer learning the ins and outs of legal sports betting, specifically as it relates to our area — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

While the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a 1992 law which effectively banned sports betting outside of Nevada generated headlines about the dawn of legal sports betting in the U.S., the reality is that this will be a long, slow process, even if sports wagering is already pervasive in our culture. Luckily, our area is poised to lead this charge as the three aforementioned states are among the first to legalize it. The editors here have asked me to put together a guide for each of the three states, so you know where, when, and how you can bet on football this fall.

First up, as the politicians say, the great state of Delaware.

Delaware

The First State, wholly unironically, earned its moniker when it actually beat New Jersey, the state responsible for bringing the issue to the Supreme Court in the first place, to implement sports betting earlier this year.

On June 5, Delaware began accepting sports wagers at Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway. Governor John Carney placed the first bet - a $10 winner on the Phillies - to get the ball rolling.

Initially, the state’s three casinos will be the only locations where you can place individual game bets. We’re talking physical locations. No online sports betting… at least not yet. State officials are open to considering this down the line, and would be wise to do so, but for now punters will be relegated to one of these three casinos.

Interestingly, Delaware had already allowed gambling on professional football through parlay bets (multi-game wagers). Besides the casinos, action was offered at a wide assortment of businesses, so the infrastructure was in place to accept legal sports wagers, perhaps ex-plaining why Delaware was so quick to implement individual game betting.

Pennsylvania

Get ready to be exhausted.

Sports betting is legal in Pennsylvania, as the state actually passed a law last year. The prob-lem, however, is the absurd costs that licensed operators will have to incur: a flat $10 million up-front fee to obtain the license, and 36% tax rate.

That cost is prohibitive on several fronts. 

First and foremost, it’s relatively expensive. Consider that in New Jersey the license fee is only $100,000 with an 8.5% tax rate for casino-based betting and a 13% tax rate online.

At the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City in June, where the industry’s leaders, eve-ryone from regulators to sportsbook execs, came together to discuss, among other things, the future of sports betting in the U.S., the case for a tax rate of no more than 15%-20% was presented as the optimum rate to maximize income for the state without sacrificing overall revenue. 

This isn’t just industry self-interest— it’s actually about competitive balance. There is a thriv-ing illegal offshore betting market, which, due to none of its operators having to pay any taxes, can offer attractive odds and a cheap juice (or “vig”), which is the amount sportsbook charges gamblers on losing bets. 

Contrary to what your view of sportsbooks might be, they are low-margin businesses, and a 36% tax rate is highly restrictive. William Hill CEO Joe Asher, whose company is a leading sportsbook in Nevada and backed the opening offerings in Delaware and Monmouth Park in New Jersey, told PhillyVoice earlier this summer that he hasn't invested in PA and, “The legal market in Pennsylvania could be very small — smaller than it should be — because of this tax rate."

This is all a long-winded way of telling you that you can’t place a legal sports bet anywhere in Pennsylvania yet.

At that same conference in June, the director of licensing for the PA Gaming Control Board, Susan Hensel, said she expected casino-based sports betting to be live by the start of foot-ball season, with online sports betting to follow sometime in the fall. 

Thus far, however, only Penn National Gaming, which owns the Hollywood Casino at Penn Na-tional Race Course casino in Grantville, and Greenwood Gaming, owners of Parx and the Turf Club, have applied for licenses, though several operators, including Mount Airy Casino Re-sorts and Harrah’s, have indicated that they plan to do so. When you factor in the time it takes to review and approve these applications, it seems highly unlikely that you’ll be able to place a bet anywhere by Week 1 of the NFL season, and certainly not online.

That said, legal sports betting is coming to Pennsylvania, and soon-ish. DraftKings has plans to offer its online sportsbook here, but it will have to partner with a licensed operator to do so. So will FanDuel.

BetStars has partnered with Mount Airy Casino Resort to bring its sports betting brand to PA. 

Though there is much to be determined, it looks like Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Parx may be first to go live, with other casinos and online sports betting to follow perhaps later in the year… maybe in time to bet on another Super Bowl run.

We’ve put together a list of sports betting sites that we will update as online sports betting is offered in PA.

New Jersey

This is where the rubber hits the road.

Sports betting is live and rolling, both in-person and online, in New Jersey.

Thus far, these are the casinos with physical sportsbooks:

•  Monmouth Park
•  Borgata
•  Ocean Resort
•  The Meadowlands
•  Harrah’s
•  Resorts
•  Bally’s
•  Golden Nugget

Additionally, and probably more interesting to this audience, is the availability of online sports betting in New Jersey. So far, three sportsbooks are live and accepting bets:

•  DraftKings Sportsbook
•  SugarHouse Sportsbook
•  PlayMGM

By Week 1, several others are expected to follow suit, including FanDuel Sportsbook, BetStars, and 888sport. 

The latter two may be unfamiliar to U.S. bettors, but BetStars - owned by The Stars Group (PokerStars) - is an established European brand, as is 888. Both of these operators plan to figure heavily in legal U.S. sports betting, as European operators have experience in the space, particularly with live betting, which we’ll get to in a second.

Later in the year, apps from William Hill, PointsBet, and several others are expected to follow suit.

As you might expect, you can bet on a wide array of sports at any of these sportsbooks. DraftKings Sportsbook, for example, offers betting on everything from baseball to college football and golf. All of the expected bets are there, including point spread bets, totals, mon-eylines, props, parlays and, most importantly, live betting.

Live betting, sometimes referred to as in-play betting, allows bettors to place bets throughout the course of a sporting event, greatly increasing engagement. Lines are updated in real-time based on the current score and other factors. What’s more, you can bet on short-term events like quarters, series, plays, at-bats, and perhaps even pitches. And this is where the growth and future of sports betting lives.t

In Europe, upwards of 70% of bets are some form of mobile or in-play bet. All the focus in the early going here has been on physical sportsbooks, and though they will generate some buzz, especially for Atlantic City, it’s the mobile betting (still backed by these casinos, by the way) that really matters.t

So how does it work in New Jersey?

The good news is that, like the casinos themselves, you don’t have to live in the state to play— you only have to be in it while placing your bet. This is thanks to geo-location tracking built into the apps. So if you work in New Jersey, frequently drive through it, or vacation at the shore, you are eligible to play.

For more, you can check out our guide to NJ online sports betting so you stay updated on the latest sites to go live.

So that’s where everything stands: In Delaware you can bet at three casinos. In PA, you can’t bet anywhere yet, but soon will be able to at select casinos and eventually online. And in New Jersey, the floodgates have opened. You can check out CrossingBroad.com for more.