When the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a sports-wagering law last year, it placed an audacious initial bet — it set the highest fees and taxes in the nation for operators to participate in the sports-betting business.
Critics say Pennsylvania’s $10 million license fee, along with a 36 percent tax rate — four times higher than New Jersey’s — are a big impediment to the roll out of sports betting in Pennsylvania. None of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos has yet to apply for a license to cash in on a potential multibillion-dollar business.
“With a 36 percent tax and a $10 million license fee, there are other states that are more interesting to us,” said Dan Shapiro, vice president of business development of William Hill USA, the giant British bookmaker that operates two of the three legal sportsbooks that opened in June in New Jersey, one at Monmouth Park in Oceanport and the other at Ocean Resort in Atlantic City. “It’s just not something we’re looking at seriously right now.”
Insiders said it is likely one or more larger casinos will apply for sports-gaming licenses, although the window is narrowing for the gaming control board to certify the license in time for the start of the NFL regular season in early September.
But lawmakers are confident they’ve bet on a sure thing — the opportunity to draw thousands of sports-crazy bettors to casinos, and the siren call of conducting online betting even during sports events, will be too hard for casinos to resist.
“For these casinos, competition is everything,” said state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Allegheny, sponsor of the sports-betting bill that was incorporated into the 2017 gaming act.
“If the Sands in Allentown decides to do it, or the Rivers in Pittsburgh, or the SugarHouse in Philadelphia, then all of a sudden everyone will fall in line, and they’ll all want to be part of that,” he said.