The Impact Legal Sports Betting has had on Pennsylvania Sports

Joe DiProsperos discusses the effects of legalizing sports betting in the Keystone State, from gameday experience, to business and media impacts.

On November 17, 2018, legal sports betting in the state of Pennsylvania officially kicked off at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. It came roughly one year after Pennsylvania had passed legislation making sports betting legal throughout the state. It also came just a few months after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, which had outlawed sports betting nationwide for nearly three decades, was ruled to be in violation of the Tenth Amendment by the Supreme Court. In addition, online sports betting in Pennsylvania launched in May 2019.

Fast-forward to now, and Pennsylvania sports betting has developed into a multi-million dollar industry. The ten sportsbooks currently in operation in Pennsylvania have generated over $174 million in revenue since going live, with the total handle surpassing $2 billion. Among the 19 states that allow sports betting, Pennsylvania trails only New Jersey in those categories, with New Jersey having been the first state to officially legalize sports betting.

It’s not difficult to decipher the appeal sports betting has to the average sports fan. For one, it offers an entirely different kind of game day experience. It adds an element of risk that, frankly, is extremely addictive. Not only are you rooting for your team to succeed out of pure fandom, but you’re also eager to see if, for instance, your Sixers moneyline bet will hit or not. In addition, it changes where we actually take in games. Casinos are no longer a place people go to only try their hand at card games and slot machines. They now act as a main hub for those looking to bet on pro sports, horse races, and pretty much any live sport casinos have access to.

As a result of this rapid expansion and widespread attraction, it’s altered the way corporations do business. Partnerships with sports books, once thought of as taboo, are now en vogue. More and more sports blogs / websites are flocking to FanDuel and DraftKings in the hopes of acquiring unique links to betting-related promotions that could help them gain access to a new source of revenue. Pro teams are even starting to partner with sportsbooks, such as the Sixers with FOX Bet and the Flyers with SugarHouse. These all help tap into an entirely new market of sports fans these companies never had access to before.

Plus, legalized sports betting has even transformed the way media outlets discuss and present sporting events. It’s not uncommon nowadays to turn on a national station like ESPN and see both strictly betting-related programming and entire segments of shows dedicated to sports betting. And if you go and check the score of, say, the Phillies game, more often than not you’ll see the moneylines, over / unders, and spreads that have been placed on that particular game. All of this changes the manner in which we both talk and think about sports as both an event and as a commodity.

Yet this is all not to say a stigma about sports betting as a practice no longer exists. It still remains illegal in 31 other states. The concerns that detractors had in the past still persist to this day. They include the idea that gambling is more luck than skill; that it can wreck the livelihoods of those that may find themselves addicted to it; that the house will almost always find a way to win; and that it’s leading to an over-commercialization of sports which is destroying the viewing experience.

While all those sentiments are well and just, the fact of the matter is that sports betting is very much here to stay and the positive far outweighs the negative. On the state level, it does wonders for local economies by both assisting in creating new jobs for Americans and providing even more revenue for the state. And most importantly, it allows us as fans to both view our favorite sporting events in a new light and even expose ourselves to sports we may not have paid that much attention to before. It’s completely transformed the way we interact with sports, and it can only go up from here.

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