Gambling in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of several US states that has legalized gambling. Although the Pennsylvania lottery was started in 1971, casino gambling was not legalized until 2004. Initially, only horse racing, electronic table games, and slot machines were allowed. More recent laws have been enacted to allow for table games, but sports betting remains illegal in Pennsylvania. To play the lottery or place a wager on a horse race you only have to be 18, but to gamble at a casino you must be 21.

Pennsylvania Lottery

The Pennsylvania Lottery was created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on August 26, 1971. In October of 1971 Henry Kaplan was appointed as the first executive director of the lottery. The first lottery tickets were sold on March 7, 1972. The first lottery tickets were sold for 50 cents each and they were for a weekly drawing with a cash prize of one million dollars. The Pennsylvania lottery produced four million dollar winners in the first six months. During the lottery’s first fiscal year it generated $57.7 million dollars in revenue. This was nearly double the projected $30 million it was expected to make. In 1973, the Pennsylvania lottery added two new $1 games Lucky 7 and Winner’s Choice. In 1975, the Pennsylvania lottery had its first televised Millionaire drawing, and they introduced their first instant win (scratch-off) game.

In 1977, the first Pennsylvania lottery number’s game was introduced and the drawing was televised. A number’s game allows the player to select their own numbers and then watch the numbers be drawn at random through a live feed. In 1980, a new number’s game called the Big 4 joined the lottery. When it was first introduced the Big 4 game was only drawn once a week, but eventually expanded to seven days a week.

On April 24, 1980 the Pennsylvania lottery experienced a scandal known as the Triple Six Fix. Nick Perry, the lottery announcer conspired with several others to rig the drawing by weighting down all of the lottery balls except for the numbers six and four. The conspirators then purchased large quantities of tickets with only the numbers six and four chosen. The large quantity of tickets sold with the numbers six and four are what led to the unraveling of the scheme and the prosecution of those involved. The movie Lucky Numbers starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow was loosely based on the Triple Six Fix.

In April of 1982, the Pennsylvania lottery introduced the Pennsylvania Lotto. The Pennsylvania Lotto allowed players to choose six numbers between one and forty and had a starting jackpot of $1 million. Pennsylvania Lotto only had a five year run, but it created over 400 millionaires. The Super 7 lottery game was introduced in 1986, and was the first game of its kind in the United States. To play Super 7 a player would pick eleven numbers between one and eighty. The Lottery would then draw eleven numbers. To win a player would have to have seven of the eleven winning numbers and the jackpot had a minimum $2 million reward.

Over the years the Pennsylvania lottery has introduced a lot of new games, and lottery sales are still on the rise. In the most current figures available the Pennsylvania lottery generated over $3 billion dollars in revenue. From that $3 billion dollars over $900 million dollars was given to the various senior programs that the lottery was designed to support. The proceeds from the Pennsylvania lottery were meant to provide property tax relief for seniors in the state. The lottery has done so well that Pennsylvania now has multiple programs for seniors that are funded by the lottery. These include rental rebates, long-term living services, free and reduced fare transit vouchers, two low cost prescription drug programs PACE and PACENET, and full and part-time senior centers across the state. Pennsylvania has the only state lottery that uses all proceeds to fund programs for seniors.

Horse Racing in Pennsylvania

Wagering on horse races is also legal in Pennsylvania. Horse racing is also known as parimutuel racing and there are six permanently licensed racinos in Pennsylvania. The racinos include The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Philadelphia Park Casino and Racetrack, Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack, Hollywood Casino at Penn National, and Presque Isle Downs and Casino. You can of course place your bets at the racetrack, but there are also a number of off-track betting facilities who will be happy to take your wagers. There are different kinds of horse racing at these tracks. The Meadows Racetrack is a standard bred harness race track. The Hollywood Casino at Penn National is a thoroughbred race track. The Presque Isle Downs race track and casino is also a thoroughbred race track.

Pennsylvania Casinos

There are also several stand-alone casinos in Pennsylvania, and now that the legislature has voted to allow table games like blackjack, poker, and roulette there will probably be a lot more. There are five stand-alone casinos in Pennsylvania that are not associated with an accompanying race track. Those casinos are the Rivers Casino, Mount Airy Casino, the Sands Casino, the SugarHouse Casino, and the Valley Forge Casino. Prior to allowing table games only slots and electronic table games were allowed.

In the last few years Pennsylvania passed a law allowing for slot machines to be placed in bars across the state. These slot machines give patrons an opportunity to play casino games without going to the casino. The slot machines have been wildly popular and may pave the way for other electronic table style games in bars across the state.

Online Casinos in Pennsylvania

There are many online gambling options open to players from Pennsylvania.  The best casinos, poker rooms and bingo halls can be found throughout the interweb.

Economic Boon

Like most states Pennsylvania decided to make gambling legal because of financial concerns. The state needed a boost to the economy. The additional taxes that are collected from gambling and the money that out of state visitors provide also helps. Having race tracks and casinos so easily accessible has made Pennsylvania much more of a destination. Allowing gambling and having a few casinos near the state line of states that do not allow gambling is a really big draw for people looking for a quick weekend get-away. The Pennsylvania lottery has remained true to its original purpose, and the money still goes to providing a higher quality of life for Pennsylvania seniors through many different programs.

Joslyn Ferguson

Casino Reviewer and Chief Editor

Joslyn Ferguson is our casino reviewer and chief editor. She has 8 years of writing experience in the online gambling industry and makes sure all of our reviews are accurate and unbiased.

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