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College football boosts Pa. sports betting to $109M in wagers

Casinos offering sports betting in Pennsylvania scored their first big touchdown in August, with the start of the college football season.

Sports betting attracted a record of $109 million in bets for the month, bolstered by the popularity of college football for bettors and the increase in online sportsbooks.

But those studying the nascent sports betting industry in Pennsylvania say things will really heat up when the numbers come in for National Football League bets.

“The NFL is king in sports betting,” said Jessica Welman, sports betting analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com a gaming research and advocacy organization. “College football is an enormous handle, but it’s next month when we expect things to explode.”

Welman is hesitant to predict just how much more revenue will come into the state’s casinos through NFL sports betting.

The closest comparison would be the $180 million in sports bets made in the state of New Jersey in September 2018. That’s the first September online sports betting was available in that state.

Still, she said that’s not a perfect comparison because New Jersey had nearly double the amount of sports betting operations than Pennsylvania currently has and was a little farther along in its development when the football season hit.

Therefore, she said, it will be difficult to predict just how much money NFL betting will bring in.

She also notes that additional online sports betting operations “continue to trickle in.”

There were four online operators that were taking bets for the entire month of August and by the end of September there should be five or six.

That’s significant, Welman said, because online betting is generally 75 percent to 80 percent of the entire sports betting market once it is established.

Welman said sports betting, and especially online sports betting, has been a big boost to casinos in New Jersey.

“In 2013, when sports betting began, casinos in Atlantic City was not in a great place,” she said.

Welman said casinos were failing and many were closing at the time.

“[Sports betting] created enough revenue to save many of those casinos and even convince companies to build new ones,” she said.

Ultimately PlayPennsylvania.com predicts that in five years the online sports betting industry will generate $500 million a year in revenue for Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania taxes sports betting at 34 percent. Welman said so far the state has received $11.3 million in tax revenue since sports betting began in the state.

Writer Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at swescoe@bridgetowermedia.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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