A Pennsylvania lawmaker said he plans to propose the legalization of esports betting in the Keystone State. In a memo sent to House colleagues, State Representative Ed Neilson claimed that Pennsylvania should “quickly add esports” to its gaming portfolio.
According to Neilson, a multi-million dollar facility is being built in Philadelphia dedicated to esports events such as video game tournaments, highlighting the interest in this form of entertainment. The esports industry was worth more than $1.2 billion and could be worth nearly $5.5 billion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insights.
Speaking at the Casino Esports Conference in Atlantic City, executives with video game companies and casinos agreed that there is a vast upside to getting the hundreds of millions of people who play online video games interested in the casino industry, ABC 27 notes. “Esports is only going to get bigger. It’s not a fad,“ stated Seth Schorr, chairman of Las Vegas Downtown Grand Casino.
According to Newzoo, a research company that tracks the world of esports, the global audience for this vertical is expected to grow by 8.7% this year to 532 million. The games themselves will generate $1.38 billion in economic activity worldwide, a third of it coming from China.
Schorr said the industry should concentrate at first on attracting video game players in the online environment. “It’s good to fish where the fish are. They’re online, not in the casinos. Start online, get them into the database before you bring them into the casinos,” he pointed out.
Anthony Strangia, a deputy attorney general with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said states need to ensure that video game contests are conducted honestly and transparently. Regulators in states including New Jersey and Nevada are currently considering changes to their gambling laws governing esports to make it easier to take wagers on events while ensuring integrity.
The effort to expand wagering options to esports comes as Pennsylvania opens its doors to more online gaming operators. Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the reopening of its bidding process for iGaming operator licenses. Qualified Gaming Entities can seek to offer internet-based slots machines, table games, and poker. The period to petition the PGCB to obtain one of the permits will run through March 3, 2023.
The regulator will begin accepting petitions from casino operators “primarily operating in jurisdictions outside of Pennsylvania,” but who wish to seek approval to be Qualified Gaming Entities. A Qualified Gaming Entity has the ability to obtain one or more of the three categories of iGaming certificates that remain available in the Commonwealth, and can operate online without having any ties to a Pennsylvania Casino.
Pennsylvania currently is one of 32 states that accept legal sports betting. Though some jurisdictions are limited to either in-person or mobile betting, the Keystone State allows for both. In 2022, revenue from sports betting in the state was more than $401 million, a nearly 18% increase from 2021. Sports wagering handle reached $7.25 billion.