Pennsylvania’s online and retail sportsbooks have shown that high taxes might not, necessarily, be the hurdle to success that some industry observers have predicted. Between them they achieved record handle of more than $342.6m in December 2019, capping off a year that generated $1.5bn in wagers, including $1.1bn in online bets. 

That handle, said analysts from PlayPennsylvania, should more than double with 2020 promising a full year of online sports betting and an increasingly robust offering of operators. 

During December, the state’s sportsbooks accepted $342.6m in wagers, up 8.2% from $316.5m, while online sportsbooks produced $297.5m, 86.8% of the handle. Those bets produced $17.5m in revenue, down from November’s $20.6m win, but still injected $3.9m into state coffers.

In 2019, Pennsylvania generated $1.49bn in bets, including $1.1bn in online bets, taxable revenue of $84.1m, including $43m online and $28.6m in state taxes.

“That last two months of 2019 began to show us the real potential of the Pennsylvania market,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for “The launch of DraftKings in November, adding one of the best-known brands to Pennsylvania, helped push online betting forward. And now that the online market is maturing, it is entirely possible that 2020 could bring in $4bn or more in online and retail bets.”

By comparison, New Jersey, the country’s number two market when measured by handle, attracted $4.6bn in bets in 2019. But Pennsylvania’s haul in state taxes was more comparable to New Jersey, which generated revenue of $36.5m.

“Pennsylvania is beginning to succeed where it wanted to most: making sports betting a significant revenue driver for the state,” Gouker said. “Its tax rate is significantly higher than every other state, which has slowed the industry’s growth. But Pennsylvania is the most populous state to fully legalize sports betting, and that has proven to be too enticing for operators to ignore.”

FanDuel Sportsbook at Valley Forge Casino remained the state’s online leader, accepting $154.5m in December bets, up from $149.7m in November. That yielded $7m in taxable revenue. Rivers Philadelphia‘s $7.7m handle, down from $8.9m in November, overtook the retail market. That yielded $590,177 in revenue.

“The Rivers Casino books in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have capitalized on their markets to set themselves apart,” Gouker said. “But the proliferation of online betting has muted the growth of retail sportsbooks. The convenience of online betting, coupled with a robust in-game experience, is tough for retail sportsbooks to match.”