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State OKs first sports betting steps

HARRISBURG — State gambling regulators on Wednesday took the first steps to launch legal sports betting, but officials were hesitant to say if betting would be available at any casinos by football season or year’s end.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a first set of temporary regulations for sports betting without debate. These regulations spell out how casinos are to petition the board for a $10 million state certificate to offer betting on professional sports teams to patrons.

The board expects to consider additional sets of more detailed temporary regulations covering such areas as public participation and problem gambling during the next several months, said gaming board spokes­man Doug Harbach.

Harbach said the board will have a better idea about a timetable to launch sports betting once work on these temporary regulations has advanced more.

“Our role is to protect the public, so we are not going to unleash sports betting in the commonwealth until we have done this right,” he said.

Temporary regulations can be in place for two years. Then permanent regulations must be adopted.

The gaming board is responding to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that allows states to legalize sports betting. The court struck down a federal law that required states, with the exception of Nevada, to ban betting on the outcome of sporting events.

The gaming board will file a notice soon in the Pennsylvania Bulletin certifying the court decision.

In anticipation of the court ruling, state lawmakers as part of last fall’s revenue deal gave the gaming board authority to give the green light to casinos to offer sports betting after a future federal court ruling or change in federal law.

To generate revenue for the commonwealth, lawmakers set a 34 percent state tax rate on any sports betting proceeds. A casino can offer sports betting at its main location, a secondary location or online.

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that more than $150 billion is wagered illegally on sporting events in the United States each year.

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