Industry analysts project that Pennsylvania bettors will wager $55 million on the Super Bowl, almost double the amount bet on the game in 2020.

Last year’s Super Bowl, the first in which online sports betting was available in Pennsylvania, generated $30.7 million in bets.

While wagering around March Madness college basketball games will generate at least as much, the Super Bowl “is certainly the largest” single event in terms of sports wagers, said Doug Harbach, a Gaming Control Board spokesman.

While millions in wagers were placed on the Super Bowl that didn’t directly lead to a tax windfall for the state, Pennsylvania and all other states only tax the profit that casinos make off sports betting, said Eric Ramsey, lead data analyst for Play USA.

Last year, the sports betting operators in Pennsylvania reported that they’d paid out $3.3 million more in winnings on the Super Bowl than they took in as revenue, so the state didn’t get any tax revenue from those wagers, Harbach said.

There is a little more than good luck and savvy betting on the part of players at play though, Ramsey said. Pennsylvania allows the casinos to deduct their costs for promotions – such as free bets – from their revenue, he said.

Nationally, the American Gaming Association’s research projects that 7.6 million people will place bets through online sportsbooks this year, a 63% increase over last year. 

Fifty-six percent of bettors plan to bet on the Kansas City Chiefs while 44% plan to bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the gaming association’s survey.

“This year’s Super Bowl is expected to generate the largest single-event legal handle in American sports betting history,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. 

“With a robust legal market, Americans are abandoning illegal bookies and taking their action into the regulated marketplace in record numbers.”

Sports betting is legal in 20 states, including Pennsylvania and neighboring states – Delaware, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia.

Pennsylvania legalized sports wagering in 2018 and sports betting was in place for the 2019 Super Bowl, but at that point, bets were only taken inside the casinos, not online. 

The availability of online wagers has meant that while casino gambling was devastated by the pandemic business closing – casinos were closed one-third of the day they would normally have been operating in 2020, according to the Gaming Control Board – sports betting grew dramatically.

Gross revenue from slot machine gambling was down 42% in 2020 – gamblers spent $1.35 billion playing slots, compared to $2.36 billion the year prior. On the other hand, sports wagers increased 126% in 2020 – with $190 million in bets placed in 2020 compared to $84 million in 2019.

Projections by Play USA suggest that only Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois will see heavier sports betting on the Super Bowl than Pennsylvania.

With the increasing popularity and ease of access to gambling due to online betting options, experts say there are tips to keep in mind to wager responsibly.

Those include:

• Consider the bet as a form of paid entertainment, such as going to the movies. The point is to have fun, not make money.

• Set money and time limits.

• Don’t chase losses. Avoid gambling more in the hope of making back lost money. Experts call this “chasing losses” and say it can lead to problem gambling.

Those who think they may be dealing with a gambling addiction can get help from the PA Gambling Addiction hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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