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Why haven’t Pa. casinos filed for sports-betting permission yet? Could be 10 million reasons

A 36 percent tax rate and a $10 million fee are just two of the things Pennsylvania casinos must navigate before going all-in on sports betting.

These boards at Delaware Park last week were filled with innocuous advertisements and messages. With the passing of sports betting, they will instead show what they were meant to: game odds and point spreads.
These boards at Delaware Park last week were filled with innocuous advertisements and messages. With the passing of sports betting, they will instead show what they were meant to: game odds and point spreads. Read moreEd Barkowitz / Staff

Pennsylvania late last week opened the process to allow existing casinos to file for the right to establish sports books. Through the weekend, nobody had jumped, which isn't surprising given the logistics involved — and what state lawmakers are charging.

The head of William Hill US, which just partnered with the Ocean Resort (formerly Revel) in Atlantic City to run its book, says the company is not making any similar deals in the Keystone State because the law calls for a 36 percent tax on operators' revenue plus a one-time fee of $10 million. Sounds like the deal Michael Corleone offered Moe Greene in The Godfather

"Pennsylvania is in a different bucket because of the tax rate," said Joe Asher, William Hill's chief executive officer, who is from Wilmington and worked as a kid at the old Brandywine racetrack. "We can't figure it out. Because of it, we haven't spent the time or effort in Pennsylvania that we have in New Jersey. The tax rate is such a big challenge."

(Corrected paragraph) The lack of movement over the weekend was not surprising to Doug Harbach, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which has 120 days to review applications for sports betting. The board is accepting comments from interested parties until June 15. There is no deadline for licensed casinos to submit petitions.

"We're evaluating what to do with sports betting," Evan Davis, vice president and general counsel for SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, said last week. "The devil is in the details."

Meanwhile in New Jersey …

The state took another step toward authorizing sports betting with the approval of bills in Senate and Assembly committees. A final full vote is expected on Thursday, which would result in a bill being sent to Gov. Murphy, who supports sports betting.

Professional leagues testified about their opposition to the measure to lawmakers on Monday. The leagues, fearful of nefarious consequences that wagering could invite, are seeking a piece of the pie. They say an "integrity tax" would help them police unlawful gamblers.

NBA lawyer Dan Spillane contended that sports betting "builds its product entirely on another business, imposes substantial risks on the other business, and requires the other business to spend more to protect itself, all without providing compensation or a voice in how the underlying product is used."

Rep. Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) fired back: "You guys are in it to make money. This is hypocrisy."

Caputo was referring to the legal battle the sports leagues waged that eventually were decided in New Jersey's favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Nine years of fighting the state of New Jersey, and you come here?" Caputo continued. "It's disgraceful. Just a suggestion: You may want to write a check to the state of New Jersey for $9 million for all the money we lost."

New Jersey's tax rate would be 8.5 percent, with an additional tax of 1.25 percent going toward marketing for Atlantic City and another 1.25 percent for race-track communities. Bets made via the Internet would be taxed at 13 percent.

Delaware opening

There will be no live racing at Delaware Park on Tuesday, but there will be some action. The region's first full sports-betting windows will open for business at 1:30 p.m.

"We're ready," Delaware Park president Bill Fasy said. "We're ready for it to happen."

Delaware has offered limited NFL parlay wagering since 2009. But now, all bets are allowed. Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway & Casino also will be taking action.

There's not much on Tuesday's sports calendar, except for a full baseball schedule. The Phillies will play the Cubs in Chicago at 8 p.m. The NBA and NHL playoff finals will be idle, but lines for their coming games will be posted. Future bets across the sports landscape also will be offered.

The Eagles are 8-1 to win the Super Bowl, 4-1 to win the NFC.

NBA stuff

The NBA Finals will move to Cleveland on Wednesday, and Westgate in Las Vegas opened the Warriors as 5-point favorites. That number was down to 4.5 early Monday.

Golden State is up, 2-0, in the series, but is 1-1 against the spread. Both games have gone over, including Game 1, in which the late gaffe by the Cavaliers' J.R. Smith helped the over to hit rather comfortably. It was a monumental backdoor cover – or a bad loss, if you had the under.

The total was 217.5, and Smith's mistake led to overtime with the score tied at 107. The Warriors outscored Cleveland, 17-7, in OT to win, 124-114. They got the over, but Cleveland still managed to cover the 13-point spread.

The over/under for Wednesday's Game 3 is again 217.5.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

While we often celebrate (and make light of) of sports betting, we also recognize this can be a dangerous temptation for gambling addicts. Call the area hotline for Gamblers Anonymous at 855-222-5542) or visit for help.