States are free to decide which types of gambling, if any, should be allowed and how it should be regulated. A few states are very permissive with organized gambling, while others restrict it to bingo and school raffles. As in other states, Pennsylvania's gambling laws have undergone radical changes over the years and now permit so-called "tavern games."
The Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act
Pennsylvania passed a gaming act in 2013 that allows tavern games, defined by state law to include tavern raffles (available to liquor licensees) for a charitable or public purpose, and other chance-based games at qualifying establishments. Casinos, venues hosting professional sporting events, grocery stores, and certain other license holders are not eligible.
Pennsylvania Gambling Enforcement
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) oversees all types of legalized gambling in the state, issues licenses, and enforces the laws. In addition to tavern games, the PGCB regulates horse racing and harness racing (as well as interstate simulcasts and parimutuel wagering). Antique slot machines, defined by statute as those manufactured at least 25 years prior to current year, also are legal.
Other types of gambling, such as poker and roulette, are strictly prohibited. Illegal gambling is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, punishable by up to five years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.
Learn more about Pennsylvania's gambling laws and regulations in the following table, with links to additional articles and resources.
|Code Section||18§5513 et seq.; 4§325.101 et seq.|
|Gambling||Elements of gambling are: consideration, element of chance, and reward.|
|Horse Racing/Off-Track Betting||Licensed horse and harness racing; interstate simulcasts; on- and off-track parimutuel wagering legal.|
|Tavern Gaming Law
||Tavern raffles for a charitable or public purpose, pull-tab games, daily drawings|
|Casinos Allowed?||Gambling houses and devices prohibited.|
|Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned||Pool selling and bookmaking; punch boards, drawing cards; private wire for gambling information; cockfighting; bullet play illegal. Bingo and local option small games of chance sponsored by charitable organizations; antique slot machines allowed.|
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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