Why some local bettors can't wait for legalized sports gambling, but others don't want it at all
ERIE, Pa. - Ron Sorvelli loves his sports, but he would love it even more if he could make a couple extra bucks off of it. That could soon happen should Pennsylvania lawmakers legalize sports betting in the commonwealth.
“It's kind of like Las Vegas is coming to Pennsylvania,” said Sorvelli, of Erie, who was betting on horses during the opening day of racing at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
Sorvelli is among the bettors who are hopeful Pennsylvania lawmakers will legalize sports betting, following a 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court Monday. Governor Tom Wolf has already signed a law that would tax sports betting at a 34 percent rate should legislators approve it themselves.
“Obviously the state will get their cut, and everybody does it anyway so why not, what's the difference?” asked Sam Rossi, another bettor at the casino.
And there's data to back up Rossi’s argument.
The American Gambling Association estimated bettors placed $10 billion on this year's March Madness NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament. Of those bets: they say just 3 percent were made through Las Vegas-based establishments.
But not everyone is sold on the move. Some local bettors think this could have a negative impact on horse racing here in Erie.
“I personally don't like it because I think it's going to take away from the handle here and we need all the handle we can get to keep the purses up,” said Tony Stabile, of Erie.
“I don't think it will effect it at all because people will still want to get out and see the live racing like tonight,” said Rossi’s friend, Carl Cannavino.
But Sorvelli, like Gov. Wolf, is ready to cash in even though it’s unclear if or when state lawmakers vote on this measure. Some bordering states, including New Jersey and Delaware, could have laws in place by this fall.
“This is a win-win situation for the state,” Sorvelli said, “the government and the gamblers.”