Pennsylvania Rep. Looking for Co-Sponsors with Bill to Legalize eSports Wagering

Derek Blake pic
Derek Blake
Casino News


  • Rep. Ed Neilson circulated memo to lawmakers looking for support to legalize eSports betting
  • Pennsylvania needs new law to legalize eSports betting
  • Initial 2017 law legalizing sports betting specifically left out specifics on eSports wagers

With eSports betting stuck in legal limbo in Pennsylvania, Rep. Ed Neilson hopes to recruit a few co-sponsors to push his bill legalizing wagers on electronic games over the finish line.

With the start of Pennsylvania’s two-year legislative session just beginning, Rep. Neilson circulated a memo to his colleagues on January 27th to show representatives the money being lost by not allowing eSports wagering in the state.

After Neilson’s proposal in 2021 to legalize online gambling of eSports fell short of receiving genuine consideration, the Rep. from Philadelphia is looking to find more support for a floor vote on the matter. 

Citing a study that shows the eSports industry could climb to over $1.8 billion in economic activity over the next year, Rep. Neilson wrote, “…I believe Pennsylvania should quickly add esports to our gaming portfolio, bolstering our economy and the attendant tax revenue. Therefore, I am introducing legislation to legalize betting on esports in Pennsylvania.”

The memo did not detail Rep. Neilson’s plans or outline specifics about his proposed legislation, an intentional move to garner ideas and suggestions from other lawmakers.

Initial 2017 Law Did Not Specify Legality of eSports Betting

The big reason why Rep. Neilson needs co-sponsors for his legislation is the previous 2017 Pennsylvania sports betting law that made sports betting legal in Pennsylvania left out coverage for eSports. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has stated they do not believe legal eSports betting exists in the Keystone State.

Since Rep. Neilson’s only maneuver is creating a new law for adoption, something he hopes can pass quickly in 2023. Rep. Neilson will have to show his colleagues the law will develop legal fail-safes to prevent illegal manipulation in eSports, and bettors will not fall victim to fraudulent matches.

Since eSports is not familiar to older Pennsylvania lawmakers, passing a law quickly in 2023 could create an uphill battle for the Democrat.

Currently, states like New Jersey and Nevada have legalized eSports betting or introduced legislation expected to pass for their respective state’s bettors. eGaming popularity has exploded in recent years, with streams on services like Twitch fueling the latest increase in watchers. 

With legalization success in other states, Rep. Neilson believes waiting to pass a law could cost Pennsylvania tens of millions in lost tax revenue.

Derek Blake is a freelance writer that has covered the expansion of legal sports betting in America and the regional casino business for several well-known industry websites. During his writing career, he has written profiles on dozens of athletes and focused on the collision of sports and politics.