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For the last eleven years, Kevin O’ Toole has been in charge of the Pennsylvania Gaming Board, but his job changed dramatically after the state quickly adopted betting laws. Over the past couple of years, O’Toole has guided the regulatory agency with the creation of a sports betting market, the implementation of an iGaming platform and the adoption of daily fantasy sports.
For O’Toole, the state’s 2017 legislation that approved the large scale expansion, set the table for Pennsylvania’s successful gambling industry that he has overseen. Those innovative laws from 2017, soon expanded even further when sports betting was approved after the Supreme Court overturned the prohibition in 2018.
Last week, the website Penn Bets held a wide-ranging interview with O’Toole to get a sense of where Pennsylvania is currently with their betting expansion and provided some insight into how the state’s sports betting has exploded by offering online options for bettors.
When the betting legislation became law in 2017, the executive director knew there would be terrific challenges to implementing the new measures. For O’Toole, the short window to get the new proposals established and open for business created the biggest challenge for his department.
With technology taking over every aspect of gambling, O’Toole knew that the regulatory agency would need to learn the latest innovations in software and programming to shorten the learning curve and get the games open to the public.
“The challenges were in getting ourselves to the point where we were comfortable with the technology,” O’Toole told Penn Bets. “Online activity, whether it’s sports wagering or slot-like games or table games, is using technology which is a different type of technology than what is at a casino when you go through the door and sit down at a slot machine or table game.”
After the technology aspect was figured out, the 2018 arrival of sports betting threw another monkey wrench into O’Toole’s expansion plans. But the regulatory agency handled the transition by first offering on-site betting and then rolling out online wagering several months later.
Even though there was criticism for the slow rollout of online betting, the state has been proven right as the state saw $1.5 billion in handle over the first year, amounting to $84 million in revenue for Pennsylvania’s legislature.
One of the big areas of sports betting that the state’s Gaming Board considered but then ultimately rejected was the inclusion of proposition bets for collegiate events. For O’Toole and the board, prop bets, although highly popular, were a bridge too far for the athletic departments of the state’s colleges.
”Early on we did look closely at collegiate sports,” O’Toole said. “Given the fact that it’s an amateur athletic event, and in order to further protect the integrity of the events, our board decided that individual proposition bets in college athletics should not be allowed.
“You can’t say that Quarterback X is going to pass for X number of yards or touchdowns. You can wager on collegiate events, but they have to be team-oriented. We had talked to college sports administrators to see if they had any concerns, and it was one of the points they raised.”
With sports betting flourishing alongside several other elements that create the gaming industry in Pennsylvania, O’Toole will spend 2020 concentrating on maintaining the strength of the market as the state opens more casinos in an attempt to increase the $3.41 billion that operators made in 2019.
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