PA Gambling Laws Explained
Is Online Blackjack Legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Pennsylvanians have played blackjack at casinos like Harrah’s Philadelphia, Mohegan Sun Pocono, and the Mount Airy Casino since 2010. It has since become legal to play online blackjack wherever you are in the Keystone State. Governor Tom Wolf paved the way for Pennsylvania to join the likes of New Jersey in offering legal online gambling when he signed a gambling expansion bill in October 2017.
It took close to two years for Pennsylvania’s first online casino sites to launch, with the SugarHouse, Hollywood Casino and Parx Casino sites accepting bets in July 2019. Online gaming platforms from Unibet and PokerStars followed before the year was out, with sites like BetRivers and BetAmerica expanding the state’s online gambling market further still in 2020.
How to Play Blackjack
Much of blackjack’s appeal lies in its special blend of strategy and luck. While there are different variations you can discover when you play blackjack online, the basic aim of the game is to score a higher card total than the dealer without exceeding 21.
Number cards are taken at face value, while face cards are worth 10 and an ace is worth one or 11, depending on what works best. The game starts when the dealer deals two cards to you and two cards to the house. Your hand is dealt face-up, whereas the dealer’s hand will have one card facing up and one facing down (the hole card). If either you or the dealer hits 21 on the first draw, it’s a natural blackjack and the round comes to an end. If not, it’s time to make your move! Here’s what you can do:
- Hit — You’re dealt another card to add to your hand.
- Stand — You stick with your hand as it is.
- Split — You split two cards of the same value and play two separate hands simultaneously.
- Double down — You double your first bet and receive another card before standing. Some variations don’t allow you to double down after a split.
If you exceed 21, you’re bust. Otherwise, after you eventually stand, the dealer takes their turn. Typically, the dealer must hit when their hand is 16 or under, and stand if 17 or over. The winner is whoever ends up closest to 21 when both turns are completed.
Understanding Blackjack House Edge
One thing players like about blackjack is that it offers some of the lowest house edges you’ll find at online and land-based casinos. As blackjack is a partly skill-based game, you can potentially keep the house edge to a minimum by deploying basic strategy.
This makes blackjack stand out from other casino games like roulette and online slots, where the outcomes are purely down to chance. When playing real money blackjack, the house edge percentage will vary depending on your general skill level and the specific variant you’re playing, but it can potentially get as low as 0.42%.
Get to Grips with Blackjack Strategy
To enjoy the most favorable house edge when you play blackjack, a little strategy goes a long way. In this context, strategy simply means having an understanding of the best move you can make with the cards available to you. It’s rather like knowing when to hold’em and when to fold’em in poker.
The optimal approach to blackjack is known as basic strategy, which dictates what your next move should be depending on the hands you’re dealt. Some golden rules, such as always doubling down on a hard 11, and always standing on a hard 17, are memorable. However, most moves will depend on what the dealer’s up card happens to be, and there are can be many possible permutations of this. The good thing about playing online is you can keep basic strategy charts open on another tab to consult as you go, so you don’t have to memorise the whole lot straight away. It’s important to remember that using blackjack strategy doesn’t guarantee you a win, but it can reduce the house edge.
Understanding Blackjack Payout Rates
When playing classic versions of the game, the payout for a blackjack is 3:2, or 1.5 times your stake. At the end of a round, if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, or if the dealer goes bust, your payout will be 1:1. Most blackjack variations will return your bet if the round ends in a tie and both yours and the dealer’s hands are of equal value. Variations of online blackjack at different casino sites may payout at different rates, depending on the side bets and specific gameplay, so it’s important to read the rules carefully before playing.
What Types of Blackjack Can I Play?
There are many exciting blackjack game variations to enjoy at PA online casinos. Let’s look at some of the top takes on the classic card game.
If you don’t like the look of your initial hand, this blackjack variation allows you to cut your losses and surrender, losing only half your stake in the process.
You’re dealt two hands instead of one in blackjack switch. You must make two bets of equal size, and you can switch the second cards of each hand to create the best possible hands.
In this variation, both of the dealer’s cards lie face up. It’s an obvious advantage for the player, but online casinos decrease the payout slightly to make up for this. Unless you also hit a natural, the dealer wins if the round ends in a tie.
This blackjack game uses the standard rules but allows players to play up to five hands simultaneously, providing more possible opportunities to win without prolonging your playing time. Of course, there’s no guarantee that more hands will lead to more wins — you can just as easily lose more by playing multi-hand blackjack.
Try Your Hand at the Best Live Blackjack Games
Casino players worldwide once faced a trade-off between enjoying the buzz of gambling at a brick-and-mortar casino and the convenience of gambling online. Pennsylvania players can enjoy the best of both worlds, as some online blackjack sites feature live dealer games where real cards are dealt at real blackjack tables.
This is as close as you can get to an authentic casino experience without having to leave your front door. Live blackjack games at PA online casinos, such as BetMGM, Caesars, and Hollywood Casino are powered by Evolution, a leading software developer which broadcasts live-streamed blackjack action from its gaming studio in Philadelphia.
Play Blackjack on the Go
You don’t have to hunker down at your computer when you play blackjack online. Whether you’re using iOS or Android mobile devices, you can navigate over to PA casino sites through your browser, log in and play blackjack to your heart’s content.
You may also have the option of downloading a native casino app, which often makes for an improved mobile gaming experience. As they’re tailor-made for mobile devices, casino apps often bring improved functionality and remove the need to fire up your browser whenever you want to play. They also offer optional push notifications that will alert you to the latest promotions and bonus codes as they become available.
Boost Your Bankroll with a Blackjack Bonus
Casino bonuses are a great way to give your bankroll a boost and have some fun along the way. Here are just some of the promotions available at the best online casinos in Pennsylvania.
No Deposit Bonuses
A no deposit bonus is a type of welcome bonus which, as the name suggests, doesn’t require you to deposit any of your own money. No deposit bonuses are usually on the small side, but can provide a risk-free way to try out a casino site for the first time. Bear in mind there may be wagering or playthrough requirements to satisfy before you can withdraw any bonus winnings.
It’s common to be offered free spins for online slot games, often as part of a larger welcome package, or as ongoing promos for returning players. These bonuses can be a great way to try top online slots such as Divine Fortune from IGT and Jackpot 6000 from NetEnt.
First Deposit Bonus
When you make your first real money deposit into your online casino account, many casinos will reward you by matching your deposit with bonus funds. For example, if there’s a matched deposit bonus of 100% up to $500, depositing $50 will result in a bankroll of $100 to bet with.
Play Blackjack for Free
There’s plenty of excitement to be had from playing real money blackjack, but the best blackjack sites in the Keystone State also offer free-to-play demo games that you can enjoy without having to make a deposit. These free play games are ideal if you want to play blackjack for fun. While no real money prizes are on the agenda here, these a smart way for new players to learn how to play blackjack before putting their own dollars on the line. We recommend that blackjack beginners take full advantage of the free demo games available from the state’s online casino. It is important to remember, however, that you’ll need to verify your age to sign up for a new account, even if you don’t plan to play real money games.
Depositing and Withdrawing at Pennsylvania Casinos
Here are some of the deposit and withdrawal methods commonly available when you play blackjack online in Pennsylvania.
Top-rated online casinos in Pennsylvania offer several secure deposit options, including debit cards, credit cards, ACH transfers, and e-wallets like Skrill and PayPal. Prepaid options, including prepaid Visa and Mastercard, PayNearMe, and Play+ cards, are also available. Remember to confirm that a payment method satisfies the small print of any bonus offer.
As with deposit methods, a variety of withdrawal options are available when playing at Pennsylvania online casinos. These include ACH and PayPal withdrawals, as well as paper checks to your mailbox.
It’s worth noting you can deposit money into your account and request a cash withdrawal by going to the cashier cage at the bricks-and-mortar casino partner of your chosen online site. So if you want to withdraw money from your online casino account, then you can do so by heading to the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and requesting a payout there and then.
Whether you’re playing blackjack online or betting on the Steelers through an online sportsbook, gambling is supposed to be a fun hobby. If you feel you may be developing a gambling problem, however, then support and advice is available from the following organizations.
Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania
Address: PO Box 444, Spring House, PA 19477-0444
National Problem Gambling Helpline
Address: 730 11th St, NW, Ste 601, Washington, DC 20001
Your Questions Answered
Yes, you need to be inside state lines to play at PA online casinos like Fox Bet, DraftKings Casino and FanDuel Casino. If you’re accessing casino games through your mobile device, geolocation software is used to confirm you are indeed inside the state and, therefore, legally entitled to bet.
No. Such sites are unregulated and don’t offer the same safeguards as licensed PA casino sites. By sticking to sites that are legally allowed to operate within the state, you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that the games are fair and your details are secure.
The minimum age for playing online blackjack, or other casino games in Pennsylvania, is 21. The same age restriction is in place for sports betting, with the exception of pari-mutuel horse racing betting, where the minimum age is 18.
Along with sports betting, online poker, and daily fantasy sports, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulates casino gambling in the State of Pennsylvania. Founded in 2004, the PGCB also runs self-exclusion programs to help curb problem gambling.
The Keystone State has 13 land casinos, including Harrah’s Philadelphia and Valley Forge casino. Several of the properties, including the Meadows Racetrack and Presque Isle Downs, are ‘racinos,’ which combine gambling and horse racing.