PA Casinos Have A Huge Problem With The State’s Online Lottery

Written By J.R. Duren on July 2, 2018 - Last Updated on August 5, 2022
Cat making hissing face

PA casinos are salty.

This past week, Associated Press reporter Mark Scolforo revealed that the state’s 13 casino operators — 12 built, one in the future — sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to shut down the state’s online lottery program, known as an iLottery.

“In virtually every way imaginable, Lottery’s iLottery program mimics a casino operation offering simulated casino-style games in direct contravention of (the law’s) express prohibition on Lottery offering ‘interactive lottery games which simulate casino-style games,'” the casinos wrote, according to the AP.

Breaking down the beef: Are iLottery games too casino-ish?

The previous quote indicates that the casinos take issue with the fact that iLottery games reflect casino games. As such, the casinos believe those iLottery games are violating regulations meant to protect casinos and their revenue.

The exact line from Act 42, the gambling expansion bill that included the framework for the iLottery, says that the regulations that allow online lottery games:

“[Do] not include games that represent physical, Internet-based or monitor-based interactive lottery games which simulate casino-style lottery games, specifically including poker, Roulette, slot machines and Blackjack.”

Meanwhile, the iLottery offers 11 different games through their app. Additionally, the Lottery offers Keno at specific locations around the state.

That casinos are concerned about these games is somewhat interesting because, in reality, they aren’t offering casino-style action. They’re presenting various lottery games in an online form.

A screenshot of one of those games, as provided by Penn Live, reveals a game called Bigfoot Reveal. Each play costs $0.50 and winners are paid out when three symbols on the scratcher match.

These are traditional scratchers in that there’s a win system built on matching symbols. What makes it move beyond a traditional scratch-off game, though, is that you can raise or lower your “bet” to increase the value of your winners.

In this sense, it’s like choosing your bet at a slot machine. Tickets are revealed quickly, you find out if you’ve won or lost, and you’re paid if you win. If you want to play again, you pay another “bet” and play another round.

In this sense, the casinos seem to have a legitimate defense of their industry’s offerings because there seems to be some similarities between an iLottery instant win game and slot machines.

Casinos holding out on online gambling to squeeze iLottery?

Casinos don’t like to share and that principle certainly applies to revenue. The presence of the online lottery presents competition for them regardless if iLottery games resemble casino games.

It would stand to reason that these same casinos who oppose the iLottery would also be making a mad dash for online gambling, a reality made possible by the state’s 2017 gambling expansion bill.

However, that’s not the case. No casino has applied for an online gambling license yet. The oddity of this may lie with the iLottery. Casinos may want to be certain they’ve eliminated all possibility of in-state competition before they pay the $10 million online gambling licensing fee.

According to Penn Live, the casinos may take legal action if they don’t get a favorable decision from Wolf’s office by tomorrow.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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