Can’t We All Just Coexist? Casinos and iLottery Discuss Defining Their Lanes

Written By Kevin Shelly on November 3, 2021

The Lottery and Pennsylvania casinos are back in a courtroom battle again. But you’d never know from their courtly behavior at the East Coast Gaming Congress.

A panel, “iGaming vs iLottery- Defining their Lanes,” explored the topic at the Atlantic City-based gaming conference hosted by Spectrum Gaming. The participants behaved more like they were at a polite cotillion than a slugfest when the discussion began. The primary focus instead was on how casinos and lotteries might eventually work together.

And while that’s perhaps a great idea, don’t expect it soon. One panelist, lawyer Karin Ashford of Penn National Gaming, commented that settling the legal case might require a ruling from the Supreme Court.

But even she spoke of working with the lottery in the future.

A long grudge match between casinos and lottery

Like Godzilla v. Kong, the lottery prevailed in June 2021 in a legal challenge by a coalition of casinos over the lottery’s online games.

The suit stemmed from Act 42. The 2017 PA law authorized both iGaming and online lottery games.

A judge had rejected the casinos’ arguments that the lottery’s internet-based games used systems too similar to slot machines and casino-style, breaking state law.

A judge tossed the slow-moving case over this summer. However, like an undead zombie, the casinos v. lottery death duel is not truly over until a higher court rules, and all appeals are exhausted. Because the case is ongoing, the panel avoided directly talking about the case.

Ways to all get along in the view of the lottery

Drew Svitko, Executive Director at the Pennsylvania Lottery, said:

“Both businesses have inherent assets and benefits which could be used for the benefit of the other. Things to consider are the loyalty of the iGaming players, the retail base of the lottery operators, and the brand strength of both.

“If iGaming and iLottery operators focused on collaboration instead of competition, both businesses would benefit.”

Paths to all get along in the view of casinos

Ashford said the enabling legislation stated lottery games cannot simulate casino games and attempted to “carve out a space for both.”

“Characteristics of these games should differ in distinct ways: visual, technical, game type, game themes,” said Ashford.

As Ashford pointed out, that’s the crux of the casino challenge –  iLottery games are too similar to online casino slots.

Despite the ongoing court challenge, Ashford said,  “there are plenty of examples where both can coexist.”

She explained:

“We believe the best way to happily coexist is for each lane to be well defined. Communication, education and cooperation can help achieve this goal. Ultimately we are not in favor of third-party game developers deciding what is the dividing line between iLottery and iGaming products.”

Cross-promotion possible

Peggy Daniel, US General Manager of NJ Lotto added:

“Online casino games and iLottery can use their sites as a platform for cross-promotional efforts by becoming affiliates for one another and targeting the same market base. This can be done in a few ways, pay per click, per sale, or revenue share models.”

(As a lead writer at PlayPennsylvania, I moderated the panel. I got a decent laugh when I suggested a cross-promotional lottery game deal to create a David Portnoy of Penn National’s Barstool Sports contest. While the odds are long, they are not impossible.)

States with iLottery have growing retail sales

Panelist Richard Weil who is a lottery and gaming industry expert said data proves iLottery games increase retail sales.

He explained:

“This is a misconception and the evidence here in the US clearly shows that digital forms of lottery or gaming do not negatively impact retail sales. The data shows the opposite, those states with iLottery have grown their retail sales more than those without it.”

He pointed out both iLottery and iGaming are thriving in “both Pennsylvania and Michigan alongside their brick-and-mortar counterparts with full-blown sports betting at retail and mobile.”

Unlicensed games are common enemy

One rallying point for all sides was combatting the unchecked proliferation of grey machines that are unregulated, pay no taxes, and offer no player safeguards.

Svitko quickly said, “They are illegal machines.”

Lead image c/o Dreamstime

Kevin Shelly Avatar
Written by
Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

View all posts by Kevin Shelly
Privacy Policy