Scathing Anti-Online Lottery Op-Ed Could Backfire For PA Casinos

Written By Marty Derbyshire on September 11, 2018 - Last Updated on August 8, 2022
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The battle between the Pennsylvania Lottery and a group of PA casinos heated up last week.

A representative of the casinos accused the lottery of making it too easy for children to play its new instant win online games.

However, this take may have the casinos playing with the kind of fire that could just as soon get them burned.

In July, all 13 casino license holders in the state signed a letter to Revenue Secretary Daniel Hassell. It asked the state to pull the PA iLottery instant win games it launched in May. In the letter, the casinos claim the online lottery games are too much like online slots, which PA laws prohibit the lottery from offering.

The Pennsylvania Lottery stopped advertising the games as “slot-style.” However, it continued offering them.

PA casinos file suit

This obviously wasn’t enough for some. In August, seven casino license holders filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Lottery claiming it’s breaking the law.

The license holders involved in the suit are:

PA law is clear in stating lottery products cannot include online games that simulate casino-style games. This specifically includes:

  • Poker
  • Roulette
  • Blackjack
  • Slot machines

It will now be up to the courts to decide if games that look and feel a lot like slots actually simulate the one-armed bandits filling PA casinos. Or, if the PA iLottery instant win games fall just enough outside the textbook definition to represent something less than a simulation.

A new attack on the iLottery

In the meantime, the president and CEO of La Torre Communications, a public affairs firm representing the casino license holders, wrote a guest op-ed on Penn Live last week attacking the iLottery on a different front.

David La Torre wrote that by allowing anyone to demo the games simply by checking a box indicating they’re 18 or older, the PA iLottery is making it easy for children to play casino-like games without proper age verification or identification.

The state has strict regulations on underage gaming. PA casinos face some pretty steep fines anytime some under 21 is found on a gaming floor. Considering that, La Torre says the public should be outraged that the lottery is failing to keep kids away from these games.

Of course, there’s one problem with shining a spotlight on all of this. It’s that the casinos employ the same lax age verification methods on social casino sites. The very same sites they will be using to market real-money online gambling.

The pot calling the kettle black

Considering La Torre’s take here, there isn’t much the casinos will be able to say that doesn’t sound hypocritical when anti-gambling groups in the state start accusing them of marketing to children and using too-easy-to-fool age verification methods.

Will La Torre flip his stance when someone says online casinos make it too easy for kids to play casino games?

He might think he’s turning up the heat on the iLottery as the case against it moves forward. However, La Torre’s argument has nothing to do with instant win games being too much like slots.

Plus, it’s an argument much more likely to land the casinos in some pretty hot water themselves.

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Marty Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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