PA Casinos Get Serious: File Lawsuit Against PA Lottery

Written By Grant Lucas on August 22, 2018 - Last Updated on December 14, 2023
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A coalition of seven casinos in Pennsylvania has started to take action against the Pennsylvania Lottery and its latest selection of online games.

The group of casinos on Wednesday filed suit in Commonwealth Court, according to a release. The coalition, per the release, seeks an injunction to stop the PA Lottery from “providing illegal, simulated casino-style online games.”

Specifically, the coalition notes that no customer under the age of 21 is allowed to play at a physical or online casino, yet online lottery games, which mimic the casino slot machines currently, allow players as young as 18.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and its frontman, Secretary C. Daniel Hassell, who oversees the department, which includes the PA Lottery.

Coalition spokesman David La Torre summed up the casino’s side in the release:

“The actions of the Pennsylvania Lottery are illegal. To make matters even worse, the agency is promoting casino-style gambling to teenagers. Pennsylvania casinos must follow very stringent regulations on underage gaming or face millions of dollars in fines. Meanwhile, the Lottery is openly violating the law and marketing these games to anyone as young as 18. Not to mention, any loss in casino revenue will hurt Pennsylvania’s tax collection for property tax relief and local improvement projects funded by gaming tax dollars.”

Following through on previous Lottery threat

Pennsylvania casinos first became enraged with the PA Lottery in May, when it launched its iLottery selection of games. Offered online and via the PA Lottery app, iLottery features casino-style games that “give the illusion that the player can make decisions, but the winners are predetermined,” according to the coalition of casinos.

The group of casinos sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to shut down iLottery. The group reserved the right to take legal action if Wolf did not follow through. The governor did not, and the casinos are acting.

The suit was filed and founded on Act 42 of the online gambling legislation bill passed in 2017. The coalition of casinos noted that a $10 million fee is required to obtain slot machine licenses. Casinos then pay steep taxes: 54 percent for interactive slots and 16 percent for table games.

From Wednesday’s release:

“On May 22, 2018, with no regulatory oversight, the Pennsylvania Lottery launched ‘iLottery,’ offering illegal casino-style games online and on mobile devices.”

Seven of 13 casinos part of the suit

Not all of the state’s 13 casinos are petitioners in the suit. Listed as part of the coalition:

Together, they target the PA Lottery and its selection of games that “imitate the look, sound, and feel of slot machines.” A select few in particular.

The coalition pinpoints Volcano Eruption Reveal, Robin Hood, Super Gems, Big Foot, and Monster Wins as games that share the same titles and/or themes as slot machines offered on PA casino floors.

These titles, per the release, require players to “bet,” a term not traditionally used by lottery games. Those titles also offer penny- and dime-based denominations, typically found in casinos rather than with lottery products.

The suit comes days after the Lottery launched Xpress Sports virtual sports. The product’s similarities to sports betting once again drew the casinos’ ire.

Part of the coalition’s basis for its lawsuit is financial.

“Any loss in casino revenue will hurt Pennsylvania’s tax collection for property tax relief and local improvement projects,” the release stated. “Pennsylvania casinos have been economic engines for the commonwealth, investing over $5 billion, creating more than 18,000 jobs, and spending $230 million annually for goods and services from local businesses. An unqualified boon for Pennsylvania and taxpayers, slot machines in 2016-17 alone contributed $2.3 billion in slots tax revenue and an additional $132 million in local share funding for host communities.”

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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