Ohio lawmakers are considering attaching internet lottery to sports betting legislation. Penn National Gaming has reason to be concerned.
While its headquarters and flagship property are located in Pennsylvania, Penn National has one of its strongest presences in Ohio. Penn has four of Ohio’s 11 casino or racino properties.
PlayOhio reported that Penn and other Ohio casinos would support language authorizing limited iLottery in H 194.
But its fear is that Ohio internet lottery will morph into an offering like that in Pennsylvania, including what Penn and others allege are slot machine-like “instant games.”
“If the lottery wants to sell traditional lottery products online – in other words, anything that doesn’t simulate a slot machine – we’re OK with that,” said Eric Schippers, Penn National’s senior vice president of public affairs and government relations. “We don’t think we should have to be in a position to compete against the state.”
Pennsylvania lottery games subject of lawsuit
Pennsylvania casinos filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Lottery in 2018.
Seven casinos participated in the lawsuit alleging that many instant games in the PA online lottery crossed the line into iCasino. The petitioners accused the games of imitating the “look, sound and feel of slot machines.”
Last year, the casinos filed an injunction to stop these games from being offered while the court case plays out. However, the request was denied.
The case finally is going to trial in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court beginning Oct. 26.
Schippers revealed that casinos are in settlement talks with the state, trading proposals on limiting what the lottery can offer.
Pennsylvania online lottery offerings
The PA Lottery offers more than 50 instant win games that can be played online at any time.
The lawsuit names nine instant win titles to which casinos took offense. Some of them have the same names as slot machines offered at Pennsylvania casinos.
While people must be at least 21 years old to play a slot machine at PA casinos, they only need to be 18 to play the lottery games.
Other instant win games keep it simple, using the mouse to simulate scratching off a ticket. Pennsylvania also now offers draw games including Mega Millions and Powerball online as well.
It’s these traditional lottery games that Penn is fine with in PA and would welcome for the Ohio lottery.
How Ohio and Pennsylvania laws differ
If the Ohio lottery does follow Pennsylvania’s example, don’t expect another lawsuit.
In Pennsylvania, the law prohibits simulated slot machines. That is not the case in Ohio.
Schippers said Penn will lobby against slot-like games in Ohio for the sake of the industry, not legal reasons.
“We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the casinos and racinos business in Ohio,” Schippers said. “To grant the Intralot lottery guys a monopoly on online casino games would be a devastating blow to the state’s casino industry.”
Ohio sports betting bill may pass this year
Lawmakers in the Ohio House and Senate agreed on substitute language for H 194 last month. The bill passed in the House in May.
Sen. Bill Coley told PlayOhio that he was working on an amendment that included iLottery. Senate sponsor John Eklund said he would support that inclusion, while House sponsor Dave Greenspan said he would prefer to keep the sports betting bill free from unrelated matters.
Legislators are running out of time for Ohio to join Pennsylvania in authorizing sports betting and internet lottery. The bill won’t be addressed until the lame-duck session beginning in mid-November.
“This has been such a protracted debate in the House and Senate that we think less is more at this point,” Schippers said. “We’re just hoping we can get this moving now without complicating it by damaging the very industry this bill is seeking to help.”