Pennsylvania Casinos Ask Tom Wolf Administration to Scratch Online Lottery

Posted on: June 28, 2018, 01:30h. 

Last updated on: July 3, 2018, 05:57h.

Pennsylvania casinos are calling on Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) administration to suspend online lottery games, which the operators believe too closely resemble internet slot machines.

Pennsylvania casinos slot machines lottery
Pennsylvania casinos say the state’s lottery games are cleverly designed slot machines. (Image: Adam Richins/Pocono Record/

The state’s 2017 gambling expansion package authorized up to 10 satellite casinos, online gambling, daily fantasy sports, truck stops, airport gaming lounges, and sports betting.

The bill also permitted the Pennsylvania Lottery to offer certain interactive games online, as well as instant “scratch-off” tickets. However, the legislation mandates that the lottery avoid casino-style games that operate or resemble poker, roulette, slots, and blackjack. The 13 licensed casino operators say that condition hasn’t been met.

In a letter to PA Revenue Secretary Daniel Hassell, the gaming companies call on the governor’s administration to create “a lawful iLottery program.”

“Overall, the games essentially have the same backbone as a slot machine; an outcome that is determined by a random number generator with animated graphics and computer operations used to provide a visual depiction of that outcome,” the casinos wrote.

Anyone over the age of 18 can play the lottery in Pennsylvania, but must be 21+ to enter a casino. Lottery proceeds benefit older Pennsylvanians.

The iLottery site began offering interactive games in May, and 12 titles are currently live.

Games include “Slingo,” a bingo-style format, and “Volcano Eruption,” a game where players scratch off squares trying to match three images. A spokesperson for the PA Department of Revenue said the agency is reviewing the letter and would comment at a later time.

Online Gambling Concerns

Pennsylvania casinos can apply for online casino licenses with the state Gaming Control Board (PGCB) at a cost of $10 million. The high fee, paired with a 53 percent tax on interactive slots and 15 percent on table games, is keeping them away.

An anonymous PGCB spokesperson recently told Online Poker Report that no applications had been received.

After an initial 90-day application period, the state will begin offering land-based casinos the option to buy permits to operate online slots only for $4 million. Operators will also be able to purchase table games rights for $4 million, excluding poker, which would cost an additional $4 million.

With iPoker revenues on life support in the three states where it’s legal (Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware), Pennsylvania casinos are presumably waiting to be able to forego the bundle package in favor of only betting on internet slots.

Lottery Redo

Pennsylvania casinos want to make sure their $4 million buy-in for online slots isn’t competing with the lottery games. The operators contend that the current games more closely resemble that of slot machines than traditional lotto offerings.

The casinos additionally opine the Pennsylvania Lottery has been aggressively marketing its online games with free play and rewards programs, both key pillars of a brick-and-mortar casino operation.

“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 letter concludes.