Pennsylvania Casinos Seek Injunction to Stop ‘Slot-Style’ iLottery Games Ahead of Online Gaming Launch

Posted on: June 4, 2019, 01:05h. 

Last updated on: June 4, 2019, 01:05h.

Seven Pennsylvania casinos have petitioned the state’s Commonwealth Court to impose a speedy injunction on online lottery games that they say are too similar to the kind they offer on their gaming floors, Penn Live reports.

Pennsylvania casinos
The PA iLottery’s Rainbow Fortunes game may look like an online slot machine but it has more in common with a scratch card, the Lottery claims. Pennsylvania casinos aren’t so sure. (Image: Pennsylvania Lottery)

The online lottery, dubbed the PA iLottery, has been a roaring success since it was authorized as part of a massive gambling expansion package enacted in 2017 that also permitted the state’s casinos to offer licensed online casino gaming and poker.

But while regulatory red tape means the casinos have had to wait for the launch of these new markets, the lottery was quick to roll out its new suite of games and has been reaping the benefits. It’s on track to post a record $1.2 billion in revenues in 2018-19, money that will help support senior citizen programs in the state.

Slot or Not?

The seven casinos initially sued last year, complaining that the games were too close to online slots for comfort.  They point out that Pennsylvania’s new gambling laws forbade the lottery from offering “games which simulate casino-style lottery games, specifically including roulette, poker, slot machines or blackjack.”

The Lottery argues the games merely ape the appearance of slots, while sharing nothing of their core dynamics, and are more akin to scratch-off games than casino games.

Now, with Pennsylvania’s online casino gaming market set to materialize in just over a month’s time, the casinos want the court to have the iLottery slot-style games urgently scrapped before launch.

The lawsuit asserts that at least 22 of the iLottery games are classified as casino gaming in other regulatory jurisdictions, including New Jersey and the UK.

It alleges further that Pennsylvania’s Department of Revenue, which oversees the lottery, asked its software provider not to sell the same games to the land-based casinos, which the lawsuit argues is an admission the games would otherwise be sold as casino games.

Lottery Has Problem with Skill Games

Meanwhile, the lottery claims to have problems of its own. The Post-Gazette reports that on Monday lottery officials convened a press conference in Harrisburg to demand an end to the thousands of electronic “skill games” that can be found at bars, restaurants, and stores throughout the state because — guess what? — they’re way too similar to what the lottery is offering.

Despite its record year, Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko believes if people weren’t playing the skill machines, they could be funneling an estimate $138 million per year into the iLottery’s slot-style games and other offerings. Svitko says the games are illegal, which, coincidentally, is exactly what the casino industry is saying about his games.

“The games of skill machines are appearing across the state and we are deeply concerned the harm will only increase,” Svitko said. “It’s imperative that we take action now to protect the funding that supports the programs that older Pennsylvanians rely upon each year.”