Pennsylvania Casinos Sue State Lottery over Online Sales

Pennsylvania Casinos Sue Lottery

The casinos’ argue that the State Lottery’s online scratchcards like Slingo are too much like slots games.

Seven commercial casino operators in Pennsylvania have filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Lottery in Commonwealth Court. The legal filing says behind the Pennsylvania Lottery is selling “casino-style” online games that infringe upon the casinos’ exclusive rights to host casino games online.

The casino operators believe the games, which were introduced in May 2018, are too similar to the online games that state lawmakers set aside for the land-based casinos and their online counterparts in an October 2017 law.

The seven operators have banded together to ask the courts to force a stop to the Lottery games.

The casinos behind the lawsuit are Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack, Mohegan Sun Pocono, the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Parx Casino near Philadelphia, The Meadows Casino Racetrack Hotel, the Stadium Casino in Philadelphia, and the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

Games Imitate Online Slots

According to the suit, the look, sound and feel of the Lottery’s games wrongly imitate casino slot machines. The lawsuit states the aspects of the games that violate provisions which govern both the State Lottery’s activities as well as the 2017 Pennsylvania online gambling law.

The list of prohibited games are described as “a lottery game of chance” using a computing device or smartphone in which a “player purchases a lottery play, with the result of play being a reveal on the device of numbers, letters, or symbols indicating whether a lottery prize has been won according to an established methodology as provided by the lottery.”

The casinos’ claim against the Pennsylvania Lottery can be backed by one clear statement in which Pennsylvania gambling laws ban all “games that represent physical, Internet-based or monitor-based interactive lottery games which simulate casino-style lottery games, specifically including poker, roulette, slot machines, or blackjack.”

Any Pennsylvania State Lottery game is prohibited from:

– Using the same or similar titles that one would find on casino floors.

– The use of spinning wheels, cascading tiles, or other result reveals that are often found on casino games.

– Requiring bets set by the player.

– Offering games in penny or dime denominations. These types of games have never been associated with the State Lottery and are a traditional casino coin denomination.

– Using marketing tools that are typically used within casinos such as free-play offers and a patron loyalty program.

Lottery spokesman Gary Miller said that iLottery games are just taking part in the ongoing effort “to continue delivering to our customers games that they want and where they want while generating the additional funds to stabilize the Lottery Fund and provide vital services to older Pennsylvanians.”

The State Lottery argued their games amount to online scratchcards, which fall within the purview of lottery sales. While scratch-offs have certain similar features to slots, the differences are starker.

One of the biggest issues the casinos mention in the lawsuit is that in order to purchase a Lottery ticket the minimum age requirement is 18. Yet the minimum for any casino floor is 21. This is one of the reasons behind limiting casino-style games to casinos only.

Online Casinos, Poker Approved

The lawsuit comes at a time when online gambling is about to launch in the state. Most of Pennsylvania’s casinos┬áplan on launching their own online gambling platforms later this year. With the license cost set at $10 million apiece and with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues on the line, casinos plan to uphold their monopoly on casino gaming through legal actions.

The state’s casinos joining online gaming market filed applications this summer. Those not doing so lose the opportunity to join in. Online play will most likely not be available until next year, which gave the state lottery a chance to make money in the meantime.

New Online Lottery Sales

State Lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf recently approved a massive gambling expansion bill for Pennsylvania. Both online lottery and the commercial online gambling were part of the approved deal that closed the 2017-2018 state budget.

After a year of record high numbers for the state Lottery, the push for the iLottery games was mainly to help the state-run games stay on an equal playing field with commercial casinos. With the changes the state hoped to see every electronic device as a betting portal.

Before the lawsuit the casinos filed an earlier appeal with the Wolf Administration’s Department of Revenue in hopes of working together to develop “a lawful iLottery program.” At the time, the Lottery made some minor changes to its new online games. However, no major changes to the games themselves were actually made.

Casinos Not Involved in Lawsuit

The remaining six out of the 13 Pennsylvania commercial casinos are not connected to the allegations against the Lottery. Though attempts to reach out to those casinos, which include Philadelphia’s SugarHouse and Pittsburgh’s Rivers casino, have been made to get them on board. Bethlehem Sands, Presque Isle and several other casinos not involved are currently in the midst of owner changes.