Casinos in PA Go All-In Against State Lottery
Real-money online casino games are supposed to launch in mid-July, and the casinos are sticking to their claim that the lottery’s online gambling will cut into the revenue from those games. Armed with this belief, a group of Pennsylvania casinos are embarking on a significant legal battle against the state’s lottery. These casinos have asked the Commonwealth Court to intervene before the launch next month. None of the casinos have formally announced their plans to open for the kickoff.
What Do the Casinos Object To?
The casinos have asked the court to either significantly cut back or even stop the iLottery games that closely imitate the slots, poker, and other games the casinos were given the exclusive franchise for in the gambling expansion law the state passed in 2017. This injunction is an addition to a suit that was filed last year. The casinos are hoping the injunction will accelerate the court’s decision.
While the 2017 law also allowed the lottery to start offering online games, the casinos say that the law’s language was different for the lottery than for the casinos. The casinos say this wording means that the iLottery games have a requirement to be different from the casino’s online games that they paid so many millions of dollars to be able to offer.
Instead of being different, the casinos allege the following:
- Several iLottery games have the same themes or even titles as slot machines being offered at online casinos in other states or on Pennsylvania casino floors.
- Some of the games offered by the lottery are in nickel or dime denominations, which is typical for casinos.
- iLottery games have a typical payout of 85% compared to the minimum payout percentage for traditional lottery games which is only 40%.
- At least 22 of the iLottery games are qualified to comply with casino gaming standards in other jurisdictions.
- The lottery has games that allow those 18 years and older to play whereas casino games only allow those 21 and over to play.
According to a spokesperson for the casinos in the case, David La Torre, made the following comments, as reported by The Patriot News:
“Pennsylvania casinos are not opposed to iLottery—only simulated, casino-style games. In fact, casinos are supportive of the lottery’s mission and provide space for lottery ticket vending machines on their casino floors. Some have become the best-selling outlets of lottery tickets in Pennsylvania.”
It is expected that the Pennsylvania Lottery’s online gambling games will generate around $30 million this fiscal year.
The casino group is made up of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Parx Casino, The Meadows Casino Racetrack Hotel, Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack, Stadium Casino, Mohegan Sun Pocono, and Valley Forge Casino Resort.
La Torre also said last August that what the state lottery is trying to do is illegal. He also stated that they’re promoting 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.”
Who Will Win This Battle?
This is a legal battle that needs to be monitored closely. It could become a landmark decision that other states turn to when structuring their gambling and sports betting platform. It will be interesting to see how the court handles this matter and if there will be an injunction to allow the legal process to play out. Right now, all signs point to the state lottery coming out the winner since they’re still on track to release these online games.
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