Pennsylvania’s online lottery sales are off to a brisk start, despite increasingly vocal opposition from the state’s land-based gaming operators.
This week, local media quoted Pennsylvania Department of Revenue communications director Jeffrey Johnson saying that the Pennsylvania Lottery’s new PA iLottery games, which made their debut on June 4, had generated sales of $21.6m as of June 30 while paying out winnings of $18.7m from a customer base of around 45k unique players.
The 11 PA iLottery games offer players the chance to win up to $250k, but the website doesn’t offer traditional draw games, fast-play games or scratch cards so as not to compete with the Lottery’s retail partners.
All well and good, but the state’s brick-and-mortar casino operators have raised a ruckus about the iLottery games, saying the games (a) too closely resemble casino-style slot machines and (b) can be accessed by anyone 18 years or older, while casino slots are off-limits to anyone under 21.
It’s true that the gambling expansion legislation Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law last fall prohibits the Lottery from offering online games that “simulate casino-style games.” It’s equally true that the PA iLottery’s own marketing material used the phrases “slot-style” and “casino-style” to refer to its 11 online games.
On Monday, Penn Live reported that the casinos had won something of a hollow victory, in that the Department of Revenue had agreed to prevent PA iLottery from marketing its games using the offending phrases.
Revenue Secretary C. Daniel Hassell wrote the casino operators’ attorney a letter, saying the language in question originated with the Lottery’s tech vendor Scientific Games Corp. and that this “inaccuracy” had been addressed. But the casinos’ other concerns appear to have gone unaddressed, at least, not in Hassell’s letter.
An even greater yet apparently unstated concern of the casinos’ is that the PA iLottery’s pseudo-slots aren’t facing the preposterously high 54% tax that the state imposes on land-based slots and online slots (if anyone ever bothers applying for a license to operate the latter). As a result, the iLottery may prove to be the only online slots-not-slots game in town, at least, until fiscal sanity returns to the state legislature.
The casinos’ original complaint to Gov. Wolf mentioned the possibility of legal action if the iLottery wasn’t brought to heel. We may be about to discover whether or not it’s true that barking dogs never bite.