Are Pennsylvania’s new online instant win lottery games too much like casino games?

Pennsylvania’s 13 casino license holders seem to think so, and they want state lawmakers to do something about it.

This week, operators of the state’s 12 casinos, and a 13th now under construction in Philadelphia, penned a letter to PA Revenue Secretary Daniel Hassell claiming Pennsylvania’s new iLottery online games violate state law:

“In virtually every way imaginable, (the Pennsylvania) Lottery’s iLottery program mimics a casino operation offering simulated casino-style games in direct contravention of (the law’s) express prohibition on (the Pennsylvania) Lottery offering ‘interactive lottery games which simulate casino-style games.'”

PA Lottery online instant win games

The Pennsylvania Lottery launched 11 online instant win games at the end of May 2018. There are now 12 of the games available on the new PAilottery.com website and PA Lottery mobile app. These games represent the first legal and regulated online gambling products available in Pennsylvania.

State lawmakers authorized the launch of online gambling and online lottery products in October 2017. However, the regulatory and licensing process for online casinos is still underway.

There is little doubt the online instant win lottery games closely resemble online slots. However, they are perhaps best described as stripped down versions of online slots.

The PA iLottery games do not feature the same high-quality graphics, high-end soundtracks, and interactive video displays many of today’s most popular modern online slots employ. Nor do they feature themes based popular films, TV shows, bands, and musicians like online slots.

Both are purely luck based games in which computerized random number generators determine the outcome of each play. However, the differences may end there, with instant win online lottery games featuring a bit of a different look and feel than that of online slots.

Pennsylvania online lottery law

Pennsylvania law clearly includes regulations preventing the Pennsylvania Lottery from offering online lottery games that use casino themes or simulate casino game play.

Now, PA casinos are saying the PA Lottery’s instant win online games resemble slot machines enough to violate that law:

“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.”

In fact, the letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue says the casinos want the games removed by next Tuesday.  Or else they will consider all actions available to them.

Part of the casinos complaints seem to revolve around the idea the lottery’s instant win online games give the organization an unfair advantage in the emerging PA online gambling market.

The Lottery got a head start, having already launched online. Plus, its games are available to players 18 and up instead of 21 and over at the casinos. Plus, as a government-run agency, the PA Lottery isn’t subject to same $4 million to $10 million in licensing fees potential online casinos are.

The casino operators also claim payout percentages are similar to slots. Plus, the lottery is using free play and player loyalty programs to market the games. These are literally the same tools casinos employ to draw players in.

The Department of Revenue agreed in part with the argument. The group ordered the PA Lottery to change its marketing approach and remove any language calling the games slot-like.

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PA online lottery proving successful

In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Lottery’s new online instant win lottery games are proving to be a big success.

In fact, Pennsylvania Department of Revenue communications director Jeffrey A. Johnson told The Times Leader that $21.6 million has been bet on the games through June 30.

Additionally, approximately 45,000 unique players have signed up for iLottery accounts. Plus, the iLottery has awarded $18.7 million in prizes already. Which would mean the iLottery generated close to $3 million in revenue in its first month.