A coalition of seven Pennsylvania casinos called the Pennsylvania Casino Gaming Coalition are seeking an injunction against the Pennsylvania Lottery.
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A coalition of seven Pennsylvania casinos called the Pennsylvania Casino Gaming Coalition are seeking an injunction against the Pennsylvania Lottery.

The legal action is the result of the introduction of iLottery games that, in the coalition’s opinion, too closely resemble online slot machines in look and feel. State law (Act 42 of 2017) prohibits the Pennsylvania Lottery from offering casino-style games including “poker, roulette, slot machines or blackjack.”

The coalition appealed its case directly to the Governor of Pennsylvania back in May, objecting to the promotion of casino-style games to young audiences. After not receiving relief, the Pennsylvania Casino Gaming Coalition filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court against the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue—which oversees the lottery—and the Secretary of Revenue, C. Daniel Hassell, in late August.

“The actions of the Pennsylvania Lottery are illegal,” said Pennsylvania Casino Gaming Coalition spokesperson David La Torre said in a recent press release.

“To make matters even worse, the agency is promoting casino-style gambling 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. Not to mention, any loss in casino revenue will hurt Pennsylvania’s tax collection for property tax relief and local improvement projects funded by gaming tax dollars,” he went on the say.

To further muddy the waters, the Pennsylvania Lottery has also launched two virtual sports betting products: Xpress Football and Xpress Car Racing.

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Who are the Casinos Taking on the Pennsylvania Lottery?

There are twelve (and a soon-to-be-built thirteenth) land-based casinos in Pennsylvania, but the coalition of casinos coming together to take a stand over the online lottery games is made up of just seven casinos in the state. They are:

  • Parx Casino
  • Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • The Meadows Casino Racetrack Hotel
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Stadium Casino
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort

Due to the $4 million fee for an Interactive Gaming Certificate that has to be paid to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) if a casino wants to offer online slot games to the people of Pennsylvania, it is no surprise that the casinos are up in arms.

Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia (operated by Chester Downs and Marina), Parx Casino (operated by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment), and Mount Airy Casino have all applied and been approved for a $10 million certificate allowing them to offer house-banked casino games (such as blackjack and roulette), online slots and online poker when the online gaming market in the state opens.

Notably Mount Airy Casino, who is partnered with PokerStars and 888poker is not part of the coalition despite their plans for offering online poker and casino games within the state.

Are the iLottery Games in Pennsylvania Really Like Slot Machines?

It certainly seems a bit of a grey area as to whether the iLottery games on offer are too close to online slots games—despite the lack of action from the Governor on the issue.

When taking a closer look at the games in question such as Robin Hood, Volcano Eruption Reveal, Super Gems, Big Foot and Monster Wins, they all have similar names and functionality to slot machines offered in the land-based casinos bringing the lawsuit and to online gaming operators outside the state.

The audio and visual features of the iLottery games replicate those “that a player would expect from land-based and online slot machines,” according to the lawsuit, with “graphics, animation, suspenseful music, flashing lights, bells or sounds played when combinations are hit.”

Some of the games in question feature symbols commonly found in slot machines and casino games such as “such as dice, cherries, and the like” on spinning wheels and/or “cascading tiles.”

The coalition also points out that many of the iLottery games use the word “Bet” when prompting a player to select an amount, a term that the coalition asserts is not traditionally used in lottery games.

Are Underage Players Being Targeted by Pennsylvania iLottery Games?

The coalition definitely thinks so. iLottery games can be played by anyone age 18 and up, but to play similar games in the land-based casinos, the state requires players to be 21.

Following the announcement of virtual sports betting games, La Torre said the coalition would fight the Lottery’s “illegal attempts to cannibalize the state’s casino industry.”