Our view: Pa. should stop iLottery games, work with casinos on compromise

The Mohegan Sun Pocono casino is seen in a file photo. -

We were ready to dish out a healthy dose of criticism to Pennsylvania’s licensed casino operators for their beef with the state.

The casinos are complaining the state’s new iLottery games available online compete with what the gambling houses offer in their brick-and-mortar structures.

Before we saw the details of the casinos’ argument, we were of the opinion they should stop complaining about the new competition and instead strive to make their venues even more desirable destinations.

After all, any free-market believer knows that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work, i.e. competing entities in the same sector usually make for better offerings for the consumer. That’s because competition for the almighty dollar forces everyone to put their best foot forward so they stand a better chance of capturing that dollar over and over again.

The casinos were demanding that Pennsylvania stop its online lottery games by Tuesday or they would take action, which surely would be in the form of an expensive lawsuit.

Like we said before, our initial reaction was to grimace at the prospect of taxpayers having to foot the bill to make lawyers rich.

While we still hope that doesn’t become the case, when you dig into the casinos’ argument here, you have to admit they have many valid points.

First, and most glaring, is the fact that registered online iLottery players have to be only 18 to gamble. At a Pennsylvania casino, you have to be 21.

That alone seems really unfair. We’d like to hear any state lawmaker who voted for last year’s gambling expansion try to justify that three-year age difference. It just doesn’t make sense. Gambling is gambling, whether you’re out in public or at home in front of a computer screen.

Next, in setting up iLottery, the state seems to have forgotten about its own law.

The casinos summed it up like this in their letter to the state Revenue Secretary last week:

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

Indeed, if you go to the iLottery website and play some of the games on demo mode, it’s readily apparently they look like typical slot offerings you would find on any casino floor.

And while playing, you even hear the usual jingles and bells associated with slots.

As the casinos said in their letter, the iLottery games do all they can to replicate “the look, sounds and feel of slot machines,” which again would seem to be in violation of what the gambling law tried to forbid. The iLottery is also offering typical “casino tools,” like free play and patron-loyalty incentives.

Another huge point of contention is that state casinos must pay a $10 million licensing fee to start their own online games while iLottery is already up and running and establishing a customer base with seemingly some of the same concepts that are supposed to be reserved for the casinos.

We would suggest the state halt the games and work with the casinos on a compromise that would keep iLottery as a viable option and allow casinos to establish their own online presence.

It’s likely Pennsylvania rushed it with iLottery and created its games in a short-sighted manner.

The state now needs to regroup and find a way to prevent taxpayers from shelling out big bucks in litigation to defend this misstep.

— Times Leader

The Mohegan Sun Pocono casino is seen in a file photo.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_MoheganCasino-cmyk.jpgThe Mohegan Sun Pocono casino is seen in a file photo.