Back in October of last year, when Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania signed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill into law, the headlines focused primarily on the state’s legalization of online poker and casino games.
But the bill, now known as Act 42, also allowed the Pennsylvania Lottery to begin offering online games – which have proven to be an immediate hit.
The state’s “iLottery” service went live on June 4 of this year, and by month’s end, approximately 45,000 unique players spent more than $21.6 million on the games.
According to Jeffrey A. Johnson – who serves as communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue – $18.7 million in prize money was paid back to players. In just over three weeks, Pennsylvania collected nearly $3 million in revenue, putting the Keystone State on pace for nearly $25 million in revenue across 2018.
Speaking with the Times Leader after the June numbers were made public, Pennsylvania Lottery executive director Drew Svitko praised iLottery as an essential industry innovation:
“PA iLottery games are a fun, new way to play and win from home or while on the go.
iLottery is a big part of our effort to meet our players where they already are, while generating new funds to benefit older Pennsylvanians.”
The current roster of iLottery games includes the following titles – Big Money SLINGO®, Bigfoot, Cash Buster Towers, Cash in the Lamp, Crossword Cash, Foxin’ Wins, Monster Wins, Robin Hood, Super Cash Buster, Super Gems, and Volcano Eruption.
These fast-paced games of chance are priced anywhere from $0.01 and up, with the top prize totaling $250,000. Based on the ratio between sales and paid prizes, their collective return to player (RTP) averages out at 87 percent.
In June, Pennsylvania expanded a preexisting partnership with iGaming industry leader Scientific Games, which provides the software powering each of the games listed above.
At the time, Pat McHugh – who serves as senior vice president of global lottery systems for Scientific Games – issued a statement celebrating the impending launch of iLottery across Pennsylvania.
“Scientific Games has a long history of investing in innovative games, technology and services that maximize Lottery funds to benefit older Pennsylvanians. Our partnership with the Pennsylvania Lottery has resulted in one of the highest performing lotteries in the world.
Now we are thrilled to combine Scientific Games and NYX’s market-leading capabilities to offer entertaining digital games to Pennsylvania Lottery players, and to continue our support of Pennsylvania Lottery retailers with the iLottery affiliate program.”
Under the terms of Act 42, players must be physically located within Pennsylvania’s borders to play iLottery games.
And while players appear to be big fans of the new product line, local brick and mortar casinos have already cried foul over the increased competition.
Before the industry officially went live, Pennsylvania’s 13 licensed casino operators – including Harrah’s, Mohegan Sun, and Sands – penned a letter to Governor Wolf requesting that the games be suspended pending further study. Per the casinos’ account, iLottery games like Ballroom Bingo violate the terms of Act 42, which prohibits the new products from resembling the gambling found on a casino floor:
“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.’”
That letter failed to sway the Governor, and according to Svitko, the Pennsylvania Lottery is preparing to make a major promotional push to support iLottery adoption:
“We’re partnering with our more than 9,400 Pennsylvania Lottery retailers to encourage players to sign up for iLottery.
Lottery games sold in stores will continue to be the foundation of our business and produce the majority of proceeds to benefit older adults.”