HARRISBURG – Representatives of the state’s casinos began making their case on Thursday that online games run by the state Lottery are too similar to games they’d like to begin offering in July.

A Commonwealth Court judge heard arguments after casinos filed paperwork earlier this month asking for an injunction in their 8-month-old lawsuit arguing that some of the lottery’s online games violate the 2017 state law that authorized them because they simulate slot machines and casino-style gambling. The casino operators argue the law indicated the Lottery was allowed to offer online games, but that those games weren’t supposed to directly compete with the casinos' online gambling.

Lottery officials say the games are in accordance with the law. Both sides began making their cases before Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer in Harrisburg on Thursday.

Ten casinos have approval from the Gaming Control Board to offer online gaming as soon as July 15. Casinos are allowed to offer online slots, online table games and online pokers, said Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Gaming Control Board. Three casinos — Mohegan Sun near Wilkes Barre; Presque Isle Downs, near Erie; and Live Casino in Philadelphia — have indicated they will offer online slots and table games but not poker, Harbach said. The other seven casinos – Parx Casino, Harrah’s Casino, and SugarHouse Casino, all in Philadelphia; Mount Airy Casino Resort; the Hollywood Casino near Hershey; the Sands Casino in Bethlehem; and the Valley Forge Casino – have indicated they would offer all three types of games online.

Pennsylvania in 2017 became the first state to allow online play for both commercial casinos and its state lottery.

The state Lottery launched its online Lottery games last year.

In court testimony, Parx Casino chief operating officer John Dixon said some of the online games offered by the Lottery are “very similar, if not identical” to games in the casino. He said the Lottery’s had an advantage because the Lottery online games were made available to the public first.

Attorneys for the casinos presented emails and notes taken by Lottery officials indicating they had examined casino games while researching possible games to offer online.

Kara Sparks, director of products for the Lottery, testified that Lottery officials looked at the casino games to get concepts about games. But she said Lottery officials did not try to duplicate casino games. Sparks said when the Lottery began developing its online games, they did try to avoid creating games that would create competition for the Lottery’s existing games, such as scratch-off tickets and draw games like the Lotto and Powerball.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Friday.

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

Recommended for you