Pennsylvania’s gaming expansion is slowly coming along, with auctions for the category 4 satellite permits exceeding expectations and applications for licenses to develop online games coming this April. However, the actual launches will take more time as satellite locations still need to be built, and realistic projections for online casinos are looking closer to the end of the calendar year.
Fortunately, the state seems very optimistic that at least the new online lottery may be available as early as this spring. A launch that soon would allow Pennsylvania to see improved lottery revenues in reports for the current fiscal year.
State lotteries have had a presence in the Midwest since Illinois started selling tickets online in 2012, but it is expected that Pennsylvania is likely to try and follow the more ambitious example of Michigan’s iLottery setup. Michigan launched online lottery sales in late 2014, but quickly moved to expand options and increase promotion the following year after initial results were positive. Michigan now boasts 56 online games and has generated more than $163 million in revenue in its first three years.
Some valid concerns exist about whether Pennsylvania will be able to meet its expected revenue goals from iLottery sales, largely to do with the eventual competition from the coming online casinos. iLottery having a significant head start of many months may help in this regard, but even a full year might not be enough if results are similar to Michigan, where early revenues started out modest and built up over time (less than $20 million in the first full fiscal year, but this increased by 160% the following year and another 104% the year after that).
If, on the other hand, the target audiences of lottery games and online slots prove to not overlap too much then Pennsylvania may parallel Michigan’s growth despite the other aspects of the gaming expansion.
There are numerous games that might be included in Pennsylvania’s iLottery. Currently the Keystone State has a variety of draw games and scratch-offs available at retail locations which are likely to be offered as online games. Keno and virtual sports are also planned for the iLottery.
These traditional games are what first come to mind for most people when they think of lotteries, a series of numbers selected on a ticket where the results are then drawn at random and winning numbers are reported to the public. Any of Pennsylvania’s current draw games might become iLottery options this year:
- Mega Millions and Powerball– two of the most popular games in the country right now, these multi-jurisdiction lotteries allow winners to collect incredibly large jackpots in excess of $40 million (often reaching hundreds of millions of dollars). Players in many different states compete in the drawings, but if added to the iLottery then Pennsylvania residents would be able to do so without having to travel to a retailer. These are very likely games at launch, as they are fairly successful online options in Michigan.
- Pick 2, 3, 4, or 5– these are simpler traditional draw games in the Pennsylvania market, where a simple combination of numerals can result in a small win. All four games have the option of adding a Wild Ball number to expand gameplay. These are also a pretty likely launch option.
- Match 6– ideal for the player who wants to play a lot with few tickets, this game allows you to apply your numbers to multiple drawings at once.
- Cash 5 and Cash 4 Life– two identical games with completely opposite outcomes. The former rewards winners with a simple instant prize, no option for annuity. The other results in a small reward every day or week for the rest of your life, obviously either a much better or worse result depending on the state of your particular health.
- Treasure Hunt– daily pick 5 game where the player chooses numbers from 1-30, as opposed to 1-60 for the Cash games above.
- Millionaire Raffle– a $20 game where you receive a unique random 8 digit number, with a drawing to come once all numbers have been sold. The Pennsylvania Lottery claims this game offers the best chance of winning $1 million.
Games that typically are offered as cardboard tickets where you scratch an obscuring layer off to reveal results. These offerings change monthly but are fairly similar, so we can at least assume online games to be comparable to the current scratch-off tickets. For a few examples:
- O’Lucky 7s– a new game added this year, $5 a ticket with ten top prizes of $50,000.
- X the Bucks series– four different options with the same gameplay: match a winning number for a prize, with a potential multiplier option. Comes as 5X the Bucks, 10X the Bucks, 20X the Bucks, and 50X the Bucks. The larger the multiplier on the scratch-off the more expensive it is (and consequently offers a larger top prize and more chances to win).
- Fast Play– a trio of instant games at the $1-3 level that are printed at a self-service-touch-screen vending terminal, eliminating the need to scratch. Currently includes Tic-Tac-Luck, Fast Cash Bingo, and Moneycomb.
The state has touted the addition of keno and virtual sports as monitor games to retail locations, so current ticket sellers can worry less about online sales hurting their businesses. Dedicated monitors will allow customers to participate in fast-draw games. The keno option is likely to function exactly like traditional casino keno, in which players select numbers on a payslip and then watch the instant drawing to see results.
The virtual sports will simulate bets on fictional games played by computer animated athletes. Both options should have games every 4-5 minutes, seven days a week.
It’s also highly likely that both of these variants will show up as online variants. Both keno and virtual sports are featured on online gambling sites in New Jersey.