Pennsylvania Senators and Governor could be at odds over online gambling

24 January 2013


Some Pennsylvania senators are seeking clarification from Governor Tom Corbett regarding the Pennsylvania Lottery and the ability for its private-run firm to possibly compete with state casinos through online gambling.

The Lottery contract with the private firm, Camelot Global Services, was finalized last week for a 20- to 30- year term. While the agreement prohibits video poker, video poker-like games, and video lottery terminals, it is less clear on Internet gaming. Under the new contract Camelot could deliver monitor-based keno games, as well as other games, to up to 3,000 bars and restaurants in the state.

With the recently enacted ban on “sweepstakes cafes”, internet cafes that offered online gambling, the Senators writing the letter to the governor expressed concern that offering monitor-based keno in bars and restaurants, or games that were available via smart phones, personal computers, or Playstation consoles, created “no difference between that operation and those in casinos, except that casinos are subject to far more scrutiny.”

The letter goes on to detail the elaborate fees, regulations, and background checks all state casinos must pay and abide by to operate in Pennsylvania.

“There is concern that the contract would allow Camelot Gaming or its subcontractors to expand the lottery from what is generally considered to be ‘keno’ and provide unlimited types of internet and monitor-based interactive games. Not only is this a broader expansion of gambling than has been described, but these games will directly compete against our highly regulated casinos…While we understand it is not your objective to expand gaming, the language we have seen in these contracts and standards would do exactly that.”

The letter was signed by several Pennsylvania senators, namely Joe Scarnati, Dominic Pileggi, Robert Tomlinson, Patric Browne, and Kim Ward.

While the Corbett administration, and by association, Camelot, state a commitment to a cautious approach to any new games that are allowed under the law, it is well known that Lottery proceeds fund programs, like property-tax rebates and prescription drug discounts, for older Pennsylvania residents. As the senior population of the PA state continues to grow, so does the demand for more revenue, programs, and spending.

The issue is a hot one as comments on articles around the internet pit casino operators against seniors, the Governor against the Republican Caucus, a UK-based firm against Pennsylvania operators.

What’s your take?

Read the full online gambling letter to Governor Corbett.

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