This is rich. A group of Pennsylvania casinos has sued to stop the state lottery from offering online games, which the casinos allege are illegal.

The state regulates the casinos. But now, the casinos are the ones claiming that what the state lottery is doing is illegal.

The legal flap between Pennsylvania’s two major gambling syndicates echoes a line from “The Godfather Part II,” when Hyman Roth explains why he didn’t question the killing of his friend and casino mogul Moe Greene: “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

No one is taking a bullet in the eye, as Greene did, but watching the casinos and the lottery fight over the newest gambling front is just as disturbing.

It’s no surprise the casino industry is at odds with the lottery. After all, Pennsylvania has never had a coherent gambling policy beyond expanding games of chance to every corner of the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Lottery was created in 1971 with the goal of providing tax relief to senior citizens. How has that worked out? The state now uses more vague language about lottery revenues “benefiting older Pennsylvanians.”

The first lottery game sold 50-cent tickets for a weekly drawing of $50,000. A year later, the lottery expanded to three weekly games and two new ones. By 1977, the lottery had pushed into the numbers racket, offering a daily three-digit drawing televised live. Today, there are 12 different drawings and 10 scratch-off games. The cost of a scratch-off ticket is as much as $30.

Pennsylvania’s annual lottery revenues top $4 billion. But most lottery sales come from poor and minority residents. Many are addicted: One report said 54 percent of lottery sales come from just 5 percent of players. Given Pennsylvania’s aggressive expansion and marketing of the lottery, it is hard to determine who is more addicted: lawmakers or the gamblers.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: