There was never much doubt that the introduction – and continued growth in number – of games of skill in Pennsylvania taverns and small shops would negatively impact certain segments of the Commonwealth. “gaming infrastructure.”
Even now, with major analysis for the Pennsylvania Lottery completed, the full impact of games of skill is likely not known. Meanwhile, what the future might hold is disturbingly uncertain.
At the same time, it is reasonable to assume that the main conclusion of the analysis might have overlooked an important and relevant element in what can be described as the big picture.
The analysis, using data collected by the Lottery and its supplier, Scientific Games, concluded that the Lottery has lost $650 million in scratch ticket sales since 2017, due to the expansion of games of skill.
However, could it be that scratch ticket sales have declined due to a reduction in the total amount of prizes paid by scratch games?
A year ago, at a business in Blair County where scratch tickets are sold, the salesperson remarked, based on what he had observed, that the total amount of ticket prices per pound had significantly decreases.
Could customers’ frustration at buying lost tickets – and apparently finding it more difficult to earn even the purchase amount of a ticket – be to blame for declining interest in scrapings?
Two other important conclusions from the analysis in question, as reported in a front-page article in the Mirror last Tuesday:
* In the past 52 weeks alone analyzed, the Lottery lost $165 million in scratch ticket sales to Games of Skill machines.
* The total lost revenue figure since 2017 means the Lottery has generated $200 million less in revenue that would have gone to programs to help seniors.
For the past eight years, the Mirror has warned of the oversaturation of gambling and the state government‘s growing reliance on gambling to help solve budgetary problems.
Programs for seniors are one example; there was a time when these programs were funded entirely by the state budget, not by gambling profits.
On May 5, 2019, a Mirror editorial headline observed “Online gambling leaves lottery profits at risk.”
On May 24, 2018, the Mirror rightly observed that “Money for gambling is not unlimited, and when money is transferred to a new gambling option, there will be less money poured into games and gambling facilities that players have frequented before. “
The article on the front page last Tuesday is further confirmation of this fact.
On May 4, 2017, the Mirror expressed skepticism about a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board official’s statement that “Gambling addiction is a huge problem for (only) a very small percentage of people,” compared to state casinos. Meanwhile, speculation about Skill Games’ contribution to problem gambling is not to be scoffed at.
Skill games are not regulated.
The casino industry is among those who want the Legislature to shut down games of skill, but it is the Legislature that is responsible for what many in this state see as the current gambling craze in the Commonwealth.
Therefore, don’t expect any earth-shattering actions from the Legislative Assembly any time soon, although perhaps there should be some.