Online Slots vs. Online Lottery–What’s The Difference?

Martin Derbyshire June 23, 2018
apples and oranges

The Pennsylvania Lottery launched instant win online lottery games at the end of May 2018.

Since these are the first legal and regulated online gambling products to be introduced in the Commonwealth, you may be wondering what the difference is between an instant win online lottery games and online slots.

The truth is, outside of a few bells and whistles, there really isn’t much of a difference at all.

Players click a button and hope to get lucky. Whether it’s an online slot or an instant win online lottery games, it’s gambling in it’s purest form.

Of course, there are state regulations preventing the Pennsylvania Lottery from offering online lottery games that use casino themes or simulate the gameplay of casino games like slots.

As a result, the 11 instant win online lottery games available on the Pennsylvania Lottery’s website at launch feature themes that are a lot different from the slot machines that fill the state’s 12 casino properties. Plus, while the gameplay is similar, you won’t see any reels spinning like you do on a traditional slot.

Today’s modern video slots

Many of today’s modern video slot machines, online and off, feature themes based popular TV shows, movies, and recording artists. They have great soundtracks, high-quality graphics, and interactive video displays. Some offer exciting bonus rounds and side games that change things up entirely.

You won’t find this kind of thing on the new Pennsylvania Lottery online lottery website. Instant win online lottery games are not as high end. However, some do have bonus rounds that offer free games. Plus, most have at least some user customization features, where players will at the very least have the ability to change the size of each bet.

The 11 PA iLottery instant win online lotto games available at launch also include one Slingo game that combines elements of slot machines and bingo into its own unique game format.

The PA iLottery instant win online lotto game available online now include:

  • Foxin’ Wins Reveal
  • Super CashBuster
  • Big Money Slingo
  • Big Foot Reveal
  • Crossword Cash
  • Cash in the Lamp
  • Super Gems
  • Robin Hood Reveal
  • Volcano Reveal
  • Monster Wins Reveal
  • CashBuster Towers

In contrast, the some of the most popular online slot titles at online casinos in neighboring New Jersey include:

  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Deal Or No Deal
  • The Godfather
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • KISS
  • Spartacus
  • Wizard of Oz Road to Emerald City
  • Jurassic Park
  • Game Of Thrones

Random number generators

PA Lottery Fast Play, draw games, and traditional scratch-off tickets are not available online in PA at this point.

However, most of the instant win online lotto games feature a gameplay area where players reveal spaces trying to match up various symbols that have a corresponding prize value. This makes the games very similar to an electronic version of a traditional scratch-off ticket.

However, the way an instant win online lottery game’s outcome is determined makes them just as similar to an online slot.

Both used computerized random number generators to determine the outcome of each play. As a result of all this, instant win online lottery games can probably be best described as a stripped down version of an online slot.

Slots versus instant win lotto games

PA lawmakers approved the introduction of online lottery games and online gambling as a part of a comprehensive gambling expansion law passed in October 2017.

That means online slots are also on their way to Pennsylvania. The PA online gambling regulatory and licensing process is still underway. In fact, Pennsylvania’s first online slot websites will not likely launch until the end of 2018 or early 2019.

When they do, online slots and instant win online lotto games will compete in the same US market for the first time.

The question is, can they coexist?

Although they clearly don’t offer the glitz and glamour of online slots, instant win online lottery games function in much the same way. Therefore, they will likely attract the same kind of players. Will the head start the Pennsylvania Lottery has given itself be enough to allow it to hold on to the customer base it builds though?

When it comes to most savvy gamblers, the answer would typically be no.

Taxes and return to player rates

Online slots typically have a higher return to player rate (RTP) than instant win online lotto games. However, PA’s oppressive online gambling tax scheme may help to even things out on that front.

Pennsylvania imposes a 54 percent tax rate on slots at its land-based casinos and has every intention of charging online operators that same rate.

The slots at Pennsylvania casinos have one of the worst RTPs in the country as a result of this. Part of the cost of the taxes effectively gets pushed onto the consumer and Pennsylvania’s RTP ends up sitting at the low end of the spectrum, hovering below 90 percent.

If the same thing happens online, and it likely will, the 87 percent RTP on Pennsylvania instant win online lotto games suddenly doesn’t look that bad. It’s a difference, but not one that’s likely to make gamblers move.

Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan are the only other two states in the country that offer instant win online lottery games. These states have yet to put their games up against the similar, but likely more appealing product that is today’s modern online slot.

Pennsylvania will be the first to do that, and it remains to be seen which games will be more popular.