In 1971, Act 91 established the Pennsylvania State Lottery with the main purpose of funding programs and services for older Pennsylvanians. State law requires that at least 25% of gross lottery sales are dedicated to programs benefiting seniors. This funding includes money for senior centers, meals on wheels, property tax relief, and low-cost prescription drugs.
The Pennsylvania Lottery remains the only state lottery that designates all its proceeds to programs that benefit older residents. Pennsylvania has the fifth oldest population in the nation and the number of seniors will only continue to grow as baby boomers age, putting more strain on the state-funded services and programs.
Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Lottery has been facing increasing competition from unlicensed and untaxed gaming machines in recent years. Often marketed as “Games of Skills,” these machines are becoming more common in bars and convenience stores. The Pennsylvania State Police estimate there are 20,000 illegal gaming machines in Pennsylvania and that the numbers are rapidly growing.
The money spent at these unlicensed machines is money that would otherwise be directed toward gaming affiliated with the Pennsylvania Lottery, thus funding programs and services for older Pennsylvanians. The illegal gambling machines have siphoned $185 million away from the Pennsylvania Lottery, amounting to tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue for the Lottery Fund for senior programs
Two bills have been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature to address illegal gaming and to protect lottery funding for seniors. Senate Bill 710, sponsored by Senator Tomlinson, will make it illegal to make or sell skill machines. House Bill 931, sponsored by Representative Neilson, will strengthen the Crimes Code to help law enforcement seize the illegal gambling devices. If passed successfully, these bills could help preserve millions of dollars for older Pennsylvanians and services that help seniors afford prescription drugs, transportation, meals and more.