By Rob Jennings, USA TODAY
Going to the local convenience store to buy a lottery ticket might be the next common practice to give way to technology.
Minnesota began offering online lottery sales in November, and a bill to allow online sales has passed through an Assembly committee in New Jersey. Other states are exploring the idea.
“All gaming operations, including state lotteries, are trying to move toward Internet gambling,” says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
A total of 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer lotteries according to www.usa.gov.
Republican New York Assemblyman Clifford Crouch is sponsoring a bill that would allow online sales of Quick Draw and other games, with a goal of expanding the market.
Edwin McGuinn, chief executive officer of eLottery of Stamford, Conn., projects that a state with online lottery sales would increase revenue 15% within five years and attract “a demographic who doesn’t traditionally go into a convenience store to buy a ticket,” at a time when many states are grappling with budget deficits. He said that, in Britain and Finland, the online portions of government lottery sales are 15% and 25%, respectively.
Whyte, whose organization does not have a formal position on online lottery sales, said there are concerns with moving sales online, including “anonymity and social isolation.”
The Minnesota state lottery began selling online lottery subscriptions for up to a year on Nov. 18 for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, says Jenny Canfield, the state lottery’s director of operations. Canfield said the Minnesota lottery had sold 8,772 subscriptions as of last week, generating $333,476.
The New Jersey proposal has several hurdles to clear. A vote by the full Assembly is not yet scheduled and a companion bill, introduced in the Senate earlier this year, awaits a hearing. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has not said whether he would support the bill.
Some New Jersey merchants are against the proposal, fearing a dropoff in business.
“My fear is that somebody says, ‘Hey, if we can get a few extra bucks, it doesn’t matter that we’re taking away from small-business owners,'” said Sal Risalvato, New Jersey Gasoline and C-Store Automotive Association executive director.
Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, said the bill was amended to give merchants 5% of ticket revenue. Risalvato said that’s not enough. He said the real benefit to selling lottery tickets is that customers will pick up a cup of coffee or make other impulse purchases.