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Massachusetts Treasurer Pining for Online Lottery Ticket Sales

12/12/2018

In 2016, the Massachusetts Senate approved an amendment allowing residents to purchase lottery tickets online. However, the measure was never taken up by the House and it and went to the bill graveyard. 

Based on the comments made by Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg, it would appear this issue is still on the table. The news comes one month after Goldberg reported that Lottery revenues for the state had dropped from a record $1.035 billion in 2017 and to $997 million in fiscal 2018. Further adding fuel to the issue is the fact New Hampshire reported selling over $1.3 million in net gaming revenue from online sales since the option went live in September. 

Goldberg is pushing the idea that the state's lottery needs to appeal to a younger market. That would mean offering lottery tickets online through a website and/or mobile app. The point being that Millennials are becoming increasingly more reliant on technology as consumers. 

Since its inception, the Massachusetts Lottery has been generating revenues to be used to provide local aid throughout the state. Even a small decrease against rising community development costs is apt to cause anxiety as local communities compete for lottery dollars. 

One of the primary concerns about offering lottery tickets online is the impact it would have on convenience store operators, gas stations and quick-marts. This is an important consideration because these types of business depend on traffic generated by people stopping in to play the lottery. 

In response, Goldberg, a former retailer, indicated safeguards would be in place to protect such businesses. She stated, "Done right, an online Lottery will help them — directing new customers through their doors." She later added, "If we want to uphold our commitment to supplying reliable local aid to our cities and towns, we have no choice but to respond proactively to these challenges." 

As an opponent of online lottery ticket access, Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) has this to say: "I'd hope that Massachusetts had ways of raising revenue that didn't exacerbate addictive activities like gambling, but I guess that would require the thoughtful, difficult work of tax reform." 

Representing retailers and opposing the initiative, Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts expressed his concern about the damage this would cause to his industry.

 
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