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Coming Soon: More Online Lotteries


Soon you may not have to go to your local corner store to buy a lottery ticket. Following the lead of states like Minnesota, which began offering its own online subscription lottery service a year ago, several states are making plans to sell tickets online soon. Illinois passed a law in 2009 to set up an online lottery and lawmakers from other states also support moving their lotteries to the web, including California, New Jersey, D.C., Nevada and Massachusetts. In Minnesota’s case, the online lottery service works much like the regular one. Online subscription players choose their numbers, make an online payment, and receive confirmation by email.

However, there are drawbacks to playing online. John Mellein, spokesman for the Minnesota Lottery says going to the store to buy a ticket is better for consumers as they can ask the sales assistant questions about the service, and will better see what games are available behind the counter. Plus, others say bringing any form of lottery or gambling onto home computers is a bad move, especially during a time of high unemployment; Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, says people might be tempted to play the lottery excessively if they need money ahead of the holidays, the country’s biggest shopping season. What’s more, Buddy Roogow, executive director of D.C. Lottery, says all online lottery games must be played by people in the jurisdiction where they live. Currently, you can walk into a 7/11 in New York and buy a “Powerball” ticket even if you live in California.

States obviously see a potentially huge revenue source. Already, state lotteries are hugely popular with consumers. Americans wage estimated $66 billion waged annually in the U.S., according to a survey U.S. Digital Gaming, a company that was set up three years ago to assist 10 states move online. (Richard Baskin, co-chairman of U.S. Digital Gaming, declined to give the names of those states for commercial reasons.) By moving online, these numbers are likely to grow, Bronson says. But others are less skeptical about the ability of online lottery games to cut state deficits. David G. Schwartz is director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “We’ve had legalized gaming in Nevada for 80 years and our budget has not been solved.”

Pay Dirt readers, would you play online poker or the lottery if it was run by your state?


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.