May 24, 2013 – Internet Lottery sales offer state lotteries a chance to expand outside of traditional channels, attract younger players, and compete with casinos.
Economists might call it “reducing barriers to entry,” while everyday people would simply say it makes playing the lottery easier and more convenient.
Ohio is the most recent state, after Illinois and Michigan, to weigh the benefits and dangers of online lottery sales, which could help generate revenue for lottery-supported programs, but could hurt retailers and even individuals, as opponents have pointed out.
The Ohio House of Representatives passed a new state budget bill that would prohibit online lottery sales, though as the budget plan works its way through the Senate it seems certain to change.
“Both sides of the online-purchase debate seem to agree that the House ban is too broad,” said Thomas Ott in a Plain Dealer report, adding that the bill threatens computer systems which allow retailers to print and sell tickets in person.
The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, which represents more than 4,400 businesses in the state, helped draft the bill that includes the ban on online lottery sales.
Their concerns over online sales of lottery tickets rest not only on the commission they take from the lottery, but also on the potential loss of business from lottery players who would no longer have to go to a brick-and-mortar store to buy their tickets.
But the Ohio Lottery sees online sales as a potential boon for the state economy.
“It’s not in the best interest of the Lottery or the state to close a potential avenue of purchase for our games, [we want] to keep all of our options open as the market evolves,” Lottery spokeswoman Danielle Frizzi-Babb told the Plain Dealer.
Though much of the debate centers on the potential of online lottery sales to harm brick-and-mortar retailers, opponents have also pointed out that minors could use their parent’s devices, credit and debit cards to make unauthorized lottery purchases.
In addition to being illegal, the potential for minors to purchase lottery tickets online could spell big trouble for parents’ bank accounts, as lawsuits over in-app purchases have shown in the past.