Wednesday December 12, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Treasurer Steven Grossman is gearing up to ask state lawmakers for permission to create and test what he hopes will be a first wave of Internet lottery games in Massachusetts.

Grossman said Tuesday that he plans to ask the Legislature to eliminate existing barriers in state law that prevent the lottery from selling tickets and other games online or accepting credit cards as a form of payment.

Grossman said the kinds of lottery items for sale on the Internet could include familiar games like Mega Millions, Powerball and instant tickets.

But Lottery officials are also looking at possibly developing so-called "social gaming" ventures like fantasy sports leagues. Other games such as online poker might not be feasible at first.

Grossman said the Lottery needs to test different games to decide which might produce the most revenue. He said the threat of Internet gambling to existing state lotteries is "imminent."

"Internet gaming is going to be a fact of life and is going to have an impact on lotteries all over the country in the relatively near future," he said. "We want to move as quickly as we can, as appropriately as we can."

Grossman, who as treasurer oversees the lottery, said a special task force he set up to explore the issue is preparing to release its findings.

Among those recommendations is that any plan to expand the lottery online must also protect the 7,400 convenience stores, liquor stores and other stores that sell physical lottery tickets. Grossman called the lottery agents the backbone of the system.

The lottery is expected to collect net profits of about $927 million in the current year. The money is returned to cities and towns in the form of local aid.

In explaining his push for online lottery games, Grossman pointed to a U.S. Justice Department ruling last December that reversed its previous stance barring states from conducting online gambling.

The department’s ruling goes far beyond tickets, however, opening the door to states offering virtually any form of gambling, except on sports. Grossman said the new ruling allows the Massachusetts Lottery to market online to in-state adults with credit cards.

The Legislature is set to come back into formal session in January for a new two-year term.

"We want to test it out and we want to test it out very, very carefully," Grossman said. "We want to gather more data."