Bill to allow online lottery sales gets push at Statehouse

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BOSTON >> A legislative committee has advanced a proposal that could allow lottery tickets to be sold online in Massachusetts.

Under current state law, lottery sales are limited to licensed retail outlets.

The Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee this week released with a favorable report a bill that would authorize the Lottery Commission to conduct games online and through mobile apps.

The Senate chairwoman of the panel, Democratic Sen. Barbara L'Italien, said creation of online lottery games would give the Massachusetts Lottery "the tools it needs to compete in the 21st-century economy."

"Since millennials and other younger players have grown up with access to technology at their fingertips, they are less likely to purchase lottery tickets in the traditional marketplace and we need to find an alternative way to engage them," she said.

Lottery proceeds go to cities and towns for municipal services.

The bill would require an age verification system to ensure that no one under 18 plays the lottery, and buyers would have to be physically within Massachusetts when making online transactions.

Convenience store operators fear online sales would cost them business.

"One of the issues with moving things online is, obviously, reduced traffic in the stores," said Joanne Mendes, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association. "People come in for lottery tickets and hopefully purchase other things as well."

The bill would require that lottery winnings of more than $200 but less than $600 from tickets bought online be claimed in person at a licensed sales location such as a convenience store. Prizes of $600 or more must be claimed at the lottery's headquarters.

The measure must still clear the full House and Senate, and it's unclear whether votes will be taken before the current legislative session ends July 31.


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