Illinois Lottery Ticket Sellers VS Internet Operation

Any move online must ensure that trade association members get a fair share

According to the trade body Illinois Retail Merchants Association, any move by the Illinois state lottery to take the sale of lottery tickets online will be opposed by traditional sellers if they do not obtain adequate benefits.

The Association said at a Chicago press conference this week, that internet sales, already set to begin on March 25, could cost the state 7,000 jobs as customers would gravitate to the Internet and retailers would subsequently lay off workers.

Not only that, but the group wants more discussion between all interested parties on several related matters, one of them being how to prevent those under the age of 18 from gambling.

Association president and CEO David Vite said: "It is in everyone's interest . . . to ensure the implementation of Internet lottery is done properly from the start and builds on the relationship with Main Street retailers."

State legislator Jim Watson, a Republican from Jacksonville, complicated the issue even more by introducing a bill that would allow Illinois residents to buy a lottery ticket on the internet only if they first purchase a "stored-value card" at a traditional retailer for cash — a card on which the retailer would receive a minimum 5 percent commission. He also wants to restrict the pay-out of any lottery prize up to $600 to traditional retail outlets.

Illinois lottery executive Mike Jones has labeled Watson's bill as a "special interest legislation." He argues that research in countries like England, Italy and France has shown how Internet sales attract so many new players to the lottery that retailers rather benefit than lose out.

"We think this move into internet operations is extremely positive for retailers," Jones said this week, hinting at revised game and award systems that would help retailers even more. He also claimed it's relatively easy to control underage gambling online by using registration, credit card and other data.

When earlier this year federal enforcement agencies lifted long-standing policies and legal objections, the possibilities for Internet lottery sales became more positive.

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