Convenience Store Owners Push Massachusetts Lawmakers to Scrap Online Lottery Plans

Convenience Store Owners Push Massachusetts Lawmakers to Scrap Online Lottery PlansMassachusetts retailers urge legislators to vote against plans to allow lottery games to go online because such a move would negatively impact their revenues, which depend on in-person sales to a large extent. In April this year, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure considered allowing an online lottery.

Provisions for an iLottery were included in the $56-billion budget bill for 2024, which passed the House on April 26. According to estimates, the online lottery will generate approximately $200 million in tax revenues for the state. Under the proposal, Massachusetts residents would be able to buy lottery tickets online, using their debit cards. Funds raised from the iLottery operations would fund early education and childcare.

A conference committee comprised of six members is still working on negotiating the final details of the budget. They must agree to a spending plan before sending it to Governor Maura Healey for approval.

Chelsea Turner, chief operations officer of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, warned that thorough research into responsible gaming and the social and economic impact of an online lottery must be conducted if the Legislature approves the iLottery proposal. Turner also noted that Massachusetts residents spend approximately $800 on lottery tickets per year, which is the most in the entire country.

The iLottery Proposal Does Not Include Guardrails, Retailers Claim

The proposal to authorize only lottery sales ruffled the feathers of retailers who fear the online lottery will hurt their operations. In a letter to legislators, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts expressed their concerns regarding the proposal, explaining that it does not have any guardrails to protect lottery sales agents, who are already struggling to stay ahead of the competition. The association’s vice president, Bill Rennie, wrote that swipe fees will dramatically increase the costs for such businesses as the proposal does not include a requirement for the Lottery to cover such taxes.

Retailers claim that their commission rates for offering lottery tickets have not increased for over 45 years, while the costs continue to rise. They asked the conference committee to disapprove the House’s plan to allow online lottery games. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts explained that the bill lacks provisions regarding the number and types of games that can be offered online, which poses a significant threat to convenience store owners.

As reported by BonusInsider in April, Treasurer Deb Goldberg has been a strong advocate of iLottery, explaining that by allowing the lottery to sell its products online, the state will stay competitive with other neighboring states that already offer online lottery games.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, six states, including New Hampshire, have already regulated online lottery sales. Moreover, the state’s sports betting industry is on the rise, and figures come to prove this. State data show that Massachusetts sportsbooks raked in more than $580 million in wagers in April.

The future of the online lottery looks quite optimistic because Governor Maura Healey also supports the proposal. In her opinion, such a move would put the state-run lottery on a more even footing with sports wagering, now available in-person and online.