By Bob Katzen
Front and center up on Beacon Hill last week: Treasurer Deb Goldberg continued her campaign to allow the state’s Lottery to sell tickets online. She told a budget panel that Lottery sales have begun to drop, citing the record $1.035 billion it generated in 2017 and the drop to $997 million in fiscal 2018.
Of the 44 states with lotteries, 11 of them now offer online purchases. New Hampshire started selling online in September and in just 12 weeks, the state posted over $1.3 million in net gaming revenue from online sales alone.
“The landscape has shifted and technology has transformed every aspect of our lives,” said Goldberg. I am confident that our Lottery will continue to maximize its performance, maintain current revenues, and meet the need for unrestricted local aid — but all of us as partners must take the next steps together.”
Goldberg said the next step is to allow the Lottery to go online to cater to the new and younger market which is used to doing everything online. “We need to provide the Lottery with the tools and resources necessary to win new customers, utilizing digital marketing and providing frictionless transactions through cashless purchasing options.”
Goldberg, a former retailer, said she wants to make sure the state protects the retail stores that sell tickets —particularly convenience store operators, gas stations and quick-marts. “Done right, an online Lottery will help them — directing new customers through their doors,” said the treasurer.
“If we want to uphold our commitment to supplying reliable local aid to our cities and towns, we have no choice but to respond proactively to these challenges,” said Goldberg.
The opposition is determined to keep the ban on online sales. “It’s ridiculous and disgraceful and will undoubtedly be a waste of money for people that don’t have the money to waste,” said Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport). “I’d hope that Massachusetts had ways of raising revenue that didn’t exacerbate addictive activities like gambling, but I guess that would require the thoughtful, difficult work of tax reform.”
“We believe good state public policy should incentivize our consumers to spend in our economy with our local small businesses,” said opponent Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Consumers represent 70 percent of the economy and the commonwealth should recognize the importance of impulse buys when spending locally with a brick and mortar employer. To take the traffic away from small businesses will mean lower sales on a variety of consumer products.”
In 2016, the Senate approved an amendment that allowed online Lottery sales. However, the measure was never taken up by the House and it died.