By Bob Katzen
The Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held a well-attended hearing on legislation that would allow the Lottery to sell tickets to its games including scratch tickets, jackpot draw games and Keno.
Lottery officials have unsuccessfully filed this bill for several years and say it will boost sales and provide more local aid to cities and towns. Retailers across the state oppose the idea and say it would destroy small businesses and threaten the Lottery’s success.
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, the sponsor of the measure, said that the Lottery must respond proactively to the challenges faced today to continue supplying reliable local aid to cities and towns.
“The gaming and entertainment environment have changed significantly since the Lottery’s inception in 1972,” said Goldberg. “A growing number of states have recognized the shift toward frictionless transactions and the competitive advantage of engaging consumers on multiple platforms, online and in stores. In fact, of the 44 states with their own lotteries, eleven now offer games online. New Hampshire started selling online last September, posting over $1.3 million in net gaming revenue in just twelve weeks from online sales alone. We know that more states will follow.”
“The Retailers Association of Massachusetts believes it should be the default position of state government officials and state public policy to incent consumers to spend their vital dollars in the local economy,” said Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM). “[An] Online lottery doesn’t do that. The state Lottery is one of the most successful in the country with record profits. And we must start asking ourselves with [the] Lottery, casinos, and soon online sports betting, just how much gaming is too much.”
Executive Director of the Lottery Michael Sweeney compared the current Lottery to an old rotary dial telephone which he held up in front of the committee. “This device still actually does work, if it’s properly connected,” testified Sweeney. “As you know, obviously it’s a land-based device, it’s heavy and it’s also a little bit clunky. But it was revolutionary in its time, much like the Massachusetts state Lottery was when introduced in the 1970s. Times have rapidly changed and what has now occurred is we have undergone a huge consumer and technology revolution.”
Robert Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association testified against the bill. “We were earlier in this hearing compared to a telephone, essentially,” said Mellion. “That’s what brick-and-mortar was compared with and this is what retailers across the state were just compared to. I’ll say this about a telephone, it works. It works in a snowstorm, it works when it’s sunny out, it works in a hurricane. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”