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Editorial: Lottery’s viability depends on access to online presence



The tactile sensation of scratching a ticket bought at your local convenience store has been a longstanding ritual for players of the Massachusetts Lottery.

But a recent poll found that half of the respondents would support allowing the Lottery to expand online. It’s an idea that’s been proposed many times – and rejected – by the Legislature, despite the state’s changing gambling landscape.

It’s long been the mission of state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the Lottery, to realize that online ability to level the gaming playing field, especially since lawmakers availed sports betting of that digital platform.

“It’s interesting… it’s called an instant ticket, you should be able to get that ticket instantly,” Lottery Executive Director Mark William Bracken told MassLive on the launch of its “Jaws”-themed scratch ticket in March.

“If we had an online Lottery, we’d be able to do what they call ‘e-instant’ tickets… the instant ticket really isn’t ‘instant’ anymore. What’s instant now is being able to place your wager on a sports bet, on fantasy sports, on your phone from one of these gaming platform apps,” Bracken said.

The poll, conducted by GBH, CommonWealth Beacon and the MassINC Polling Group, found 50% of the more than 1,000 residents surveyed were in favor of a legislative proposal to sell “lottery products online to customers aged 18 and over.”

Seventeen percent of those who responded were strongly in favor and 33% were somewhat in favor of an iLottery. A total of 37% of respondents somewhat or strongly opposed, and 13% did not know or refused to answer.

Legislators have yet to reach a decision on an iLottery legalization bill, but Gov. Maura Healey’s fiscal 2025 budget proposal included $75 million in projected revenue from authorizing online Lottery sales.

The House’s budget proposal released earlier this month also included an online Lottery authorization, which means that language will likely remain in the mix until the approval of a final spending plan.

And despite the fact that almost 70% of respondents said they’d bought “a scratch or lottery ticket” over the last year, the Lottery’s report last month on February activity showed a $41.1 million decline in scratch ticket sales compared to February 2023.

Bracken said this slippage was based on several factors, but none more significant than the ease of making an online sports wager. The rising popularity of Lottery ticket courier apps like Jackpocket is another indicator of the building interest in playing the Lottery online.

“These couriers, their sale is still my sale,” Bracken has said. “They’re actually helping us… they are definitely attracting a crowd that doesn’t normally buy a ticket online because it’s at the convenience of the phone.”

And the couriers are “chomping at the bit to be able to do instant tickets,” the director said.

But even the newfound success of that Lottery sales vehicle could be undercut by sports betting.

That’s because Boston-based sports betting platform DraftKings, which reached a deal with Jackpocket to buy the online lottery courier for $750 million in February, said it’s looking to turn Lottery players into sports bettors.

“The proposed transaction will enable DraftKings to access and grow into the massive U.S. lottery industry,” the company said in its February announcement, “but more importantly strengthen its position in sportsbook and iGaming through higher customer lifetime value — based on demonstrated cross-sell capabilities — and an enhanced customer acquisition engine.”

Bracken had said this acquisition has caused the Lottery to lose traction in an area it should be leading.

“I’m now going to have an online sports wagering vendor that’s going to be able to facilitate the carrying of my tickets. And me being the ticket printer — the home of the ticket — I’m still not going to be able to do it,” he told MassLive.

That’s an irony that he’d rather not contemplate.

It’s coming down to where people who gamble in Massachusetts choose to spend their gambling money, Bracken said. And though he’s worried about which platform they’ll choose, that poll showing solid support for shifting Lottery games online should be seen as a silver lining in this cloud of uncertainty.

We trust the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the legislative leaders who’ll decide the Lottery’s online fate understand the potential negative consequences of DraftKings’ purchase of Jackpocket.

If that sports betting juggernaut does succeed in siphoning sales from the client it’s supposed to be supporting, that would have a serious impact on the Lottery’s ability to continue sending the state’s cities and towns about a $1 billion in annual unrestricted local aid.

That should be reason enough for the Legislature to give the Lottery that level online playing field required to compete against its digital gaming rivals.

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