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Poll finds 50% of Mass. residents favor online lotto amidst scratch ticket sale decline

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Getting your hands covered in shiny bits of lottery scratch ticket foil dust, hoping for the monetary answer to all of your worldly problems, has long been a beloved Massachusetts vice.

But a recent poll found half of residents would support being able to play the lottery online. It’s an ongoing proposal being considered in State House legislations — and amidst gambling’s changing landscape in the state, it’d be a move the Lottery Director argues would level the playing field in “instant” gaming.

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

“If we had 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,” the director 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 the 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 budget proposal included $75 million in projected revenue from authorizing online lottery sales.

The House’s budget plan released earlier this month also included the authorization, and the proposal will stay in conversation pending final spending plans.

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

Bracken said this decline was based on several factors, one big one being sports betting’s easy online interface. The rising popularity of lottery ticket courier apps has been even further indication how badly people want to play 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.

Bracken recalled recently buying a scratch ticket through a courier service in Florida — “I am allowed to play in other states,” he said with a laugh — and said it was a “cool experience,” one he wanted to test if it were to become a reality in Massachusetts.

But even that newfound and budding success for the lottery could be felled by sports betting, Bracken worried. DraftKings reached a deal with Jackpocket to buy out the major online lottery courier company for $750 million in February, and said it’s looking to turn lottery players on to sports betting.

“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, led by an online competitor “part of the reason for our sales dip,” is causing the lottery to lose footing 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 be able to do it,” he told MassLive.

It’s going start coming down to a choice on where people who gamble in Massachusetts are choosing to spend that gambling money on, Bracken said, and he’s worried which platform they’ll choose — but the poll shows many players are behind him on stepping online.

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