Sunday April 28, 2013 : MICHIGAN LOTTERY WANTS TO GO ONLINE
Political debate continues as lottery officials ask for funding to get into internet lottery and games
Political opinion in Michigan is split on whether to accede to a request from the state lottery for $3 million in order to take sales and games online to increase revenues destined to support public schools in the state.
According to Associated Press news agency reports, the lottery has identified the internet as a major prospective boost to its business, and wants to take lottery sales online and introduce online games.
The current debate on the state budget has brought the internet request into focus, with lottery officials suggesting that i-lottery operations should commence in 2014.
The House has agreed the funding as requested, but there is opposition in the state Senate which officials hope can be brought onside by next (May) month.
Associated Press reports that Illinois and Georgia sell lottery tickets online, and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are exploring possibilities.
Lottery spokesperson Andi Brancato said this week that e-commerce was a business fact of modern life, and that the state should embrace it.
Internet action could provide the state education system with $8 million in the first year, lottery officials estimate, predicting that internet revenues could grow to $471 million over the following seven years. The school fund already receives $780 million in lottery profits under the present system, and internet facilities could boost that substantially.
Hardcore Republican lawmakers are against the introduction of internet gambling, protesting that i-lottery internet wagering could be a foot in the door for legalised online gambling generally.
Rep. Kevin Cotter told AP this week that he had no issue with state lottery commissioner M. Scott Bowen suggesting the initiative, because his job was to present opportunities to maximise profits. However, he has proposed legalization to prohibit online ticket sales, commenting:
"It's up to us as legislators to stand up and take issue with that source of revenue.”
The Senate budget as currently proposed includes language that would prohibit the lottery from spending any money on an i-Lottery venture.
Meanwhile, the state lottery has made sure it is positioned for any eventuality, in January requesting bids from companies interested in developing and supporting an online system and games .
The winner of the RFP was to have been announced this week but now is scheduled to be notified in mid-June.
Lottery officials say Republican concerns around problem gamblers and credit card debt temptations are unfounded because modern Internet technology can be used to impose safeguards. Geolocation and ID technologies are well developed and could be deployed, along with play limit and exclusion measures, they argue.
Although a Republican, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has so far demonstrated an even-handed approach to the issue, expressing confidence that an Internet lottery will not harm convenience stores and restaurants.
His administration also thinks the move can be made without contradicting a 2004 state constitutional amendment requiring most new gambling to be approved in a referendum of voters at the state and local levels.
Rep. Earl Poleski, a fellow Republican who chairs the House budget sub-committee, agrees with the governor, saying that if the lottery wants to grow its market it is a reasonable ambition.
"In days of limited dollars available for (schools), it would be imprudent to not consider how to grow that revenue," he said this week