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Online Lottery Sales Not Included in Massachusetts Senate’s Budget, But Debit Card Payment Is

LOTTERY GEEKS (May 8, 2024) The Massachusetts Senate has unveiled its budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1, pushing to spend $57.9 billion. That would mark a $1.8 billion, or 3.3%, increase from the current approved spending. But the state does not expect additional funding from online lottery sales.

The Senate’s budget, as media outlet Mass Live pointed out, has specifically excluded provisions for online lottery sales, a topic that has been a point of contention among stakeholders. Despite the potential for increased revenue through digital sales channels, the Senate has opted to maintain the status quo, focusing instead on other areas of fiscal management and revenue generation.

The House’s version of the budget has taken a different stance on several issues. The House proposed a budget of $56.2 billion for the fiscal year 2024, which included provisions for tax relief, the authorization of online lottery sales, and adjustments to the tax cap law that triggered mandatory rebates in the previous year. 

The Senate’s spending proposal, however, does introduce a significant change in the lottery ticket purchasing process. It calls for allowing the use of debit cards for the purchase of lottery tickets, moving away from the cash-only transactions that have been the norm. 

This shift is expected to generate an additional $25 million in revenue, according to Sen. Michael Rodrigues. At the same time, however, some estimates put the potential revenue from online lottery sales at as much as $100 million. 

Rodrigues asserted that offering online sales wouldn’t provide an immediate response to the fiscal needs of the government. Instead, he feels it would take at least 14 months before Massachusetts would begin to see any benefits. 

Gov. Maura Healey has been supportive of online lottery sales and included them in her $58 billion budget proposal in January. 

recent poll GBH, CommonWealth Beacon, and the MassINC Polling Group conducted indicated a split in public opinion regarding the legislative proposal to sell lottery products online. With 50% of the surveyed residents expressing support, the proposal seems to have as many proponents as it does opponents.

"If we had online lottery, we’d be able to do what they call ‘eInstant’ tickets … the instant ticket really isn’t instant anymore," said Lottery Director Mark William Bracken. "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."

Supporters of the proposal argue that the modernization of lottery sales could lead to increased revenue for the state, which could be used to fund public projects and services. They also point out that making lottery products available online would offer greater convenience for consumers and potentially attract a younger demographic that is more accustomed to online transactions. 

On the other hand, opponents raise concerns about the potential for increased gambling addiction, particularly among young adults. They also worry about the security of online transactions and the risk of fraud. Furthermore, there is apprehension about the impact this move could have on traditional lottery retailers and whether it would create unfair competition.

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