Less than one week after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker introduced a sports betting bill which would allow for online wagering, the state’s top lottery official is crying foul over the lack of a Massachusetts iLotto component.
During a Massachusetts State Lottery Commission (MSLC) hearing held last Tuesday, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg made it clear that her office wouldn’t support any online gambling legislation that lacked a so-called “iLotto” provision.
Goldberg’s office oversees the Massachusetts State Lottery, and she has been championing online lotto ticket sales since 2016. That year saw the state Senate pass Massachusetts iLotto legislation, but the bill wound up dying on the vine within the state House of Representatives.
She introduced similar legislation to begin the 2019 session, but with no less than four sports betting bills put forth to begin the 2019 legislative session threatening to steal her proverbial thunder, Goldberg is pulling no punches in defending the Massachusetts iLotto concept.
During the Tuesday hearing held by the MSLC, Goldberg issued the following ultimatum to state lawmakers:
“If sports betting is available online, the Lottery must be available online also.
That’s the issue moving forward.”
One week earlier, Goldberg used her second inaugural address as a platform to make her iLotto case to the general public:
“The world has changed with fantasy sports, sports betting, casinos and online lottery in neighboring states.
We do not want to go the way of Sears or Toys R Us.”
Lottery tickets and related games are a big-time gambling business in Massachusetts.
Financial industry research firm LendEDU estimates that residents spend $763 annually per capita on draw games and scratch cards, more than triple the average American’s annual outlay of $220.
All told, 73.5 percent of ticket sales are paid back to players on account of wins, which makes the Massachusetts Lottery a better bet than other states based on national averages.
The Lottery pumped $5.3 billion in revenue into state coffers during the 2018 fiscal year, and almost $1 billion went directly to 351 city and town governments.
But with Massachusetts opening its first commercial casino resort last August, and a second opening this year, Goldberg fears an increase in statewide gaming options are already diluting the Lottery’s revenue stream. Furthermore, Goldberg contends that the rise of legal sports betting – already adopted in both brick and mortar and online formats by regional neighbors New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania – will deal Lottery revenue a crippling blow.
Indeed, the cities and towns which rely on Lottery revenue each year collectively received $42 million less in fiscal 2018 than they did one year prior.
That decline is certain to continue if and when Massachusetts legalizes land-based and online / mobile sports betting.
During a press conference in front of local news outlets held in 2017, Goldberg sounded the alarm over any online gambling legalization – including casino and poker – going through:
“It’s interesting. You’re hearing about the Gaming Commission saying they want online gambling, and then the comment that I read in the paper was that there are only so many entertainment dollars.
So literally … if they get online gambling and we do not get iLottery, they would be trying to capture our money that goes to cities and towns for the profit of a profitable entity, like Wynn or MGM.”
And in June of last year – just one month after the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to regulate their own sports betting industries as they see fit – Goldberg specifically highlighted online sportsbooks as an existential threat to physical lotto ticket sales:
“Sports betting is a concern.
If you have sports betting, and casinos, and fantasy sports, and the Lottery does not go online, it will shortly become irrelevant.
It’s very straightforward.”