The state may have the highest per capita lottery ticket purchasing rate in the nation, but State Treasurer Deb Goldberg believes Massachusetts online lottery sales are the only way to save the state’s lucrative lotto.
In November, Goldberg – whose office oversees the Massachusetts State Lottery – introduced House Bill 26. If passed, the bill would allow the lottery to sell tickets and offer games “over the internet or through the use of mobile applications.”
HB-26, the third Massachusetts online lottery bill put forth by Goldberg in as many years, will be considered in January when the Legislature begins its new session.
In a public statement, Goldberg outlined her reasoning for integrating online lotto sales:
“This session I will continue to work with the Legislature for the authorization to sell products online to ensure modernization and growth of the Lottery.”
According to a study conducted by personal finance research firm LendEDU, residents of Massachusetts spend $763 annually per capita on lottery tickets, the highest rate in America at more than triple the national average of $220 per year.
In turn, the state lottery pays back 73.5 percent of ticket sales in the form of winnings, a rate which also exceeds the national average.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the lottery generated $5.3 billion in revenue, with nearly $1 billion contributed directly to 351 cities and towns.
Despite that apparent success, cities and towns received $42 million less in fiscal year 2018 than they did during the previous fiscal year.
While trumpeting her previous proposals, Goldberg has warned that the state lottery could be rendered obsolete by Massachusetts’ rapidly evolving gambling landscape. The state’s first resort casino, the MGM Springfield, opened its doors in August, while the Encore Boston Harbor casino is slated to do the same in 2019.
And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in May to repeal a federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada, local lawmakers are increasingly keen on legalizing sports betting.
Regional neighbor Rhode Island recently became the seventh state to offer legal sports wagering in the wake of the Court’s ruling, joining Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
In June, Goldberg told the State House News Service that of all the gambling expansions arriving in Massachusetts, sports betting – which will likely be offered online – poses the highest threat:
“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.”
State senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) – who serves as co-chair of the Senate committee which oversees gambling legislation – told the Boston Herald that sports betting legislation is expected to be passed in the next two years:
“I would expect this coming session we would do something.
It would definitely be a shot in the arm for the state’s economy.”
Lesser also agreed with Goldberg’s contention that online ticket sales are essential to ensuring the lottery’s success:
“It’s impossible to envision the lottery surviving without going online.
Personally, I think with safeguards that an online lottery makes sense.
We have a strong lottery that pays well, and we don’t want to jeopardize that.”
In comments made while introducing HB-26, Goldberg reiterated that the state lottery must be on a level playing field with sports betting if and when the latter is authorized:
“I have maintained that if sports betting comes to Massachusetts, we must have a seat at the table.