LEGISLATORS ULTIMATELY opted against bringing the Massachusetts State Lottery online in their compromise budget for this fiscal year, but state Treasurer Deb Goldberg is still aggressively pushing for it.
With the lottery and its $1 billion of annual profits churning through local corner stores and retailers, efforts to attract new customer bases and compete with online gambling have run headlong into a debate about addictive gambling. But the online gambling space has evolved, with or without state sign-off.
Third party apps like Jackpocket offer a workaround to the lottery’s in-person purchase system by letting buyers online instruct someone to go make a specific in-person purchase. In remarks on Wednesday, Goldberg described the online sports betting and third party mobile lottery purchase space with some exasperation.
“When you’re the number one operator in your business environment, do you sit on your laurels and let other newbies come in and step all over your business? That’s where we’re at,” Goldberg said at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event. “Sports betting, online daily fantasy sports, is online now. We’ve got Jackpocket online delivering lottery tickets. Mass State Lottery is not available online. Strategically, there is no logic to me whatsoever, given they’re all for-profit, they’re not giving money back to the local communities. They’re not giving money to the state. Minimal tax revenues compared to us. I don’t get it.”
Earlier this year, CommonWealth delved into the lottery’s push to keep the revenue stream strong in the face of online sports betting through measures like a new $50 scratch ticket and moving online. The state’s reliance on lottery purchases, critics argue, traps it in a system that disproportionately draws money from lower-income communities to fund statewide services. The attorney general’s office, while not wading in firmly against the online lottery, has looked askance at its similarities to online sports betting.
There may still be a future for the “iLottery” through the Legislature, whether through future budget debate or standalone bills like the one put forward by Sen. Paul Feeney and Goldberg.
Senate Ways and Means chair Michael Rodrigues told Politico’s Massachusetts Playbook after the compromise budget rolled out, without an online lottery go-ahead, that even the Senate isn’t necessarily putting the kibosh on the idea in the long run.
“There were very strong opinions within my caucus on iLottery. Some of my colleagues absolutely support it and some of my colleagues absolutely oppose it,” Rodrigues told Playbook. “We need to have a full debate in the Senate and see exactly how much revenue we’re going to generate and we need to see the impact it’s going to have on convenience stores.”
Goldberg’s public enthusiasm for the online lottery system is unwavering, arguing it is a necessary innovation and expansion in the Bay State even as the state lottery topped $6 billion in revenue for the first time in fiscal year 2023.
“I’ve been requesting this year after year,” Goldberg said, emphasizing that the House and the governor are already firmly on board with the concept. “So we still do our thing with our $4.5 million ad budget. Soon you’re going to see me, in meetings like this, doing singing lottery ads because that’s all we’re gonna be able to afford.”