The Massachusetts State Lottery is asking legislators to approve lottery games played on computers and mobile devices, but according to a New England c-store association, it could impact retailers at the register.
“The only way to reach the younger market is via online lottery games,” said Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who supervises the lottery. “It’s the future, and we need to face it.”
The Lottery’s pilot program, for which the lottery is asking for legislative clearance, would make players register online and pay with a credit card.
The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) said six states have online lottery games. Michigan debuted its online games in 2014.
“It’s really proving to be quite popular,” with around 350,000 people registered to play online, said Jeff Holyfield, Michigan lottery spokesman. “Our launch opened a lot of eyes across the country. Lots of states are looking at it now.”
In Michigan, online games bumped overall lottery gains up by around $60 million annually. Holyfield pointed out that the online games haven’t reduced lottery sales at convenience stores, either. In fact, lottery retailers received record commissions in the two years since the online games launched.
“Retailers were justifiably skeptical, but I think we’ve won them over,” he said.
However, Massachusetts convenience stores remain unconvinced that online lottery sales in their state will be good for retailers.
“Online lottery games would mean a tremendous loss of business for our members,” said Joanne Mendes, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA). “We need foot traffic to survive and thrive.”
She added, “The convenience stores have been integral in the successes of the state lotteries in New England. We understand the need and desire to continue to pursue avenues that may increase revenue as the technology evolves in this area. We want to be sitting at the table with our partners and find common areas where we can continue to work together. However, the business climate for our retailers becomes more challenging every day between local product bans and state mandates. My members are concerned that pursuing online lottery products without thinking through the consequences of reduced commissions and foot traffic in our stores, not to mention the concern we have about age verification, is something we hope the states consider before they go down this road.”
Goldberg indicated that the lottery already has plans to help stores with gaming sales by perhaps linking gift card sales at convenience stores to online lottery games.