Online lottery sales concern NC retailers

Posted September 18, 2013

— State lawmakers said Wednesday that they plan to keep an eye on online sales of lottery jackpot tickets after retailers raised concerns that such sales could cut into their business.

Members of the Lottery Oversight Committee said they were caught off-guard by the North Carolina Education Lottery's decision last week to launch a subscription service that allows players to buy tickets for its three jackpot games – Powerball, Mega Millions and Carolina Cash 5 – online.

The service is designed for lottery players who want to get a set of numbers for multiple drawings in advance. A subscription to at least two weeks of drawings for one of the three games is required – players cannot use the service to buy a single ticket.

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association was quick to criticize the move, saying that it would hurt the lottery's statewide network of retailers who sell tickets to the games and also would reduce state tax revenues, maintaining that fewer customers for lottery tickets means fewer sales of other items as well.

"It's money out of my pocket. The 7 percent (commission) that we get, they (will now) get. So, that's cutting out the retailers," said Warren Liles, owner of the C Mini Mart on Poole Road in Raleigh, one of North Carolina's biggest lottery ticket sellers.

Lottery director Alice Garland said retailers haven't suffered in other states that have adopted online sales in recent years, saying subscription services generally attract new players.

The subscription service doesn't include scratch-off tickets, which account for almost two-thirds of the lottery's revenue, Garland said.

Lottery retailer, lottery ticket sales Lottery officials say online sales won't hurt retailers

Some existing players say they like the idea of buying tickets online, while others said they don't plan to change their ritual of picking up tickets at a favorite store.

"You can go on the computer and get it right quick," Roderick Heath said. "It would probably make sales go up, and you won't have to leave your home, so it will be real convenient."

"I normally come stop in the store anyway, and I'll probably be getting something different, something else besides tickets," David Jenkins said.

Lottery Commission Chairman Keith Ballentine, a retailer himself, said he supports the subscription service as a way to generate more revenue. Officials said they expect sales to increase 1 to 2 percent once the service begins in November.

Lawmakers said they plan to evaluate the online sales during the 2014 legislative session.

Rep. John Blust, chairman of the legislative oversight committee, said it's ironic that the state is expanding into online sales at the same time as law enforcement cracks down on Internet sweepstakes parlors.

"There's a little bit of that tension that it's OK for the state but it's not OK for anyone else," said Blust, R-Guilford.


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  • lprop Sep 20, 2013

    Gambling is not a requirement , its a choice. Keep on gambling. Keeps the cashing flowing.

  • HailBasket Sep 20, 2013

    I have played a blackjack lottery scratch off game machine once. I lost each time, never again.

  • beachboater Sep 20, 2013

    Internet sales do hurt retailers that receive a commission on ticket sales. Local store sales P*** off people standing in line while John Boy checks his winnings of $2 and buys more tickets, and then has to check that one before he leaves.

    The lottery is for people that do not understand statistics.

    Every state with an education lottery has reduced education spending form the general fund. Every single one of them. I never thought this would be a boom for education.

  • eyepeefreelee Sep 19, 2013

    6-11-18-26-28-15 have the greatest odds of winning in the current Powerball format.

  • Six String Sep 19, 2013

    The online argument reminds me a little of the argument made by the downtown restaurant owners when food trucks hit the streets -- it will be bad for business. After a few food truck rodeos, now it's good for business. Don't worry, it will work out just fine.

  • Six String Sep 19, 2013

    "Its not OK. Its a rip off of NC citizens. Wake UP!" ---glarg

    It's not a rip-off, it's a gamble and it is entirely voluntary.
    Please feel free not to buy a ticket.

  • glarg Sep 19, 2013

    Ummm something is up here when the Lottery Director feels she can go make major policy changes without even notifying the Oversight board.

    I'd get the auditors in there, because there is an unhealthy level of freelancing going on.

  • common tater Sep 19, 2013

    I do think it will hurt retailers who got the machines only to bring in foot traffic...but I don't feel sorry for most of them...they'll sell anything to make a buck. In order to buy a bottle of water and a lottery ticket I have to look at the mug shot tabloid and drug paraphernalia on the counter.

  • icmfal Sep 19, 2013

    "In 2011’s budget, lawmakers used $26 million to fill a Medicaid gap. So when you go by that ticket just know that only a small portion of your money will ever make it towards education purposes. A note here: No matter how small the portion it's still needed because each year more and more money(outside the lottery) that was once used for education, is being shifted to fund other ventures."

    To make a note here - it was a Republican controlled general Assembly that made the 2011 state budget.

  • MonkeyFace Sep 19, 2013

    For those of us NOT in a gas station, I still don't think it will hurt sales that bad. In all honesty, our biggest sellers are the Pick 3 and Pick 4, and of course the scratch offs.