The CEO of the Iowa Lottery says the business faces a lot of red ink unless it starts selling tickets online.
Iowa Lottery boss Terry Rich appeared before the state’s House Government Oversight Committee on Thursday to discuss the Lottery’s future. Rich told legislators that the 2011 Department of Justice opinion indicated that the Lottery had the authority to conduct “internet gaming.” However, Rich assured legislators that the Lottery wouldn’t proceed “without having discussions with you, working with the other gaming entities.”
Rich warned that the Lottery faced a bleak future unless it adapted to “player expectations for convenience and use of technology.” Rich noted that the Lottery had no hope of engaging with millennials unless it embraced mobile technology. Rich also believes that it’s only a “matter of time” before online lotteries become “socially acceptable.”
Earlier this month, Rich, who also serves at president of the North American Lottery Association, told Stateline.org that lotteries “don’t want to be the post office. Gaming, and especially the lottery, is one of the last things you can’t do on your mobile phone.”
There are currently only a handful of states offering online ticket sales while some states like Minnesota, Michigan and Georgia (and soon Kentucky) have gone further by introducing other games, including online scratch tickets that critics have likened to slot machines. Rich told his legislators that “retail stores have not shut down” in these states following the online launches.
Norm Lingle, executive director of the South Dakota Lottery, recently observed that most of the online lotteries “have been positive experiences and they have been generating some level of revenue.” Lingle said his outfit had no current plans to follow these states online but he was keeping an eye on their performance.
MINNESOTA LOTTERY’S ONLINE SITE HAS THREE WEEKS TO LIVE
However positive the Minnesota Lottery’s online adventures may have been, state legislators are itching to clip the site’s wings. In January, Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to veto any online repeal bill that comes across his desk, but unlike last year’s veto, which occurred after the legislative session had concluded, legislators won’t be caught by surprise this time.
The current legislative session is set to end May 18, so legislators will likely approve their bills well in advance in order to leave themselves enough time for an override vote. Dayton has never had a veto overridden and doesn’t appear eager to break that streak. In February, following unsuccessful attempts at winning over his opponents, Dayton said the online lottery wasn’t worth “fracturing relationships with the legislature.”
All online lotteries could face the axe if Washington politicians pass the Sheldon Adelson-backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Bill sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has hinted at a possible carveout for state lotteries but it’s anybody’s guess as to whether Adelson would allow his GOP lackeys to amend the legislation.