While the state House of Representatives included sports betting legalization in their Economic Development package this week – which remains in a committee – they did not include a key online lottery request from State Treasurer Deb Goldberg.
On Monday, Goldberg said it was a very disappointing turn of events, and they had hoped to be able to include a new online lottery to help make up for plummeting sales at lottery vendors that have either been closed to the public or experienced significant declines in business.
Lottery proceeds are partly used to help fund Cities and Towns in the state, and low sales equal a cut to local governments.
“It is disappointing that the House Ways & Means Committee did not include authorization of online Lottery as part of their most recent economic development bill, despite authorizing sports betting,” she wrote. “As gaming and retail commerce both continue their rapid shift to online and mobile transactions, it is vital that the Lottery be able to sell products using these methods to keep pace with consumer preferences and demands. An online Lottery in Massachusetts is not just a matter of convenience. It is a necessity in order to uphold our commitment to supply reliable local aid to our cities and towns and to avoid layoffs for teachers and first responders.”
Goldberg had testified earlier this month that the state lottery saw a $244 million decline for the months of March, April and May as compared to the same months in 2019. She told state legislators that the ability to take the lottery online could make up approximately $70 million of those losses, and would fall in line with online lotteries now in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and soon in Connecticut. She said 10 of the 44 states with an official lottery have an online component.
Facing revenue shortfalls, other states recognize this trend and have encouraged their lotteries to move online,” she wrote. “An online Lottery in Massachusetts is not just a matter of convenience. In order to uphold our commitment to supply reliable local aid to our cities and towns, particularly as we are already seeing the effects of lost revenue for the state, we must respond proactively to the challenges faced by the Lottery.”
She cited that states offering an online component have seen a growth in first-time players through the pandemic. In June, online lottery sales in Pennsylvania jumped by 112 percent and first-time players increased by 200 percent.
“Customers are clearly choosing to play at home while they stay at home,” she wrote. “Consumers will likely continue to prefer contactless payment methods and online purchasing options even as brick-and-mortar locations reopen.”
The Economic Development bill was being debated in the House Ways & Means Committee over the last several days.
Sports betting at existing casinos – including at the Encore Boston Harbor – are expected to clear about $30 million per year statewide.