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For some, Illinois Lottery app makes ticket-buying too easy

Illinois LotteryIllinois Lottery: For some, Illinois Lottery app makes ticket-buying too easy
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — When Illinois launched its first-in-the-nation lottery app in January, Matthew Ruder quickly signed up so he could jockey for jackpots with just a tap of the finger on his smartphone.

"It's really easy to buy lottery tickets on the big draw days," said Ruder, 40, of Pekin in central Illinois. "I can just log in to it, add some money to it, buy some tickets, and then I have them right there instead of stopping at the store. It just makes it easier sometimes."

State lottery officials hope the app attracts more players, especially younger gamblers who've grown up in an on-demand world. The app has about 128,000 downloads so far, generating a modest $813,000 in sales.

But the app is drawing criticism on a couple of fronts. Anti-gambling activists question the wisdom of making it more convenient to play the lottery, citing the risk of increased addiction. "Gambling can really ruin people's lives, and now by having an app it can ruin lives 24/7," said Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.

Convenience store owners don't appreciate giving gamblers a reason to stay away from their shops, saying they feel double-crossed.

Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones discounts both concerns, saying officials have tools to stop excessive online ticket buying and arguing that players who try the lottery online might be more inclined to try other lottery games such as scratch-off tickets when they stop at convenience stores.

"This is a significant opportunity to broaden the lottery's player base," Jones said.

The lottery's ability to go online was tucked into a 2009 state law that authorized a statewide construction program by raising taxes and fees on liquor, driver's licenses and candy bars. The measure also legalized video gambling and set up a trial program to allow people to buy lottery tickets using their computers.

At the time, online gambling remained stuck in a murky area with the federal government, but the U.S. Department of Justice gave a green light in December 2011. Within months, Illinois started online lottery sales. Less than two years after that, there's an app.

The app was created by Northstar Lottery Group, the company the state hired in 2010 to manage the Illinois Lottery. Gamblers can get in on the action of popular games like Mega Millions and Powerball and quickly check winning numbers.

While the app is free, there's a $5 minimum purchase. To buy tickets and collect winnings, users have to create an account and link it to their credit card, which lottery officials say is a way to ensure that people younger than 18 aren't playing. In addition, there are purchase limits of $150 a day, $1,050 a week and $3,500 a month.

A Northstar spokeswoman said there have been no big winners on the app yet, but several gamblers have snagged $1,500 prizes. Winners can get their money sent to their bank account or request a check.

As is fairly common with the rollout of an app, there were some bugs when it debuted. Ruder said he had trouble signing on and became frustrated by frequent crashes. Other users had trouble verifying purchases, according to comments in the Apple App Store.

To fix some of the technical issues, Northstar updated the app it had built a month after its release. There are still some complaints about the design, however.

Tim Miller, a sophomore computer science major at the University of Illinois who created dozens of apps to help pay for school, said the app closely mimics the lottery's Web page instead of feeling like something designed for a smartphone or tablet. Karrie Karahalios, a U. of I. computer science professor, said the design isn't visually appealing and lacks the easy-to-use buttons that make an app like Candy Crush popular.

"There's a lot of blue space between games," she said. "The numbers are also very small, so I can see that being an issue with some of the older people who want to use it."

Ruder would like more functionality. "I think it would be useful if the app had a feature where people could scan their scratch-offs to see if they won, and if they did, redeem the prize on their phone," he said.

Northstar hasn't pushed the app with a big ad campaign yet. Gamblers can find out about it on the lottery website, iPhone users can search the app store, but Android users must download from illinoislottery.com.

Northstar, which became the nation's first private manager of a state lottery when it took over in July 2011, is under pressure to increase sales. Northstar has missed its targets so far, even as a state board appointed to oversee the lottery has questioned whether the company is doing enough to promote the games of chance among the more affluent instead of relying on low-income gamblers.

Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said sales from online and app gambling aren't contributing much to overall revenue yet, but those tickets are profit for the state because it doesn't have to pay retailers or give them 1 percent of the winnings.

Unhappy about the app are convenience stores and gas stations, sales outlets that have supported the Illinois Lottery since its inception 40 years ago, said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association.

The fear is that allowing players to play their favorite numbers on their phones means they'll stop by the local gas station less, denying stores the chance to sell them lottery tickets as well as cigarettes, milk, candy and the like.

"For them to do this and take the chance to take money out of our pockets is just like another tax," Fleischli said. "Why would they do that to us?"

The lottery's Jones said retailers were consulted when the website was in the works and were warned of the lottery's technology goals.

"Really, this app will just add to the number of people who play the lottery," Jones said. "People who play for the first time will probably be more inclined to buy tickets the next time they stop at a gas station."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois is the only state to have an app with which gamblers can buy tickets through the ease of their cellphones. Anti-gambling activists say there's a good reason for that: Gamblers with a problem will find it tougher to contain their compulsive behavior when temptation is right in the palm of their hands.

"Making gambling more convenient isn't a good thing," Bedell said.

Jones said lottery officials actually have more control online or via the app to stop excessive ticket buying.

"Right now, we can do very little about people who go into the store and purchase tickets," he said. "They can buy as many tickets as they want. Over the Internet, for the first time ever, we have the ability to actually know how many tickets someone is buying and to stop them from buying more."

However, lottery officials could not say whether the agency has blocked any gamblers from buying more tickets from the app. Lottery spokesman Lang said the app offers information on a gambling addiction hotline and noted that compulsive gamblers can be added to a self-exclusion list that prohibits them from claiming a lottery prize.

"I guess there is a risk, but there are several measures in place to kind of counter that," Lang said.

Bedell isn't buying it.

"That's all just for show," she said. "People with gambling addiction didn't get the app for help features. They got it so they could play more and spend even more money."

Chicago Tribune

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52 comments. Last comment 6 months ago by NUMONEYNIJAS.
Page 1 of 4
Jon D's avatar - calotterylogo
Los Angeles, California
United States
Member #103816
January 5, 2011
1530 Posts
Offline
Posted: April 10, 2014, 9:12 am - IP Logged

The lottery's ability to go online was tucked into a 2009 state law that authorized a statewide construction program by raising taxes and fees on liquor, driver's licenses and candy bars.

Nice one.

Expansion of the lottery (tax) hidden in a tax increase legislation for an unrelated construction project as an earmark!

WTG Illinois. No Nod

    helpmewin's avatar - dandy
    u$a
    United States
    Member #106669
    February 22, 2011
    17499 Posts
    Online
    Posted: April 10, 2014, 9:16 am - IP Logged

    Can't please everyone Thud

                     

      Gleno's avatar - Lottery-001.jpg
      New Jersey
      United States
      Member #80354
      September 25, 2009
      290 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: April 10, 2014, 9:59 am - IP Logged

      This is a "surprise"  news story.

      Could you imagine if everyone could buy lottery tickets across state lines, using a Lottery App? 

      Will State lotteries will be able to prevent out of state buyers from participating? 

      And the issue of retailers being over passed  commisiions will certainly stir up some law suits. 

      Congress is already at work to prevent online casino gambling. 

      Should be interesting to see how this developes.

      What?

        dpoly1's avatar - driver
        PA
        United States
        Member #66141
        October 16, 2008
        1450 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: April 10, 2014, 10:44 am - IP Logged

        How long before these apps are hacked & people are ripped off?

        Evil Looking

        dpoly1 - Playing the lottery to save the jobs of those that build, transport, sell & maintain luxury items! -

         

        Eschew Poverty ........... Vote Conservative!

          hearsetrax's avatar - 78638c467ef281febf24383e126f74b6

          United States
          Member #52345
          May 21, 2007
          1882 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: April 10, 2014, 10:54 am - IP Logged

          How long before these apps are hacked & people are ripped off?

          Evil Looking

          Crazy


            United States
            Member #154124
            April 4, 2014
            5 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: April 10, 2014, 11:34 am - IP Logged

            This is just BS saying they will put a limit on tickets purchased.

            They don't have an incentive to limit players from buying tickets. This is how they make money.

            On the other hand, if it will eventually help people play across state lines, then that could be a benefit.

              rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
              Texas
              United States
              Member #55889
              October 23, 2007
              3411 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: April 10, 2014, 11:43 am - IP Logged

              This is just BS saying they will put a limit on tickets purchased.

              They don't have an incentive to limit players from buying tickets. This is how they make money.

              On the other hand, if it will eventually help people play across state lines, then that could be a benefit.

              I think they have safeguards in place to prevent people from playing across state lines. The tickets must be purchased in the state for that particular lottery game. Most if not all states are that way. Also, if a person has a winning ticket, it can only be claimed in the state in which it was purchased.

              CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

              A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

                RedStang's avatar - threefin zpsd48411ab.jpg
                Dutchess NY
                United States
                Member #121966
                January 21, 2012
                2677 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: April 10, 2014, 12:37 pm - IP Logged

                now by having an app it can ruin lives 24/7

                Thanks to that app, i  suffer from Diplopia double vision. It has ruined my life. Sad

                  imagine's avatar - WINGS

                  United States
                  Member #85048
                  January 7, 2010
                  102 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: April 10, 2014, 1:25 pm - IP Logged

                  Can't please everyone Thud

                  Oh yes we can just put everyone that complains in charge. 
                  Because everything they do is perfect, that's why their lives are so amazing, they know what's best for everyone.

                    mrcraft's avatar - images3lp4 zps7dbb4a10.jpg
                    Los Angeles, California
                    United States
                    Member #149499
                    December 2, 2013
                    820 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: April 10, 2014, 2:59 pm - IP Logged

                    I don't care too much about the ticket buying functionality, but if state lotteries can create apps where we can scan our Scratchers and draw games for winners that'll be sweet.

                      Avatar
                      Bay Area, California
                      United States
                      Member #154232
                      April 8, 2014
                      49 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: April 10, 2014, 3:05 pm - IP Logged

                      I don't care too much about the ticket buying functionality, but if state lotteries can create apps where we can scan our Scratchers and draw games for winners that'll be sweet.

                      Yes great idea and the scanner should let you enter 2nd chance by scanning as well.

                        Avatar

                        United States
                        Member #149827
                        December 9, 2013
                        478 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: April 10, 2014, 3:51 pm - IP Logged

                        This is a "surprise"  news story.

                        Could you imagine if everyone could buy lottery tickets across state lines, using a Lottery App? 

                        Will State lotteries will be able to prevent out of state buyers from participating? 

                        And the issue of retailers being over passed  commisiions will certainly stir up some law suits. 

                        Congress is already at work to prevent online casino gambling. 

                        Should be interesting to see how this developes.

                        What?

                        I dont know about the out-of-state thing I mean you can buy physical tickets if you're from out of state now, so what's the difference?

                          Avatar

                          United States
                          Member #149827
                          December 9, 2013
                          478 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: April 10, 2014, 3:52 pm - IP Logged

                          Why put a limit on the amout of tickets you can buy, I mean you can walk in a store and buy all the tickets you got money for now so what's the difference

                            Avatar
                            Bay Area, California
                            United States
                            Member #154232
                            April 8, 2014
                            49 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: April 10, 2014, 4:08 pm - IP Logged

                            Why put a limit on the amout of tickets you can buy, I mean you can walk in a store and buy all the tickets you got money for now so what's the difference

                            They want to make sure there is not that one person who spends thousands on lottery tickets through the app and then blames the lottery.

                            If this app launch goes smoothly the next step will be the ability to buy instant win games through the app, now that would be both very convenient and very dangerous.