Officials at two Pennsylvania state agencies are working on introducing player-activated lottery-ticket terminals in state liquor stores.
"We're interested in anything that helps the state produce revenue," said Bill Epstein, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, which is working with the state Department of Revenue, the lottery's overseer.
The terminals allow players to buy instant tickets plus tickets for daily lotteries and Powerball, making them a step beyond the instant-ticket vending machines already in many outlets. They would become another phase of Gov. Ed Rendell's push to boost lottery revenues that pay for prescription drugs, free public transportation bus rides and property tax/rent rebates for senior citizens and senior citizens centers.
When the idea came up, Liquor Control Board officials were concerned about booze-buying customers waiting in line behind customers lined up for lottery tickets, said Bill Epstein, a spokesman for the board. That's not a problem with the terminals, he said. He declined to estimate when state stores might get the machines.
Last May, the state introduced the first of up to 1,000 self-serve machines in privately owned stores, concentrating on outlets that didn't sell lottery tickets. As of Tuesday, 239 had been installed and an average of 15 additional machines were being installed each week, said Steve Kniley, a revenue spokesman.
He had no estimate of how much additional revenue the machines have produced.
Staffers for state Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow, D-Peckville, estimate machines in the 638 state stores would produce about $40.5 million a year in revenue.
Epstein said it is unlikely all the stores would get a terminal because some don't have enough customers and some are only open part-time.
"There might be stores where there isn't enough room," Epstein said. "The logical stores would be the ones with the most traffic."
One matter that seems unresolved is whether the machines can be installed without passing a bill first.
Mellow recently re-introduced a bill authorizing their placement. The last version died in the Senate Law and Justice Committee last year.
Epstein said the liquor board's general counsel thinks legislation might be unnecessary.
Mark Meyer, the chief of staff for the committee's new chairman, Sen. John J. Rafferty Jr., R-Montgomery, couldn't say if the bill will move ahead, but said Rafferty "generally supports the bill." He even co-sponsored Mellow's bill last year.
Lottery revenues have risen significantly in recent years as the state added access to Powerball and a daytime instant lottery drawing.
After Rendell took office, the lottery concentrated on boosting the number of retailers selling lottery tickets and adding more attractive instant lottery ticket games.
Between July 1 and this week, ticket sales are up 12.5 percent compared to the same period the year before. For the fiscal year ending last June 30, the lottery had almost $2.4 billion in ticket sales. Its target this year is $2.6
billion, Kniley said.