If store lines have kept you from the big bucks possible in playing the state lottery, a Chicago senator has the solution - just buy the tickets online.
Democrat State Sen. John Cullerton has proposed a bill to make lottery tickets available for sale on the Internet, something he says will attract more customers with bigger pocketbooks and possibly collect more money for schools. Senate Bill 198 is currently on the floor, but some Southern Illinois legislators say they're not ready to expand gaming in any form, particularly State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, who just last week called for the elimination of all riverboat casinos in Illinois.
"I've made the statement before I'm not going to vote for any new gambling," Bradley said.
Cullerton argues the measure isn't an expansion, because it doesn't increase the state lottery operations, just markets to a larger customer base.
Bradley said he doesn't see things the same.
"We just have to disagree on that," he said. "The reason this is being proposed is because it's going to generate more money for the state, which means more gambling."
Bradley said he is certain selling lottery tickets online would generate more sales, but either way, he is opposed to the idea.
Other legislators join Bradley in his skepticism of Cullerton's bill.
"The first thought I have is, how do you regulate that with minors?" State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City, said. "It seems to me there would be a lot of minors that could get on the computer and try to buy tickets."
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said he is wary of the bill for the same reasons.
"My first impression would be, no," Forby said.
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said the measure sounds like an expansion of gambling, which he has always stood against.
"My first instinct is to say it is an expansion, but I would like to at least look at it before I would say offhand I would vote against it," Luechtefeld said.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who also opposes gambling expansion, said he understands that Cullerton wants the lottery to reach a bigger market, but he is not sure there are more customers out there.
"I'm almost convinced with our gambling in Illinois, with the riverboats or with the lottery, we're reaching everyone who wants to gamble," Bost said.
Cullerton said the Internet has been able to reach a wide audience for other businesses. Why not the lottery, he asks.
"Internet sales are growing at a dramatic rate," Cullerton said. "This is the wave of the future, and we need to get on board."
Cullerton said the lottery needs to tap a wider and more diverse market. He said 20 percent of adults buy lottery tickets and a disproportionate number of them are poor.
The state lottery generated $570 million last year for Illinois education. Cullerton said if the state could reach at least 10 percent more of the people, it could generate an additional $45 million. He said the Department of Revenue would work out the details of the online system, and Internet sales would start out being used only for the big games each week.
Local legislators question using a gambling system to create education funding, but Cullerton said lottery players don't generally become the same types of addicts associated with other forms of gambling.
"There's a big difference between purchasing a lottery ticket and going to a casino," Cullerton said.
Mark Dixon, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale associate professor and coordinator of the Behavior Analysis and Therapy program in the Rehabilitation Institute, says gambling addictions can take many forms - even through purchasing lottery tickets.
"But, at the same time, that's only a small subset of the people who do that," he said. "Many people buy a couple of lottery tickets a week without a problem."
Dixon and another university professor are currently researching and counseling problem gamblers, offering assessments and treatments to people.
He said many people make a mistake in assuming people gamble to get rich. Dixon said some individuals do it for excitement, some because they are unhappy with other aspects of their life. Dixon also said, depending on the treatment they received, some people sink back into an excessive gambling lifestyle fairly quickly.
Dixon said it is not particularly difficult for people to get a lottery ticket right now, so he doesn't understand why the state feels the need to make them available from a person's home computer.
"I think it will increase revenues, but will it increase pathological gambling proportionally? That remains to be seen," Dixon said.