CONCORD, N.H. — Gamblers will be able to buy lottery tickets in New Hampshire next week to play online — a move seen by some as an expansion of the kind of gambling that state lawmakers oppose.
PlayNowNH interactive games go on sale July 1.
In them, players choose the game — baseball, super slots, speed bingo or New Hampshire poker — and the amount they want to play.
For example, players can buy chances for the $1 baseball game on one ticket or a separate ticket with chances for the $5 poker game. They can buy tickets with total chances per game worth up to $100 and play on their home computers, using a 30-digit access code.
Since the prizes associated with the tickets are determined at sale, players also can check at lottery outlets to see if the tickets are winners — without playing the games.
Lottery Commissioner Paul Holloway described the games as similar to scratch tickets. Winners must claim prizes in stores and cannot buy more chances online, he said.
"A lot of people are reluctant to stand in a store and scratch a ticket," he said Thursday.
Maura McCann, commission marketing director, said the idea is to attract younger players who can play on their computers or smart phones, if they have access to the Internet. She said a similar game is offered in British Columbia.
Players must be 18 or older to buy lottery tickets in New Hampshire.
Colin Manning, spokesman for Gov. John Lynch, said the Lottery Commission said it would investigate new games a year ago.
"This is one of their new modernized games," he said.
But the game's announcement surprised lawmakers, including the sponsor of a bill to legalize video slots that was rejected this month by the House and opposed by Lynch.
Senate Finance Chairman Lou D'Allesandro, the gambling bill's sponsor, said he recognizes the Lottery Commission is charged by the state to raise money, but said he can't understand why online gambling is being allowed when his bill to legalize video slots was rejected this month.
"I don't like online gambling," added D'Allesandro, D-Manchester. He said sitting at home in front of a computer gambling is "very dangerous." He also said critics said his proposal would lead to proliferation of gambling to the detriment of the state.
PlayNowNH, he said, now brings gambling into homes across the state rather than containing it in a few casinos.
D'Allesandro said his proposal also would have created jobs to build and operate casinos, while the new lottery game did not.
House Finance Chairwoman Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, also questioned why the Lottery Commission did not present the proposal to lawmakers with any estimate of additional revenue, especially since they were struggling to balance the state's budget this month with as few cuts to programs as possible.
Smith also said expanding into interactive online games is bad policy.
"I'm sure you can say it's no different (than scratch tickets), but we know from the research that's been done there is nothing more addictive than being able to play games on the computer," said Smith.
Holloway said he was surprised by the reaction.
"This is just a little quirk. It's not slots," he said.
State Rep. David Hess, a longtime opponent of video slots, said the interactive game and casinos are a "quantum leap" apart.
"I don't think it's anywhere close to casino gambling or a harbinger of casino gambling," said Hess, R-Hooksett.