CONCORD, N.H. — The state Lottery Commission has pulled back its planned July 1 launch of new games that add an Internet element to scratch ticket gambling.
In an announcement late yesterday, the commission said it "will push back the soft launch of PlayNowNH.com, and use the time to educate state leaders about its new interactive game."
The commission ran into stiff headwinds among lawmakers last week when it posted advance notice on its website of the PlayNowNH suite of games. The Legislature rejected expansion of gambling this year. On June 9, it passed a bill that closes a $295 million budget deficit that, despite pressure from the Senate, had no changes to gambling laws.
Tickets in the lottery's new games include a $5 NHPoker game and a $3 SuperSlots game.
The slots idea upset both sides in the gaming debate: critics who oppose video slot machines, and gambling proponents who say real slots are in casinos that will bring a private construction boom and permanent jobs.
Lottery officials defended the new games as a fun way to extend existing scratch ticket games. Winning tickets would be determined at the time of sale.
Customers could launch Internet programs at home to find out if they had won, or simply check at the retail outlet.
Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, said the commission told her it will delay the launch of the new games until Aug. 1.
Smith, who is chair of the Legislative Fiscal Committee, said she expects to see lottery officials apply for permission to run the new games, as state law requires.
"They perhaps got a little ahead of themselves," Smith said.
The current budget requires fiscal approval of "any new lottery programs or for the purchase of any tickets for new or continuing games."
Smith noted that the Lottery Commission has not yet won approval of the rules it submitted to a joint legislative body that clears all administrative rules.
Charles McIntyre, lottery executive director since last week, said in a statement late yesterday that he wants to focus energies on a successful July 1 rollout of new sales terminals to 1,200 retailers.
"The lottery is going to use the down time to educate state leaders about the new interactive game and its place in our portfolio of products," he said.
McIntyre said the legislature's reliance on lottery for education funding, and its concern about the reach of gambling pose, "a unique dichotomy ... PlayNowNH was under development long before I took this job, but it is my responsibility to make certain that any and all lottery products are launched responsibly and transparently to public officials and the public at large."
Lottery spokesman Maura McCann said the commission will pull $25,000 in PlayNowNH advertising, and use the money to promote existing scratch games instead.