CHICAGO, Ill. — A Justice Department opinion issued last year cleared the way. It said the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagering over telecommunication systems across state or national boundaries, applies only to sports betting.
At least 21 states and the District of Columbia are considering online lottery sales or other wagering such as poker, says Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, which represents commercial casinos.
New York and several other states sell lottery subscriptions to residents online but not individual tickets.
The flurry of interest spells trouble for gambling addicts and young people, says Anita Bedell of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems. "It's going to open a whole Pandora's box nationwide," she says.
Fahrenkopf hopes Congress will set standards to protect online customers from fraud and ensure they are adults.
Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores says it has "significant concerns" about the economic effect on stores that sell lottery tickets.
Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones says online sales could attract 1 million new players when Mega Millions payouts exceed $100 million, increasing proceeds that go to public education. Only 9%-12% of Illinois adults play now, he says.
Starting at 7 a.m. CT Sunday, visitors to illinoislottery.com will be asked to register and enter credit card and Social Security numbers, date of birth, name and address. Sophisticated software should ensure that only Illinois residents 18 and older play, Jones says. Purchases will be limited to $100 a day. At first, only Mega Millions and Lotto games will be offered.
The federal ruling "was a gift of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to any state that wants to do this," says I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor who blogs at gamblingandthelaw.com. "In less than 10 years, we're going to see most of the states moving to Internet gambling."
In Maine this week, a Senate committee approved a bill that would make online lottery sales illegal but could reconsider. "We're moving cautiously," Republican Sen. Debra Plowman says, "and we'll be watching Illinois."
Thanks to petergrfn for the tip.