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Texas Lottery to expand ticket sales at checkout lanes

Jan 21, 2020, 9:36 am

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AUSTIN, Texas — Charlie Thomas, a home health care provider who also scrubs floors in the evening, says he buys lottery tickets "every time I get a paycheck."

Thomas, 55, has been playing the Texas Lottery for two decades. His "fortune hunting" takes a $30 bite out of his weekly pay, but he's won about $1,000 over the years. His most recent good fortune was a $100 win on a bingo lottery ticket.

He was less lucky one day last month: The $2 scratch-off he bought at an East Austin convenience store came up empty. But he wasn't discouraged.

"I don't want to be rich," Thomas said. "I'd be satisfied with $40,000 — just enough to buy a double-wide, an acre of land, an old truck and pay my bills."

Thomas and other lottery enthusiasts in the Lone Star State are about to have more opportunities to play, thanks to an innovation that is sure to pump up lottery revenue — and rankle critics who say state-sanctioned gambling disproportionately harms low-income communities.

Since early November, Texans have been able to buy lottery tickets in the checkout lanes of the state's more than 1,500 Dollar General stores. Shoppers at the discount giant can now grab Powerball and Mega Millions tickets while in line to pay for their other purchases. Clusters of $4 and $10 game tickets reminiscent of gift cards hang from a colorful jackpot display by the register, virtually impossible to overlook.

Other larger retailers in Texas also sell lottery tickets, but customers must buy them at the stores' service centers or through cash-only vending machines. The Texas Lottery plans to expand its practices with Dollar General, the nation's first "in-lane" offering of lottery tickets, to other big-box retailers, beginning later this year. Several other states also are moving toward the practice, long a lottery industry priority.

The move comes as state lotteries are facing increasing competition from new casinos, legalized sports betting and commercialized fantasy sports games. Meanwhile, seven states (Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) now allow people to buy lottery tickets online.

"I can tell you that there's more and more competition now in the marketplace than there was before," said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. In the past, he said, "you had to get on a plane and go to either New Jersey or Las Vegas" for a casino game. "Now, everybody is within a three-hour car ride to some sort of casino."

Texas Lottery officials say in-lane sales could dramatically boost revenue. Dollar General does not release sales projections, but spokeswoman Crystal Ghassemi said the new lottery option has been "well-received" by the chain's customers.

Texas Lottery retailers earned $335.9 million in commissions and incentives in fiscal 2019, from nearly $6.3 billion in sales, both all-time highs. Since it started in 1992, the Texas Lottery's sales of scratch tickets and draw games have generated more than $30 billion in state revenue for education, veterans and other programs.

All but five states now have lotteries. Mississippi in November became the latest state to add a lottery, which sold $8.9 million in its first six days.

Lottery opponents, however, have long argued that the games lure needy and low-income participants who can least afford to pay. "They're exploiting folks in our communities that we should be helping," said Rob Kohler, a consultant for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission who has testified against the lottery in the state legislature.

Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that opposes government-sanctioned gambling, called in-lane sales "an example of the predatory practices" lotteries use to encourage impulse buys in low-income communities.

"They're advertising the lottery as kind of a Hail Mary investment strategy," Bernal said.

Stop Predatory Gambling is launching a national campaign to slash the amount of money that low- and middle-income players spend on lotteries by 50% over the next eight years.

Proposals include halting advertising to low-income populations, banning the sale of lottery products at check-cashing outlets and forbidding the sale of high-priced lottery tickets in low-income neighborhoods.

Curtailing the marketing of in-lane lottery products will "certainly be a part of that campaign," Bernal said. The strategy will vary from state to state, he said, and could include advocating action by legislatures or regulatory changes.

Gale, director of the state and provincial lotteries association, said "there are those out there that would like to say that we target the poor," but that "the makeup of the lottery player profile within a state pretty much mirrors the population of the state."

A 2018 study conducted for the Texas Lottery by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found that in 2018, 35% of lottery players had incomes below $40,000, 41% earned between $40,000 and $100,000 and 24% had incomes above $100,000.

"The Texas Lottery does not market disproportionately to low-income participants, and any criticism suggesting such is simply not true," Texas Lottery Director Gary Grief said in a written response to questions. "A business does not achieve $6+ billion in sales ... by appealing to only one type of person."

Texas' arrangement with Dollar General appears to be the first of its kind, but other states are exploring the concept. Lottery officials in Kentucky and Arizona say they are moving toward implementation of in-lane programs.

"The reason we're trying to work so hard to get this in-lane is because it offers us another distribution point and it probably helps impulse sales," said Tom Delacenserie, CEO of the Kentucky Lottery. "For the consumer, it just makes it easier because it's one less stop they have to make in that store."

Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said his organization is not opposed to in-lane sales but has concerns.

"There are concerns that there are going to be kids in those (checkout) lanes that are going to be exposed to a lot more promotion" of a product intended for adults, he said. "We're saying that there needs to be some additional sensitivity, compliance enforcement provisions — to make sure we're minimizing potential harm."

Whyte says his organization works with lotteries in Texas and other states to combat problems associated with gambling, including addiction. Each state has a minimum playing age, which varies from 18 to 21.

Of the $91.3 billion in sales by U.S. lotteries in fiscal 2019, $25.1 billion went to state and local governments for services such as education, infrastructure, health care, pensions, conservation and elderly assistance, according to data from the state and provincial lotteries association. Lotteries paid out $52.8 billion in prizes, and the rest went toward retailer compensation and lottery operations.

In Texas, public schools are the biggest recipients of lottery revenue, though one review by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based nonprofit, found that the $1.5 billion a year the lottery funnels to schools covers less than a week of operating expenses.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat, said he is concerned about the lottery's regressive effects on low-income constituents. But he worries that getting rid of the lottery would hurt his constituents even more.

"The bottom line is the state of Texas has very few revenue streams on which it relies to fund the government, especially public education," he said, "and it remains very difficult to figure out how you're going to plug that hole."

Telegraph Herald

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15 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by LottoMetro.
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Avatar
Simpsonville
United States
Member #163182
January 22, 2015
2534 Posts
Offline

Why not?   You can grab a candy bar, etc on your way out.   Might as well play lotto too. Oops, wait a minute, thought Texas wanted to get rid of the lottery!!

    music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
    USN United States Navy
    Fresno, California
    United States
    Member #157849
    August 2, 2014
    3959 Posts
    Offline

    Instead of telling us what not to do, advise us to save and invest for retirement.

     $91.3 billion in sales in the U.S.

     $52.8 billion in prizes. I am waiting and playing for my share of the pie.

     

      A lot of Americans do not even have $1,000.00 in savings. This would be a beginning.

     

     Even here in California the funds for the schools are a drop in the bucket.

     "We are all in this together!" 

      rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
      100
      Texas
      United States
      Member #55887
      October 23, 2007
      11218 Posts
      Offline

      Why not?   You can grab a candy bar, etc on your way out.   Might as well play lotto too. Oops, wait a minute, thought Texas wanted to get rid of the lottery!!

      Yeah, there are some legislators in Austin that want to get rid of the lottery, and they almost did a few years ago, then realized they were going to have a big,big shortfall in the budget and decided to keep the lottery.

      We should have casinos in Texas also, but they just won't allow them. I live less than an hour from WinStar in Oklahoma, and we go up there once in a while. There are mostly Texas license plates there.

      CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

      A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

        sully16's avatar - sharan
        25
        Dr.President Elect
        Michigan
        United States
        Member #81738
        October 28, 2009
        85048 Posts
        Online

        Yeah, there are some legislators in Austin that want to get rid of the lottery, and they almost did a few years ago, then realized they were going to have a big,big shortfall in the budget and decided to keep the lottery.

        We should have casinos in Texas also, but they just won't allow them. I live less than an hour from WinStar in Oklahoma, and we go up there once in a while. There are mostly Texas license plates there.

        Come to Michigan, we have them all over.Hyper Road trip.

        Happy Mother's Day. Lovies

          Avatar
          Simpsonville
          United States
          Member #163182
          January 22, 2015
          2534 Posts
          Offline

          Yeah, there are some legislators in Austin that want to get rid of the lottery, and they almost did a few years ago, then realized they were going to have a big,big shortfall in the budget and decided to keep the lottery.

          We should have casinos in Texas also, but they just won't allow them. I live less than an hour from WinStar in Oklahoma, and we go up there once in a while. There are mostly Texas license plates there.

          Same here with casinos.   They have three 'pretend' ones here that look like slot machines but are based on old horse races.   We just go to Indiana, tons of them there.

          Like I said before @ the Vanna White WOF the KY lottery had here months ago got to meet the Director of KLC-from the FL lottery and complimented him on their progressive lottery in that you can play most games on-line. 

            Avatar
            Kentucky
            United States
            Member #32651
            February 14, 2006
            9151 Posts
            Offline

            Same here with casinos.   They have three 'pretend' ones here that look like slot machines but are based on old horse races.   We just go to Indiana, tons of them there.

            Like I said before @ the Vanna White WOF the KY lottery had here months ago got to meet the Director of KLC-from the FL lottery and complimented him on their progressive lottery in that you can play most games on-line. 

            When was the last time if you were at The Red Mile?

            It sounds like you're confusing the slot machines with the off track betting on the second floor.

            It's not my fault! I voted for Amy.

              Avatar
              Simpsonville
              United States
              Member #163182
              January 22, 2015
              2534 Posts
              Offline

              Never been there.   We have Ainsworth 'slot' machines here in Louisville.   State law prohibits real slot machines, on these you play and hit show race results and they come up and that's how you win/lose on the 'slot' machine.   They have the same ones in Indiana; I don't like Ainsworth machines.   I'm not confused one bit.   One in Lexington area, just over the border from TN and our Louisville one.  Don't know about NKY @ Turfway.   Churchill Downs conveniently owns the property Derby City Gaming is on.  I do believe they are anticipating Beshear getting his way with casinos and sports betting is further ahead than that.   We'll see. 

                cottoneyedjoe's avatar - cuonvFT

                United States
                Member #197030
                March 28, 2019
                703 Posts
                Offline

                Stop Predatory Gambling never makes any headway because they are trying to appeal to state governments with moral/ethical arguments. Instead SPG should appeal to players with economic and math arguments. Religiosity is on the decline and nobody cares about poor people. These guys are too religion-focused.

                ... Sooper dooper top seekrit winning numbers: 5 16 17 24 33 52 ...

                  Avatar
                  Kentucky
                  United States
                  Member #32651
                  February 14, 2006
                  9151 Posts
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                  Never been there.   We have Ainsworth 'slot' machines here in Louisville.   State law prohibits real slot machines, on these you play and hit show race results and they come up and that's how you win/lose on the 'slot' machine.   They have the same ones in Indiana; I don't like Ainsworth machines.   I'm not confused one bit.   One in Lexington area, just over the border from TN and our Louisville one.  Don't know about NKY @ Turfway.   Churchill Downs conveniently owns the property Derby City Gaming is on.  I do believe they are anticipating Beshear getting his way with casinos and sports betting is further ahead than that.   We'll see. 

                  "Never been there"

                  So you have no clue what type of slot machines they have at The Red Mile. The machines I saw were three and five reel video slots with bars, sevens, and cherries. They had three digit numbers (probably just for show) but winning or losing was based on what is on the pay line. 

                  "One in Lexington area, just over the border from TN"

                  Lexington is about 100 miles north of the TN state line.

                  And BTW how do KY slot machines, who owns the buildings, Vanna White or Alex Trebec relate to the Texas Lottery selling lottery tickets at checkout lanes? LOL

                  It's not my fault! I voted for Amy.

                    KY Floyd's avatar - lysol avatar.jpg
                    NY
                    United States
                    Member #23834
                    October 16, 2005
                    4384 Posts
                    Offline

                    "Thomas, 55, has been playing the Texas Lottery for two decades. His "fortune hunting" takes a $30 bite out of his weekly pay, but he's won about $1,000 over the years."

                    Hmm. $30 X 52 weeks x 20 years = $31,200. If he badly underestimated how much the modest wins add up to maybe he's only down about 20k.

                    "I'd be satisfied with $40,000 — just enough to buy a double-wide, an acre of land, an old truck and pay my bills."

                    All it takes is $1 and a dream. A really small dream.

                      Tucker Black's avatar - Kleber Vieira.jpg
                      Reno, NV
                      United States
                      Member #173296
                      February 25, 2016
                      334 Posts
                      Offline

                      If he had saved his money instead of spending it on lottery tickets, he would be halfway towards his goal of $40,000. Sad.

                        Avatar
                        Simpsonville
                        United States
                        Member #163182
                        January 22, 2015
                        2534 Posts
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                        I forgot a semi colon.   What I meant is there is one 'casino' not far from the TN border off of I-65.    One outside of Lexington and one, the only non-smoking one in Louisville, KY.  I do not need to frequent the other two, I agree with you about the appearance of the machines, and to satisfy, or more like circumvent state law on bans on slot machines they have to be based on old horse races.   All of them have a button that here says 'Race results'.

                        Was just making a point on how progressive KY lottery is vs my home state of MA and asked the director about where he came from, Florida if they have on-line and he said no.   Don't know why you get yourself in such a tizzy and I NEVER mentioned Alex Trebek.  I know it wasn't related to the subject.

                          Avatar
                          Kentucky
                          United States
                          Member #32651
                          February 14, 2006
                          9151 Posts
                          Offline

                          I forgot a semi colon.   What I meant is there is one 'casino' not far from the TN border off of I-65.    One outside of Lexington and one, the only non-smoking one in Louisville, KY.  I do not need to frequent the other two, I agree with you about the appearance of the machines, and to satisfy, or more like circumvent state law on bans on slot machines they have to be based on old horse races.   All of them have a button that here says 'Race results'.

                          Was just making a point on how progressive KY lottery is vs my home state of MA and asked the director about where he came from, Florida if they have on-line and he said no.   Don't know why you get yourself in such a tizzy and I NEVER mentioned Alex Trebek.  I know it wasn't related to the subject.

                          The KY race tracks have "simulcast off track betting" and some of them added slot machines and many of those machines are almost exactly the same as the slot machines in most casinos in other states. The only difference is the KY machines must have a horse racing theme, probably because of Kentucky state gambling laws. 

                          Never been to Derby City Gaming, but according to their web site, those slots are like the ones at The Red Mile and the other seven slot machine casinos located in Kentucky. IMO, the KY slot casinos are similar to when South Carolina experimented with slot machine only casinos several years ago

                          "Don't know why you get yourself in such a tizzy and I NEVER mentioned Alex Trebek."

                          I guess you missed the "LOL" following my attempt at satirical humor.

                          For the record, the Kentucky Lottery is not running the nine KY slots only race track/casinos and currently does not sell lottery tickets in checkout lanes. 

                          It's not my fault! I voted for Amy.

                            Avatar
                            Chasing $ Millions.
                            White Shores- California
                            United States
                            Member #136471
                            December 12, 2012
                            6579 Posts
                            Offline

                            Personally, l would have no problem with them selling lottery tickets at the checkout lanes. Just NOT when you have 5 or more people standing in line, wanting to get out of there & on with their lives...especially if someone requests $200 worth of tickets.Roll Eyes

                             * Voice of Reason *   

                             

                            People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.