Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Buying a lottery ticket could soon be as easy as clicking your mouse. The federal government now says it’s okay for states to sell them online.
Mike Hellgren has the impact on Maryland.
Even conservative projections have it adding hundreds of millions of dollars to Maryland’s budget, but it still would need the approval of the General Assembly, which has already signaled interest.
You could soon be able to play the Maryland Lottery online. The Justice Department cleared the way, changing an interpretation of federal law dating back 50 years. Now web ticket sales are considered legal.
Milton Sommers doesn’t play but sees no harm in it.
“You can’t stop people from spending the money the way they want to,” Sommers said.
The state has been exploring online sales to fill the budget shortfall, projected at $1.1 billion. Online money revenues, if they existed, could top $250 million.
“You can buy your groceries online, you can buy just about everything online and I know in my house, just about every Christmas gift was bought online. It’s an option the General Assembly thought should be given some consideration,” said State Lottery Director Stephen Martino.
Last year, the lottery brought in more than $500 million for the state’s general operating fund. That money went to everything from public safety to roads to education.
Overseas, the United Kingdom sells tickets online and has not seen a reduction in visits to stores. While no U.S. state sells on the web yet, there’s been interest in Illinois, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C., hoping to capture new consumers and cash in to help their struggling bottom lines.
“Just the thrill of possibly winning or checking the numbers when they’re played on TV,” said Abbe Klair.
Over the next few weeks, state lottery officials are taking comments from the public to decide if there’s enough interest to move forward.