Florida committee proposes bill to ban online lottery sales

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Posted: February 21, 2019, 2:58 a.m.

Last update: February 21, 2019, 4:54 a.m.

Florida does not sell lottery tickets over the internet — and if a bill passed Wednesday by the House Gaming Control Subcommittee becomes law, it never will.

Online lottery
While other states are forced to fight to preserve their online lottery operations, State. Representative Will Robinson believes the sale of lottery tickets should only take place between a store and an in-person buyer. (Image: Mike Lang/Herald-Tribune)

As New Hampshire has sued the Justice Department in a bid to protect the revenue it earns from its online lottery operations, state Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) wants the option to be completely removed from the table.

The main purpose of Robinson’s bill – which was advanced by the committee in a 10-to-1 vote – is to exclude third-party websites that claim to be affiliated with the state lottery but in fact just buy tickets and mark up the prices.

The bill would ban the use of personal electronic devices for ticket sales and purchases, ensuring that each ticket sale involves a transaction between a store and an in-person purchaser.

“These scam websites are, in my opinion, illegal advertising when they are not related to the lottery system at all,” he said. Florida politics earlier this week. “The lottery is heavily regulated and that’s for a purpose… The State of Florida wants to make sure the right thing is sold.”

Health warning

Robinson also wishes to include important warnings about the dangers of gambling on lottery products and marketing materials. If enacted, effective January 1, 2020, all advertising or promotion of lottery games must include the following statement in capital letters:

WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR. THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.

According to Florida politicsRobinson was inspired to introduce his bill after learning of a recent case where a woman from Panama came forward to claim a $30 million prize from a Florida store she had never visited. She had bought her ticket at full price on the Israel-based website TheLotter.com.

TheLotter allows players from anywhere in the world to choose their numbers online, then dispatch local agents to purchase tickets on their behalf.

Jackpot paid

The Florida Lottery launched an investigation but ultimately concluded that no laws had been broken and paid out the jackpot. But he terminated his contract with the Florida store after determining that his management knew he was selling tickets to the third-party company.

In 2011, the DOJ ruled that the federal Wire Act did not prohibit the sale of lottery tickets over the Internet. His advice had been sought by GAs in New York and Illinois, as those states considered expanding their online lottery operations.

The notice paved the way for a dozen states to launch online lotteries in one form or another, and many more are now considering the idea. But the reversal of the DOJ advisory in January jeopardizes those operations — as well as online casino and poker operations in New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

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