North Carolina AG opposes expansion of online lottery sales

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North Carolina’s attorney general has spoken out against the state lottery’s expansion of online sales, suggesting such “digital moments” could violate state laws banning slot machines. video raffle.

News of Democrat Josh Stein’s opposition spread as members of the North Carolina State Lottery Commission met on Tuesday to consider a draft business plan to propose such games. Committee members atOkay a key step towards Digital Instants last month — without finalizing their production — by requesting the plan.

North Carolina law states that the lottery can endorse any game that another state lottery is already offering. Digital Instants, which are essentially the electronic equivalent of scratch tickets offering cash prizes, already exist in five other states.

But Stein told commission chairwoman Courtney Crowder in a letter that the games could be considered prohibited video games under a separate state law. “The commission has no authority to offer lottery games that qualify as video games,” Stein wrote on Jan. 22, pointing to legal citations.

Stein’s argument aligns with those of e-commerce critics, who say the themes and digital pop-up screens are too much like video lottery games, which lawmakers and law enforcement have been trying for years. to eradicate from the state. Opponents point to crime associated with illegal raffle parlors and anecdotes of gamblers, especially in poor neighborhoods, emptying their wallets to gamble.

“I am concerned that these types of games prey on the vulnerable and risk doing real harm to communities and families across the state,” Stein wrote, urging the commission to oppose the expansion. . The association representing state police chiefs also opposes it.

Legalizing digital instants for the lottery would “make it virtually impossible” to enforce the current sweepstakes ban because players could click through to legal games or the internet, Roxboro Police Chief David Hess, president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.

Lottery officials say the two types of games are not the same and permitted online gambling would be under state control and strict regulation.

The business model presented on Tuesday shows that digital instants could generate $80 million in net revenue per year within five years. The state lottery grossed $708 million in total for the 12 months ending last June. As currently limited online ticket sales are already permitted, “digital instants” would require minimum age verification and set limits on money transfers to ticket purchase accounts.

Crowder told reporters Tuesday that the lottery had never received such guidance from the attorney general’s office and said it was under review. Crowder said the commission followed a “methodical” and “deliberate” process.

“I want to make sure the North Carolina Education Lottery is doing it right,” said Crowder, appointed chair by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. the state (and) focused on returning revenue for public education in the state of North Carolina.

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association opposes the expansion, fearing online gaming will cannibalize their sales. The lottery’s business plan produced letters from the Kentucky and New Hampshire lotteries attempting to refute this argument. The liberal-leaning North Carolina Justice Center and the conservative John Locke Foundation are also against the expansion.

Lawmakers disagree on online sales and could pass laws changing what games are allowed. Commission members are selected by the Governor and Republican legislative leaders. More than 30 House Democrats put their names on a letter last month promising to work to ban digital instant lottery games if implemented.

As overall North Carolina Lottery sales and net income for public education continue to grow, lottery executives have sought to tap into a new generation of players comfortable with computers and cellphones. .

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