Online lottery would have eased state revenue pain – Lowell Sun

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The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the physical and fiscal health of this country.

As the number of people infected and dead continues to rise, so does the number of workers displaced by this new virus.

It’s no different in Massachusetts, which had seen record employment until the onset of COVID-19.

Those heady days are over for the foreseeable future.

With an increase in unemployment claims, the closure of all non-essential businesses and the extension of the state income tax filing deadline until July 15, the once rosy picture of income from the Commonwealth now looks murky at best.

The most obvious impact of the coronavirus on state revenue can be seen in the dizzying fall in lottery sales.

Social distancing – and a ban on on-site service at bars and restaurants – has meant less travel to the center of most lottery business, the local convenience store.

That’s what lottery chief executive Michael Sweeney told the Lottery Commission during a virtual meeting on Tuesday morning.

Compared to the opening week of March, lottery sales over the following weeks were down 1%, 20.6% and 29.3%, respectively, a hit of $57 million for all lottery offerings. products.
Scratch ticket and Keno sales, which account for around 69% and 20% of the Lottery’s daily revenue respectively, fell, with scratch ticket sales down around 24% between the first and last week. of March, and Keno sales down 52%, Sweeney mentioned.

From March 22-28, the Lottery sold $57.8 million worth of scratch tickets — the lowest total for that week in 15 years.

Lottery revenue has long been a cash cow in the form of local aid to towns and villages.

Last fiscal year, the Lottery set records for highest total revenue at $5.499 billion. This resulted in a record profit of $1.092 billion distributed statewide.

But past performance does not guarantee future results, as officials have now learned, after being caught off guard by a global health crisis.

Of course, the Lottery need not be in this vulnerable position, the result of archaic rules that only require in-person cash transactions, and the legislature’s continued refusal to allow online expansion of lottery games.

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has for years lobbied lawmakers to approve online options to appeal to a younger demographic who grew up in the age of the internet and do most of their shopping and entertainment via a smartphone or other digital device.

However, lawmakers, apparently bowing to pressure from retailers who feared a loss of in-store revenue, thwarted Goldberg’s attempts to equip the Lottery with the proper tools to remain viable in the 21st century.

The current stay-in-place environment highlights the irony of this legislative dithering.

With a captive, digital-friendly audience at home, imagine what those March revenue numbers would look like if the Lottery offered a suite of online games for a bustle-crazed audience?

Undoubtedly, it would easily make up for that loss of walk-in revenue.

No, we didn’t expect state lawmakers to report on a global pandemic when deliberating on the online lottery.

But we wanted them to embrace the explosion of technology that spawned advances like FaceTime and Zoom, which enabled social interaction for an otherwise isolated population during this difficult time.

This failure of the Legislature to establish this internet connection will now come back to haunt the Commonwealth in lost revenue at a time when it needs it most.

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