Michigan Lottery is looking to the Internet for new business, where they expect more tickets to be sold, and games played which will ultimately pump money into the public schools.
Some of the lawmakers are afraid gambling addiction will increase, that people will get into debt and the bricks and mortar casinos or stores who participate in the lottery will take a hit.
The debate is hotting up as Legislature sets what is to be spent for next years budget. The Snyder administration is currently asking for more than $3 million for the launch of an "iLottery" early in 2014, this is thanks to a US Justice Department’s opinion, that was released about 16 months ago, that says the States will be able to offer Internet gambling, provided it does not involve any wagering on sports.
The legislature, which is Republican led, is already split about the iLottery, the house has agreed to the funding request, but the senate plans to reject it. It is hoped that the differences will be resolved during May.
Georgia and Illinois are able to sell lottery tickets online and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are still looking into the matter.
Michigan officials have said that this move is a crucial one if the lottery was to remain relevant.
Andi Brancato, lottery spokeswoman, has said that people can buy almost anything online, therefore buying a lottery ticket should not be different.
Should the lottery expand on to the internet, then Michigan would be able to depost about $8 million, to be used for education annually. This is a small amount compared the school aid fund that was received, which was a record at $780 million, from lottery profits in the last fiscal year. An indication of the potential growth of the profits, it is expected that they could grow to $471 million, over the next 7 years.
To some of the Republican legislators they feel that these extra profits, are not worth the trouble, as they are expecting that if people play lottery using their mobile phones or computers, they will get into debt.
A Mount Pheasant Republican, Kevin Cotter, found it alarming that the State is leading the push for online gambling. He felt that it is a State sponsored initiative, for gamblers to use their credit cards, for gambling, wherever a player is situated. He felt that it was not acceptable for him, however, he had no problem with Commissioner of Lottery, M. Scott Bowen’s pursuit, for the iLottery, because he belived that this was Mr Bowen’s Job to maximize profits.
Rep. Cotter continued that it was up to the legislators to take issue and stand up with regards to the source of the revenue. Rep. Cotter introduced legislation for the prohibition of the sale of lottery tickets online.
He continued that the bill he has proposed, is needed even if the lottery did not get the additional funds, for rolling out the iLottery, he felt that the budget was large enough to carry out the intentions. The Senate budget that was proposed has included language, that prohibits the lottery being spent on the iLottery.
The Lottery, in January asked for bids from companies, who are interested in the support and development of an online system, and also for online games. The winner would have been announced this week but has been rescheduled for notification in mid June.
Ms. Brancato has said that at this point in time, the lottery is going ahead as planned, however, she is watching what the lawmakers do with regard to the budget process. She continued that it was still too early to say how the iLottery would work, and the games that will be offered for players. She reiterated that the major intent was for the sale of tickets online.
The Lottery Officials have said that the concern, with regard to addiction, and that people would rack up heavy debt on credit cards were unfounded. There is technology in place, that places restriction on how much people are able to play.
Players could also pre-authorize the iLottery to cut off, once they have reached a certain preset cap, either weekly or monthly, said Ms. Brancato.
The critics are not convinced about the technology
Sen. Rick Jones, who is a Grand Lodge Republican, another sponsor to kill legislation for the iLottery, has said that there are cases where people have gambled their homes from their couch.
On the other hand, GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, has said that he is confident that a lottery on the internet wont harm any convenience store or restaurant. He said that his administration thinks, that the move could be made, without any contradiction of a 2004 constitution amendment, that requires most new efforts for gambling be okeyed by the votors at local and state level.
Rep. Earl Poleski, who is a Jackson Republican as well as the chairman of the House budget subcommittee, that deals with the lottery budget, has stated that if they’re inclined towards the growth of the market, he said it sounded reasonable to him. He continued that when there is limited dollars available for schools, he feit it would be imprudent not to consider growing that revenue.