UPDATED 03/26/12 9:24 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois became a pioneer Sunday as the first state in the country to offer them online.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, state Lottery officials are happy about the move, and believe it will mean more money for a state that is broke.
But there are concerns, and fears.
The first online Lottery ticket was purchased at 7:03 a.m. Sunday, just three minutes after Illinois officially became the first state to sell lottery tickets online.
A few hours later, more than 600 people had bought tickets, with sales topping $5,000. Lottery officials said they expected the fast pace of sales to continue through to Tuesday evening’s Mega Millions drawing, where the jackpot is an estimated $356 million.
“Exciting may be an understatement,” said Lottery Supt. Michael Jones.”It also is rather nerve-wracking when you think about an absolutely new interface, an absolutely new system, and potentially having the demand you have associated with such a large grand prize.”
But not everyone shares that excitement.
“For my store itself, about 15 percent of my sales comes from the lottery,” said Jigar Shah, who owns a 7-11 on Lake Street.
Shah worries online lottery sales will have a devastating impact on his business.
“It’s going to hurt us in job growth,” Shah said. “We estimate potentially there will be about 7,000 jobs that will be lost, just from the 7-11 franchise itself, which is a great amount of loss, not considering the private business owner,” he said.
But Jones believes online ticket sales will actually generate more business for what he calls the “brick and mortar” stores.
“That’s been the example of other countries that have done Internet sales – overall sales went up, commissions to retailers went up, and a whole new retail channel created a lot profit for good causes in those countries,” Jones said.
But critics have another objection – the fear that easy access to online lottery tickets will be especially bad for gambling addicts.
“I think that what we’re going to see is a whole bunch of people in the state gambling who should not be gambling,” said Doug Dobmeyer of the Task Force Opposed to Gambling.
Jones counters that the lottery is rarely attractive to serious gamblers because of the odds of winning are so poor.
“If you play Mega Millions, it costs a dollar, and the odds against winning the grand prize is 175 million to one, so the very nature of lotteries are not conducive to excessive behavior as other forms of gambling can be,” he said.
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