CHICAGO (CBS) — Owners of 7-Eleven stores are warning of massive layoffs to come, unless the Illinois Lottery protects them from competition from the online sales that are expected to start this year.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, the franchise owners say they online lottery sales could force them to lay off 7,000 employees statewide.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Joe Rossi, the head of the Chicago franchise owners’ association, estimates lottery sales bring in 30 percent of the business at 7-Elevens, because lottery buyers buy an average of $5 in goods on top of their tickets.

Rossi says he is not trying to block internet lottery sales, just suggesting the lottery find a way to protect 7-Eleven lottery business and jobs.

Rossi is recommending that the state Lottery require players to fill up a Lottery credit card at 7-Elevens – leaving the store owners with their present 5 percent cut of the business – rather than allowing players to gamble without limit on their credit cards on line at home.

The move to online Lottery play is set to begin in April. The U.S. Department of Justice in December issued a legal opinion on the matter that paved the way for online sales to begin.

Lottery officials estimate the state will take in $150 million more annually once sales go online, and will attract hundreds of thousands of new players.

Officials have promised that the site for online sales will be secure and limited to Illinois adults.