Iowa seeking to modernize successful lottery program

Iowa Lawmakers To Consider Online Lottery Ticket Sales

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Officials in Iowa are considering making lottery tickets available for purchase via the agency’s website and mobile app beginning in 2019.

Last week, Vice President Mary Neubauer said the Iowa Lottery is in a “strong position” after recording a record $371 million in sales last year.

The program is robust as it currently exists, but modern gaming technology could facilitate increased consumption. The current lottery landscape in the US is moving toward more convenient and cashless options.

Here is what Neubauer told the agency’s board in a briefing paper:

“We have introduced new products in recent years like our InstaPlay games and have enhanced and invigorated our long-term product lines to keep our selection fresh. But no one would say that a selection of solely paper products will withstand the test of time.”

Iowa online lottery bill in development

Lawmakers are currently working to draft a bill for consideration during the upcoming legislative session. A few takeaways from the proposal include:

  • Defining “e-ticket” to allow consumers to purchase using smartphones
  • Allowing Iowa Lottery to sell tickets via personal consumer electronic devices
  • Updating payments to include mobile phones and e-wallets, but exclude credit cards
  • Permitting advanced-deposit wagering

Neubauer said new legislation is needed to combat illegal sales and cater to the growing number of folks who prefer cashless payments.

“It isn’t just millennials any more who aren’t carrying cash,” she said, “and that just creates difficulties with payments for physical products.”

According to a Capital One poll from March, 34 percent of people ages 18-25 rarely or never carry cash. That compares to 25 percent of the over-55 demographic.

The Iowa Lottery Board took no official action on the proposal last week.

Other states with online lottery programs

While online lottery sales have not sparked the same interest sports betting has, six states currently offer online lottery sales.

Pennsylvania is the only one on that list that does not offer draw games (such as Mega Millions) online. Customers in the Commonwealth must still visit a brick-and-mortar retailer to participate in those games.

Five other states offer online lottery subscription services — the main difference being purchase frequency.

  • Maine: 13, 26, 52 weeks
  • New York: minimum of two weeks
  • North Carolina: ranges from single day to full year
  • North Dakota: ranges from single day to full year
  • Virginia: minimum of two weeks

Incidentally, a proposal to legalize Iowa sports betting is also expected to appear in 2019.

- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five year stint in Chicago where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.
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