BOSTON – Retailers want lawmakers to reject a plan to allow lottery sales online, saying it would hurt mom and pop stores struggling to recover from the pandemic.
On Monday, proposals to set up a cashless lottery and allow consumers to use debit cards to purchase MegaMillions tickets and other merchandise, tabled by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, were among several bills being considered. by the Joint Committee of the Legislature on Consumer Protection and Licensing.
Lottery officials say online sales are crucial in maintaining an indispensable source of money for communities, which are the lottery ‘s primary beneficiaries.
But retailers say the changes would hurt parcel stores and convenience stores that rely on in-person lottery sales to attract customers, adding to a list of financial pressures that have weighed on their bottom line over the past year. .
“The retail industry can’t take a lot more hits,” said Bob Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, during a live hearing Monday. “The margins are already very low and they are making less money than in previous years. It would be just another success.”
Ryan Kearny, general counsel for the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, noted that commissions paid to retailers for lottery sales have not increased in 45 years as the cost of doing business has increased “dramatically.”
Michael Sweeney, executive director of the Lottery, said the pandemic has accelerated a shift in consumer behavior towards e-commerce, and the state needs to catch up by modernizing the system.
“Ensuring fairness between gaming platforms will help the Commonwealth to generate both income and economic development, while also giving the Lottery the ability to continue to provide essential and unlimited local support to every city in the State, ”Sweeney told the panel.
Governor Charlie Baker also supports the modernization of the lottery and has included wording in his draft budget to allow online sales.
Baker administration officials say authorizing debit card lottery sales could bring in $ 35 million in the next fiscal year. The governor’s budget provides for an additional $ 35 million in revenue from legalized sports betting.
Lawmakers have introduced dozens of other bills to authorize online lottery sales as well as other plans to modernize the system.
The Senate approved debit and credit card transactions for lottery sales as part of its 2022 tax budget, but the House did not. Lawmakers from both houses are now secretly meeting to work out the details of the latest $ 47 billion spending program and it is not clear whether the provision will survive negotiations.
At least six states, including New Hampshire, have allowed online sales, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The surge in online sales in Massachusetts also comes as lawmakers consider plans to allow sports betting on racetracks and casinos, or through mobile platforms such as DraftKings.
Critics say the lottery has social costs and the shift in online sales would make the problem worse, especially at a time when many people are desperate.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for newspapers and the North of Boston Media Group websites.