C-stores, Gambling Foes Criticize Online Lottery in Illinois

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C-stores, Gambling Foes Criticize Online Lottery in Illinois

12/29/2011

CHICAGO -- Convenience store operators and anti-gambling activists make strange bedfellows, but many of them have united in opposition to an Illinois lottery pilot program that would allow the state to sell lotto tickets over the internet, according to a WBEZ.org report. The program was approved in 2009 but put on hold until the U.S. Department of Justice gave its approval, which happened last week.

For the c-store industry, online lottery sales mean a potential loss of foot traffic. "When somebody comes inside the store to buy a lottery ticket, they're a whole lot more likely to buy something else -- whether it's a cup of coffee, a newspaper, a sandwich," said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the industry trade association, NACS.

Addicted gamblers are the problem, according to the group Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems. "They could gamble on home computers, from the office, they could gamble on their cell phones, on their iPhones," noted Anita Bedell, head of the organization. "So, it's making gambling too accessible."

Illinois state law lets gamblers exclude themselves from the ability to create an online lottery account, according to the report, but Bedell stated that the system is not reliable and provides no effective way of preventing underage gamblers from purchasing tickets.

When buying tickets in convenience stores, customers must show identification and pay in cash. State officials have said that they will develop a website that ensures only adults are able to purchase lottery tickets.