Legalizing online lottery ticket sales might be one way to prevent the first year-over-year decrease in lottery ticket sales in 15 years from turning into a multi-year trend.
The Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency‘s plan to launch an online lottery service was vetoed by Gov. Martin O’Malley this year and the agency had to fight to stop legislation in the General Assembly that would have stripped away some of its regulatory authority.
Lottery officials have previously said that expanding its offerings to the Web would be critical to capturing the younger generation of would-be gamblers.
The lawmaker most responsible for evaluating gambling legislation in the House of Delegates said Friday there’s a lot of work to be done before scratch-offs could be purchased with a click.
“I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said Del. Eric G. Luedtke, chairman of the Finance Resources Subcommittee. “You’ve seen other states race to get into it. A lot of the opposition [in Maryland] just came from traditional lottery retailers that don’t want the competition. For me, the biggest unanswered question is, how do you prevent underage players? I’m not entirely sure the technological infrastructure is there.”
Other states including Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada have already embraced online gambling, and some Maryland casinos are waiting for state law to catch up. Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall, the state’s most successful casino, has an online casino on its website where e-gamblers can play without placing real wagers. Caesars Entertainment Corp., the leader of a group that plans to open a casino in Baltimore next year, is active in online gambling in Nevada.
If Internet gambling is ever legalized in Maryland, the casinos will have the necessary framework in place to start taking bets.
“It’ll happen. It’ll be two years or three years,” said James Karmel, an associate professor at Harford Community College who studies the gambling industry. “Whatever can be done to capture the younger generation. … I’m interested in the effect online gambling is going to have on physical casinos.”
Luedtke, D-Montgomery, also admitted the question of online gambling was something lawmakers would have to seriously consider before too long — especially if lottery revenue continues to diminish.
“Everything’s going online eventually,” Luedtke said. “It might be something we have to do to continue getting revenues.”