Internet lottery sales may help with state finances

Legislators in Illinois may want to study the problems that the recently introduced Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act regulations have caused New Hampshire before they embark on a project to sell lottery tickets over the Internet. The difficulties of organising financial transactions blocked by the controversial and ill-defined UIGEA requirements should not be underestimated.

The Illinois Senate President, John Cullerton, needs to pay particular attention to the UIGEA pitfalls before he moves on a proposal he is considering which is designed to boost flagging state finances. Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, wants to expand sales of state lottery tickets by making them available online. And although state lotteries are part of the notorious and inequitable US legislative carve-outs when it comes to Internet gambling, the banking sector charged with enforcing the UIGEA has shown that it can and will block transactions about which it is uncertain.

Cullerton hopes that resorting to the Internet to boost sales will increase lottery revenues by as much as $300 million.

But according to reports last (January) month, the New Hampshire Lottery is battling with credit card sales over the Internet which have been blocked by a cautious financial services system charged with enforcing UIGEA regulations. The financial services industry - as was widely predicted in hearings on the UIGEA regulations, but ignored by the government - is struggling with the lack of precision in the regulations, especially regarding what constitutes an illegal online gambling transaction.

David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, told the Chicago Tribune, "I think it's an issue of not clearly understanding what exactly the rights are of the state in this issue."

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