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Prairie State Wire

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Bill to extend online lottery purchases puts young people at risk, critic says

State Government

By Robert Hadley | May 4, 2018

Lotto 16

Legislation introduced in the Illinois House would make it easier for lottery managers to target young people and those who may have gambling addictions, one critic of the measure says.

HB5181, introduced April 13, would extend a pilot program that allows persons 18 and older to buy lottery tickets online. Although a pilot program phased out such online purchases by July 1, 2017, the bill proposed by Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) would extend the grace period until July 1, 2028.

Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, filed a witness slip to speak against the bill.

Rep. Robert Rita (R-Blue Island)

Bedell told the Prairie State Wire that permitting online gambling – often conducted via smart phone apps, such as the one the Illinois Lottery uses – makes it more appealing to younger players.

“Young people play free games on their cellphones and are more likely to purchase lottery tickets through the internet,” she said.

Citing statistics that she claims show 51 percent of tickets are purchased by only 5 percent of the players, Bedell said those users likely have a gambling addiction.

Lotteries remain big business in the United States, where the U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2014 (the most recent year available), lotteries kicked in approximately $20.8 billion into state coffers.

However, concerns remain about their impact on the poor. A 2011 article in the Journal of Gambling Studies asserted that “poor are still the leading patron of the lottery” and that the “legalization of gambling has seen a significant increase of young people gambling, particularly in lotteries."

Now that British firm Camelot has inked a $2.2 billion, 10-year agreement to manage the Illinois Lottery, Bedell is questioning whether the move will change the marketing approach.

According to a list of talking points she provided the Prairie State Wire, Camelot could “market the internet lottery program more aggressively, especially to young people who rely more heavily on purchases through the internet.”

“The lottery is a regressive tax on the poor,” Bedell said. “Making it easier for residents to lose money in the state lottery is not good public policy.”

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