Boston – Sports BettingIn Massachusetts on Tuesday, officials at the Massachusetts Lottery, the country’s most successful lottery, are worried.
So what’s the future of the lottery?
Let me start with a riddle: Is there a way to miss a single number in a lottery and still win? Head to Waltham to find out.
The sprawling $380 million prospective high school was built on lottery money.
The Massachusetts Lottery gave Waltham $11 million last year. The city used 7 million to advance the high school.
It was a big help that Waltham Mayor Janet McCarthy was involved in a lottery ad.
“It goes into our overall budget, but I have $7 million in school fees for the new Waltham High School, which is a community-supported project that helps me,” McCarthy said.
Last year, the lottery brought in $6 billion in revenue. After paying winners and lottery agents, its profits ($1.1 billion) make their way back to the state’s 351 cities and towns.
But inflation has played a large part.
“The numbers are significantly lower,” said Mark William Bracken, interim director of the Massachusetts Lottery. “We’ve lost over $100 million since this time last year.”
Now Bracken is worried about sports betting — he thinks revenues will take another hit if people bet on games.
“I think it’s going to be important, we can talk anywhere between 5-10 percent,” Bracken said.
Legal gambling is expected to bring in $60 million in tax revenue, but the lottery says that won’t offset its losses.
The lottery’s biggest worry? In just a few months, you’ll be betting from your phone while sitting on the couch. However, if you want to buy scratch tickets or Megamillions, you have to go to the store. The Lottery does not believe this is a level playing field.
For a decade, the Massachusetts Lottery has tried unsuccessfully to get lawmakers to allow online lottery games such as virtual scratch-offs.
Bracken thinks it kills their connection with younger customers. “They don’t want to buy a Powerball ticket on Sunday and then wait until the next day for the draw. They want to be able to play something now and see the results now. That’s what online lotteries provide,” Bracken said.
But is sports betting a real threat?
The president of Encore Boston Harbor told WBZ-TV that their customers are not the same as Lottery’s customers. She said the lottery was a game of chance.
“I think sports betting is more of a game of skill. You need to know some information about the teams you’re betting on and the odds, so it’s very, very different,” President Jeanne Holiday said.
Bracken believes the best way for everyone to win is to make the lottery playable online.
“We’re not against sports betting,” he said. “But it’s kind of a shame to allow all these other people to go online … and then have the Massachusetts Lottery not go online.”