Gambling online will finally be a reality for Massachusetts residents beginning March 10, but only in the specific area of sports betting — and the Massachusetts State Lottery director said he’s worried about losing his players to the more easily accessible option.
“We don’t know how sports betting is going to affect our sales... it’s our biggest concern right now; our inability to be online,” said Interim Director Mark William Bracken.
In-person sports bettng rolled out in the Bay State on Jan. 31, following legislation passed to allow the legal gambling to take place at physical locations. With separate legislation that was also passed for online sports betting, Massachusetts gamblers will be able to legally place bets on professional sports teams using their mobile devices a little over a month later.
“We’re the last gambling hold-out, basically, to be able to go online,” Bracken said. “Someone who’s able to sit there and play sports betting in the comfort of their home — that’s a major concern for us, where a lottery player is not going to be able to do the exact same.”
Massachusetts State Lottery has been lobbying lawmakers for over a decade to be allowed online, with bills related to playing the lottery online being filed from 2013 through 2018 listed on the state Legislature’s website.
Bracken said the laws restricting Massachusetts Lottery are “a million years old.” Neighboring states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and New York offer different online lottery options for their players, according to the interactive map on BettingUSA.com.
“We are pushing forward again this year; we have filed bills in both the House and the Senate, and we’re working with our legislative partners... but that’s really our biggest concern right now, is that we cannot have the ability to be online, not reach younger players, and we’re losing players every day,” Bracken said.
The lottery director had previous concerns at the end of Nov. 2022 that the organization wouldn’t make its 2023 fiscal year goals due to ticket sale declines, being $22.5 million short of its 2022 sales at that time. Bracken said with its new $50 “Billion Dollar Extravaganza” ticket and drawing game, “The Numbers Game,” sales have been looking up, and had high hopes for the lottery’s first online and radio ad campaign, which went live at the end of Feb.
However, Bracken said the lottery’s ad budget is minimal compared to that of sports betting — yet another concern for the director.
“Unfortunately, there’s a very limited advertising budget. We have the lowest advertising budget per capita in the country, for any lottery, and we are appropriated anywhere between 300 and 600 times less in our advertising budget than our comparative states, even in states that are smaller,” Bracken said.
“You turn on the television, you can’t avoid a DraftKings, FanDuel, WinBet, MGM bets [commercial]... they’re spending tens and hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, which unfortunately is probably going to take away some of our players,” the director added.
In Bracken’s opinion, the value the Massachusetts State Lottery provides to the Bay State far outpaces the value provided by sports betting, which is part of his frustration with the lottery’s online restrictions.
“If you look at it just in terms of the values of the Commonwealth, they’re estimating that sports betting is only going to bring in $40 to $60 million in tax revenue,” Bracken said. “Especially from the online companies, there’s no real secondary value to those companies... The lottery alone last year brought in $33 million in tax revenue, plus the $1.1 billion in profit that went directly to unrestricted local aid.”
The “secondary value” Bracken was referencing was the creation of jobs, he said, along with the aforementioned statewide local aid, and the $2.50-per-ticket-sold financial gain lottery agents — like restaurants and convenience shops — receive from players purchasing tickets.
Currently, the only online option for Massachusetts State Lottery players to connect with the lottery is through the MA Lottery app. On the app, players can cash winning tickets valued between $601 and $5,000, scan already-purchased scratch and drawing tickets to see if they’re winners and watch for results of drawings, amongst other features. They cannot purchase lottery tickets from the app.