N.H. Considers Online Scratch Tickets To Boost Lottery Revenue

Jun 21, 2017

Online scratch tickets could soon be a reality in New Hampshire.

Lawmakers are betting on this expansion of the New Hampshire state lottery to generate millions of dollars in revenue in the next two-year state budget.

That $11.7 billion spending plan is set to go before the full House and Senate on Thursday.

Concord Monitor Statehouse reporter Allie Morris spoke to NHPR’s Morning Edition about this issue.

How would online scratch tickets work?

Well, the name pretty well describes it. My understanding is people would be able to download a mobile app on their phone or their tablet and they would be able to access scratch tickets that look pretty similar to what you buy in a gas station or a convenience store. And you would be able to scratch off with your finger if you have a touch screen. It would give people access to scratch tickets in their home. You wouldn’t have to drive to go pick them up at a local store. My understanding from the lottery commission is this move is to try to attract the millennial market. They haven’t seen sales really skyrocket among this group in terms of lottery games, but they think maybe by bringing it to their phone, they’ll get more of this demographic playing lottery in New Hampshire.

Is this a trend in other states?

Yes, there are other states that have expanded. As technology changes, I think states have been trying to figure out how they can expand their revenues when it comes to lotteries. So this is something other states around the country have already gotten into. New Hampshire would be following suit with this change

This raises a lot of questions, particularly around age verification. You need to be 18 to buy a scratch ticket – so how can they check that if people buy them online?

It’s a great question and it’s one lawmakers really grappled with. Under the current proposal, in order for users to download this app, you would have to go and register at a brick-and-mortar store first, and that’s where that age verification would take place. And something that I understand would be a big difference between playing in a store and playing on your phone would be right now, if you go and buy a scratch ticket at a grocery store or a convenience store, you have to pay cash for that ticket. My understanding is that you could set up a credit card account when you go in and register to verify your age. It could be hooked up to your phone so you could play online.

Is this idea getting any pushback at all?

Initially it did get quite a bit of pushback from the owners of the brick-and-mortar stores. They get a lot of foot traffic from people coming in, looking to play lottery games. They were concerned this was going to take away some of their market share. I think lawmakers have tried to appease that group by setting up this registration, so you would still have to go into a brick-and-mortar store at least once before you could start playing on your phone. I think that has allayed some of their concerns.

Would there be a limit on the number of scratch tickets you could buy online?

This has gone through a few iterations. Currently, it’s up to the lottery commission to address what daily, weekly, and monthly limits would be for each player that are “consistent with the best practices of addressing problem gambling.” So it’s not exactly clear what those limits will be, but looking at the bill, there is an intention to put those caps so that people couldn’t just spend away their live savings buying scratch tickets in a single day.

How much are they expecting this will generate?

The estimate is about $13 million this would bring in. It would be $3 million in the first year and $10 million in the second.