Illinois Lottery goes online with ticket sales

March 24, 2012 8:43:25 AM PDT
The Illinois Lottery becomes the first in the nation to go online this weekend.

Lottery players will be able to purchase tickets on the Internet. The pilot program set to launch on Sunday at 7 a.m. will only include sales for the Lotto and Mega Millions games.

State officials say offering Lotto and Mega Million games on the Internet is aimed at attracting new players rather than selling more tickets to current ones.

"One of the problems the lottery has faced for a long time has been we're getting a lot of sales from a very small number of people," said Michael Jones, Illinois Lottery superintendent.

Jones is hoping to attract customers that already buy products online. He says the Lotto experience will be quite similar, although it will include more personal information.

"There will be a simple registration process where we capture your social security number, your date of birth, your address, credit card information, and once you register, then you will be able to buy a ticket," he said.

Jones says the site is secure and will include technology to monitor age and restrict play. He says the state has a potential of making millions more in revenue with online sales.

Jay Patel says that is not good news for him. The owner of a Loop newsstand believes online sales will hurt his overall business, especially during big jackpots like this week's Mega Millions.

"Somebody comes, buys a lottery [ticket], picks up a can of soda and a bag of chips. So personally, me, I don't like this idea, Patel said.

And some lottery customers say for now, they are sticking with the old fashioned way buying a ticket -- from a human being.

"Access to the lottery online would not have an effect on how I Iplay," said one player. "I'm just a casual player."

Lottery officials do not believe retailers will lose business. Jones says online sales and promotions may drive new customers to stores to check out the games not offered on the Internet.

Revenue from the lottery goes towards the Illinois common school fund and the capital projects fund.

If the Mega Millions drawing -- with a jackpot of $290 million -- rolls over on Friday, lottery officials are expecting huge online business on the program's first day.