Josh Stein, the attorney general of the state of North Carolina expressed his reservations regarding the expansion of internet lottery sales in a letter addressed to North Carolina State Lottery Commission (NCSLC) chair Courtney Crowder. The letter was sent last week and cited potential violations of the state’s regulations on video sweepstakes machines.
Stein’s response was prompted by the NCSLC’s solicitation of a draft business plan for digital instants last month. The committee met this week to examine the preferred draft.
Digital instants are electronic scratch-off tickets that offer cash prizes and have been legalised in five states. The draft plan contains letters from the lotteries of New Hampshire and Kentucky in support of legalising digital instants.
NC lawmakers have so far failed to establish a clear consensus on digital instants. Digital instants could add up to $80 million net revenue per year within five years, according to the business model drafted for the NCSLC. The model also states that, to buy tickets, players must verify they are of legal age; problem gamblers will be protected by limiting how much one can transfer to the accounts they use to purchase tickets.
State law mandates that the lottery can endorse any game that is part of the any other state lottery’s current offerings. But Stein, a Democrat, argued in his letter to Crowder that digital instants could be classified under video games, where real money bets are barred by state law; thus, the authority to approve them may not lie with the NCSLC.
Notable Opponents of Digital Instants
Stein’s position mirrors that of critics of online lottery sales who contend that digital instants are too similar to video sweepstakes games. Illegal video sweepstakes parlors are a serious problem in marginalised communities within the state, where they have caused a spike in criminal activity as well as problem gambling.
The North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police (NCACP) agreed with Stein’s assessment; NCACP President David Hess, the Roxboro Police Chief, claimed that legalising digital instants would render their duty to enforce the video sweepstakes ban impossible.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) also expressed their disapproval of legalising digital instants, as the online games could cut into their profits from scratch-off tickets. Other notable opponents of the NCSLC’s proposed expansion are the John Locke Foundation and the North Carolina Justice Center.