Georgia Lottery approves online ticket sales

by: Jim Strickland Updated:

The Georgia Lottery Corporation Board of Directors voted Thursday to launch a plan to allow players to buy tickets for jackpot games over the Internet.

"(Lotteries) are one of the last industries not to offer our products digitally," lottery president Margaret DeFrancisco told Strickland in an exclusive interview. 

MegaMillions, PowerBall and Fantasy 5 will be the initial offerings.   A type of game to mimic the format of a scratch-off will come later, said DeFrancisco. Only Illinois currently offers online lottery play.

A scratch-off has a finite prize pool, while prizes for jackpot games grow as a function of sales volume.

"Our mission here is to maximize revenue for the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K programs," DeFrancisco told Strickland.

The lottery reported record sales of $3.8 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, but rising enrollments and tuition costs have dented funds available to HOPE scholars.  Strickland reported earlier this week that state-funded scholarships were down $216 million last school year compared to the previous year.

DeFrancisco admitted the online offerings will not be a game-changer.

"This will not be a huge piece of revenue," she said.

DeFrancisco said safeguards to ensure players are of legal age and in the state while playing will be at least as stringent as current protections.

The lottery will also offer a special debit card called an iHOPE to fund lottery purchases online and at retail. Players will deposit money into a bank account to fund card purchases and online games.

Players will deposit money into a special bank account to fund card purchases.  DeFrancisco said the iHOPE card will also act as a conventional pre-paid debit card, and can be used for retail purchases besides lottery tickets.  DeFrancisco admits the lottery has not been able to keep up with a retail trend toward the Internet and away from paper currency.

"We're hoping to begin to draw some of the people who are cashless, many of whom are young," she said.  DeFrancisco believes HOPE scholars who have benefited from lottery proceeds may become new customers.

"We expect there to be slow and steady growth," DeFrancisco said of online sales.

She said sales will begin either late this year or in early 2013.

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