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Treasurer Pushes for Online Lottery as Sales Plummet in Massachusetts

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg is urging lawmakers to bring the Massachusetts State Lottery online, pointing to a drop in sales due to the coronavirus.

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Massachusetts lottery sales are down by a third across the board compared to this time last year, prompting arguments from state officials to bring the lottery online.

“This pandemic has dramatically exposed the limitations and vulnerabilities of the lottery’s all-cash, in-person business model," Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said.

As people abide by the stay-at-home advisory amid the coronavirus pandemic, Keno and scratch tickets are taking the biggest hit, with Keno plunging more than 50 percent and scratch tickets down almost 30 percent.

“All of our daily patterns of life have changed, if a consumer would normally go into a store twice a day to purchase products, that’s not the case anymore," said Michael Sweeney, executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.

About 1,800 of the state’s 7,500 lottery agents are closed, according to state officials and even places that are open have eliminated lottery sales because of staff shortages.

Goldberg is urging lawmakers to move forward with legislation to modernize the state’s lottery system and go online.

“The ability to process cashless payments and to sell our products online would have undoubtedly helped to mitigate our losses," Goldberg said.

Cities and towns across the state receive some of the lottery revenue, which can be used for needs like snow removal, senior programs and parks and recreation.

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Representative Aaron Michlewitz, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said there are a lot of issues surrounding bringing the lottery online, including the hit retailers would take.

“The lottery is an economic driver to some of our local convenience stores and our local stores, because people go in there to use the lottery and end up spending money on other things," Michlewitz said.

Similar legislation has failed in the past, but this new crisis is putting it back in the spotlight.

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