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Florida Online Lottery Faces Formal Ban, Printed Warnings With HB 629

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This week, House Bill 629 was introduced into the Florida House of Representatives by Rep. William Cloud Robinson. The bill will effectively ban online lottery sales in the state of Florida if it receives enough support in the House.

The specific language prohibits the playing of games or purchasing of lottery tickets from any personal electronic device, relegating gaming to in-person and physical ticket sales only. The four-page bill was submitted to the Gaming Control Subcommittee, Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, and Commerce Committee for review.

House bill would ban online lottery in FL

On Feb. 20, the Gaming Control Subcommittee will hear the bill in a special session. Should it pass with approval, the law will come into effect as early as July 1, 2019.

The HB 629 summary of online and personal device lottery purchases makes clear that “A person may not use a personal electronic device to play, store, or redeem a lottery ticket or game or representation thereof. However, the storage of a photographic image of a lottery ticket or game on a personal electronic device exclusively for personal use is permissible, provided the image is not used in any manner in conjunction with or in lieu of the paper ticket or game for purposes of playing or redeeming the paper ticket or game.”

According to the bill’s language, a personal electronic device is categorized as “a cellular telephone, smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, or any other electronic device capable of connecting to the internet or any other communications network or data system.”

The bill provides for the criminal prosecution of anyone involved in selling online lottery tickets through such an electronic device, stating “A person may not use or solicit the use of a personal electronic device in order to sell or purchase a lottery ticket or game or representation thereof unless the device is used exclusively to render payment for a lottery ticket or game purchased from and conveyed by an authorized retailer within the physical premises of the authorized retailer.”

Warnings would be placed on lottery tickets and promotions

New responsible gaming rules are also addressed in the body of HB 629. HB 629 seeks to amend current law by directing the FL Lottery to require all vendors to place warnings on lottery tickets. Under the proposed revision, all physical tickets and advertising or promotional content will need to provide warnings on problem gambling and resources for help with gambling addiction.

The proposal outlines an advertised warning that takes up precisely 10% of the ticket’s printed space and includes the wording, “Warning: playing a lottery game constitutes gambling and may lead to addiction and/or compulsive behavior. The chances of winning a big prize are very low.” These specific requirements would come into effect 6 months later, in January 2020, should the bill be passed into law.

Florida is the second state this year, after New Mexico, to introduce legislation on online lottery sales and participation.

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