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Virginia Assembly Passes Bill Repealing Online Lottery Sales Ban

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Online lottery ticket sales could soon emerge in Virginia. With retail sales of the Virginia Lottery dwindling, lottery revenues that go toward K-12 public education are circling the drain, as well. According to the Virginia Lottery Board, Virginia’s lottery ticket sales declined 11.3% over the last year.

Since the state banned online lottery sales 14 years ago, significant advances in technology and internet use have taken place. Convenience, ease and novelty all impact how players participate in the lottery. Lawmakers consider the internet as a potential solution for Virginia’s slumping ticket sales. Observing these advances alongside the state’s sinking sales, many legislators in the state have made pleas to reconsider the state’s stance on online lottery ticket sales.

Argument in favor of online lottery sales

While Virginia’s slumping lottery revenues have prompted legislative action, it’s not just lack of sales that have representatives eager to move on bringing players back into the fold. Legislators point to the success of other US lottery industries as well as budding online sports betting and casino verticals. Michigan is the most notable example cited, with over $1 billion generated in revenues annually, $78 million of which is generated from online sales and instant-play games. This portion of the state’s lottery revenue alone racked up $12 million in funds allocated to K-12 education. Michigan has had legal online lottery ticket sales since 2011.

A Virginia Lottery sales expansion bill specifically geared toward repealing the ban has been submitted to both houses of the Virginia Legislature this month. The Senate vote saw a substantial majority in favor of the repeal, while the House conducted a similar vote and also received a majority in favor of repealing the ban. The votes were 33-6 in favor and 77-21 in favor, respectively. Now, the passage or veto of the bill rests squarely on the desk of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Should Northam ratify the bill, it would come into effect July 1.

Some in Virginia remain opposed

Lawmakers remain optimistic that expanded gaming in the state of Virginia would bring in much-needed capital for several public departments and state funds. However, groups like the Family Foundation remain opposed, arguing that expanded gaming activity brings more pronounced problem gambling and addiction among the population.

Legislators have said that the lottery has already been a dependable source of income for the state, education and other social services. Not only this, but legislators contend that the online component of lottery sales would make it much easier to track and control the activities of participants. Safeguards include protected personal accounts with unique credentials, age and residency verification, and the ability to set personal spending and time limits on lottery activity.

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