Mark Bracken of Massachusetts Lottery Urges Online Lottery Legalization

Written By TJ McBride on April 10, 2024
Massachusetts Online Lottery

Mark Bracken, executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery, feels the lottery is being left out as sports betting continues to attract more players.

Massachusetts online sports betting went live in March 2023. That represented a changing of the guard in The Bay State, as sports wagering began to dwarf other gaming revenue streams. Now, Bracken is calling for Massachusetts to legalize online lottery play to keep up with the changing gambling landscape.

Some lawmakers agree with Bracken, suggesting that a state-run lottery could better serve the community than sports betting and casino titans. This has led to active discussions about bringing the Massachusetts Lottery online.

Bracken feels online sports betting is bad for a Massachusetts Lottery with no mobile offerings

The emergence of Massachusetts sports betting is being perceived as a threat by the Massachusetts Lottery. With gamblers now able to stay at home on the couch and place wagers, fewer people may feel inclined to head to their closest lottery retailer.

At a recent Massachusetts Lottery Commission meeting, Bracken made his perspective known loudly and clearly.

“We’re the last gambling hold out…to be able to go online. Someone who is able to sit [at home] and play sports betting — that’s a major concern for us. A lottery player is not able to do the same.”

To solve this problem, Bracken is trying to convince lawmakers to add an online lottery game for players aged 18 years old and up. While it seems like an obvious addition, this process is more complicated than it appears. Massachusetts casinos are opposed to the idea for the same reason: online lottery games could take away patrons from casinos. Lottery retailers also have been opposed for the same reason. Some lawmakers also need more convincing on the subject before taking a side.

The US online gaming space is still in its infancy but is actively expanding. Because of that, there is not much correlation between different states and the data sample is somewhat small.

Across the country, there are 11 states that have online lottery offerings: Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington D.C. and Virginia. Of those 11, only two – Georgia and North Dakota — do not have online sports betting. Inversely, just two of them – Michigan and Pennsylvania – have launched online casinos.

Massachusetts online lottery could mean billions more for the state

This lack of a throughline has led to some hesitancy from lawmakers. But that doesn’t mean an online lottery is dead on arrival. Lotteries tend to better benefit the state compared to other gaming options, leaving legislators to naturally consider an online lottery. Since its unveiling in March 1972, the Massachusetts Lottery has contributed $28 billion to the state.

Bracken told the Consumer Protection Committee that allowing the lottery to have online games would divert more money to communities as opposed to giant gaming operators.

“Every single penny of the Lottery’s profits are distributed to communities throughout the state for the benefit of those who live there. Sports betting and casinos, meanwhile, are a for-profit business. In order for the Lottery to continue to meet and exceed its goals, we need to operate like any other 21st century company — we need to make our products available online.”

Governor Maura Healey is leading the fight for iLottery options in the state. Healey feels similarly to Bracken and wants to keep money going back toward the state rather than to Massachusetts casino and sports betting operators, saying:

“We have casinos in the state. We also have DraftKings here in the state, and a lot of money is being spent there by a lot of people. What we also have is a lottery system that right now isn’t able to compete against a DraftKings. Nothing against DraftKings, but the Lottery, that’s money coming back to cities and towns. The money spent on DraftKings is going to DraftKings.”

Additionally, new instant ticket games can only do so much for Massachusetts. Online options could offer the lottery some much-needed momentum for retaining and growing clientele, according to Bracken.

“We’re trying to attract a new and emerging generation, and there’s a sense of urgency and a sense of immediate gratification that this emerging generation has. They can easily go on their phone to do a sports fantasy… but if we are allowed to sell online Lottery games, we may be able to catch that player.”

How successful could Massachusetts Lottery mobile games be?

While no official figures have been made public, there is no denying that Massachusetts online lottery games could offer a sizable addition to current state tax revenue.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that has all three online options: casinos, lottery, and sports betting. Despite the plethora of options, there was no shortage of money made from its online lottery. Moreover, the 2022-23 fiscal year saw Pennsylvania generate $922.7 million in sales from online casino games after launching back in 2018.

Michigan also features the holy trinity of online gambling. Although its online lottery games don’t make quite the same splash as others. In 2022, online lottery games led to $193.2 million in sales.

Virginia has online sports betting and online lottery, but no online casinos — making it a better comparison to Massachusetts. That should be music to legislators’ ears because Virginia had $2 billion in sales for its instant-win online lottery games.

With such massive numbers, it is no surprise that Massachusetts lawmakers are interested in adding online lottery options like Bracken is requesting. Healey has already put forward a budget proposal that includes a statewide online lottery.

Before an online lottery can debut, new legislation and regulations must be passed and set. Healey’s budget proposal is currently headed to the State House of Representatives for a closer look.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayMA
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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride lives in Denver, Colorado and is best known for his work covering the Denver Nuggets for outlets such as FiveThirtyEight, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and other major outlets. After a decade covering the NBA, T.J. has now stepped into the gaming space and now reports and writes on gambling news across the nation.

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