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NC Education Lottery Weighs 'Online Instant' Games

Lottery tickets at the Carrboro Food Mart.
Laura Candler

Update: On Dec. 5, 2017, commissioners with the North Carolina Education Lottery put off discussion on whether to add games that consumers can play instantly online. A lottery committee will continue studying the games before the commission makes a decision.

The North Carolina Education Lottery Commission is considering whether to create scratch-off style games that consumers can play online.

Lottery administrators say the so-called online instant games could generate $130 million in revenue over the next five years. The lottery already provides online subscriptions for draw games like Powerball. 

Critics say the instant games resemble video sweepstakes, which have been largely outlawed in North Carolina. But Lottery Spokesman Van Denton says they would have consumer safeguards.

"You can put limits on how much someone can put into their (online) wallet to use.  You can put limits on how much someone can play per week," Denton said. "With the draw games that we offer, you are limited to no more than $70 a week."

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association opposes the instant games. The group says they would deal a blow to brick-and-mortar stores that sell scratch-offs.

"Our members are having a hard time understanding how this would not impact traditional retail stores if this type of product becomes such a revenue generator for state lottery ticket sales," said the group's lobbyist Elizabeth Robinson.

Michigan, Georgia and Kentucky are the only states that currently offer online instant games. Denton points to early numbers that show those states' retail ticket sales are still growing.

The commission will discuss the instant games at its meeting on Tuesday, but is not expected to vote immediately.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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