UPDATED. Yesterday’s launch of Internet ticket sales by the Illinois Lottery couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. With a soaring Mega Millions jackpot – currently estimated at $356 million for Tuesday’s drawing – Illinois players now have a convenient way to purchase tickets for the big draw. Officials couldn’t ask for better circumstances to get the word out with the near-record jackpot.
Beginning early Sunday morning, Illinois players could sign up and purchase tickets for Mega Millions and the state’s own Lotto game through the Lottery’s website. And by evening, more than 1,600 had done so with sales topping $9,000 according to local news reports. By Monday morning, the Lottery was reporting that total online sales exceeded $15,000 for the first day. With strong local media coverage of the historic occasion, plus the huge jackpot, the Lottery’s Internet technology will be tested as sales will certainly grow leading to Tuesday night’s draw.
While Illinois was committed to Internet sales long before the Department of Justice issued its opinion in December, that decision did clear any last remaining hurdles. That also appears to be the case in New York, where Lottery officials have asked for approval to launch their own Internet sales program. They are pretty much ready to go once they get the word. After all, Illinois and New York were the two states asking for clarification of the Wire Act to start the ball rolling.
But don’t expect all other lotteries to follow the same path, at least not right away. Some are certainly closer than others, but because of their government nature, they are typically slow to action. And legislators across the country are still struggling to come to grips with the reality of Internet gaming.
And it’s definitely a reality. While Illinois is defining a path that others are poised to follow, technically speaking other lotteries have already broken the Internet barrier. Lotteries in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota and Virginia have been selling subscriptions to some of their games on the Internet, in some cases for years.
And let’s not forget that the American pari-mutuel industry has been benefitting from legal Internet betting for some time. So while the Illinois Lottery will forever be remembered as the one which started a new trend, it is not the first case of authorized Internet wagering in the U.S. We must give credit where credit is due.