Why Illinois Convenience Stores Don't Like State's Lottery App

Retailers, others criticize ease of purchasing tickets with mobile devices

Illinois Lottery (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store Petroleum)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- In January, the Illinois Lottery unveiled a mobile app through which consumers can play Mega Millions, Powerball and Lotto from their smart phone, check winning numbers and jackpots and find a nearby retailer. The app is drawing criticism from convenience store owners and others, reported The Chicago Tribune.

The free app is available for download on iOS and Android devices and is the first of its kind in the United States offering any Illinois adult the chance to purchase lottery tickets via an app.

Anti-gambling activists question the wisdom of making it more convenient to play the lottery, citing the risk of increased addiction, said the report.

C-stores and gas stations have supported the Illinois Lottery since its inception 40 years ago, said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association.

The fear is that allowing players to play their favorite numbers on their phones means they will stop by the local gas station less, denying stores the chance to sell them lottery tickets as well as fuel, cigarettes, milk, candy and other merchandise.

"For them to do this and take the chance to take money out of our pockets is just like another tax," Fleischli told the paper. "Why would they do that to us?"

Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones discounts these concerns, saying officials have tools to stop excessive online ticket buying and arguing that players who try the lottery online might be more inclined to try other lottery games such as scratch-off tickets when they stop at c-stores.

"This is a significant opportunity to broaden the lottery's player base," Jones told the newspaper. "Really, this app will just add to the number of people who play the lottery. People who play for the first time will probably be more inclined to buy tickets the next time they stop at a gas station."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois is the only state to have an app with which gamblers can buy tickets through the ease of their cellphones. While the app is free, there's a $5 minimum purchase. To buy tickets and collect winnings, users have to create an account and link it to their credit card, which lottery officials say is a way to ensure that people younger than 18 aren't playing. In addition, there are purchase limits of $150 a day, $1,050 a week and $3,500 a month.

Lottery spokesperson Mike Lang told the Tribune that sales from online and app gambling are not contributing much to overall revenue yet, but those tickets are profit for the state because it does not have to pay retailers or give them 1% of the winnings.

Click here to view the full Tribune report.