Back in December, just two days before Christmas, the U.S. Department of Justice responded to an inquiry from the Illinois and New York lotteries as to whether selling tickets online would violate the Wire Act of 1961. PocketFives was one of the first sites to report on the historic DOJ interpretation, which said that the 1961 law applies to online sports betting only.
This week, the Illinois Lottery capitalized on the ruling by launching online lottery sales, and whether internet poker and other games will be next is anyone’s guess. The children of Illinois scored big, as internet sales totaled over $15,000 on the first day, helped in part by the half-billion dollar Mega Millions jackpot that this author has already purchased multiple tickets for in advance of Friday’s drawing.
Online lottery tickets went on sale in the Midwestern state on Sunday. According to an Associated Press article, “Lottery officials say they believe the pace of sales will be fast until Tuesday evening. That’s when the Mega Millions drawing takes place. The estimated jackpot is $356 million.” With no one claiming Tuesday’s Mega Millions grand prize, we’d expect sales to grow even more as Friday’s drawing nears.
Illinois’ lottery is the first in the U.S. to permit online sales, and the state is quite proud of it. Tooting the Illinois Lottery’s horn was spokesperson Mike Lang, who told a Cedar Rapids, Iowa news station, “We are pioneering this in North America. But all the lotteries around the country and in North America are looking at it. New York and the Washington, D.C. lotteries are looking very closely. But to be honest, all are looking at it.”
You’ll recall that the D.C. Lottery was poised to offer legal online poker games up until February, when the District’s City Council voted to repeal poker’s green light. Council members claimed in part that they didn’t realize they were allowing poker when the original language was added to a budget bill.
One City Council member in D.C. told the press, “They didn’t even use the word ‘internet gambling.’ They used the word ‘i-gambling.’ It has to go through a public process, and [this] didn’t.”
You can play Lottoand Mega Millions online through the Illinois Lottery’s website right now. There’s a big green “Play Online Now” button in the upper right that when clicked takes you to a Mega Millions online purchase page (pictured). All you have to do is select how many tickets you’d like, fill in your lucky numbers or select “Quick Pick,” and then choose whether you want to play the Megaplier. After verifying that you’re over 18 and situated in the state of Illinois, you hit “Buy Now” and you’re done.
Illinois online lottery enthusiasts must create accounts in order to play and can even use their credit cards to make purchases. You’ll recall that recent debates on Capitol Hill over the Federal legalization of internet gambling emphasized only allowing debit cards, not credit cards, for online poker transactions. Illinois Lottery officials are quick to point out, “When you choose to use a credit card, you can play immediately.”
Just like in online poker, if a player wins through the Illinois online lottery system, their earnings are deposited into an online account: “Winnings of $600 or less are automatically deposited into your account. Winnings over $600 will be processed by the Illinois Lottery Claims department. You’ll receive an e-mail to notify them to complete the claim process.” You can also transfer your winnings to your bank account or elect to receive a Visa debit card for the amount won.
Moreover, the Illinois Lottery offers online subscriptions that “allow you to set up one or more lottery wagers automatically for a set number of draws for a game.” The Lottery also runs Little Lotto and Powerball in addition to Mega Millions and Lotto, but online sales are not available for the former two games at this time.
Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones told USA Today that online sales could garner one million new players. The newspaper added, “Only 9% to 12% of Illinois adults play now.”
Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest online poker headlines.