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Online lottery plans criticized by some West Michigan lawmakers

Apr 17, 2013, 4:05 pm

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Michigan Lottery

Lounging on the couch at home playing Keno and buying lottery tickets on your iPhone or computer doesn't sit well with some West Michigan lawmakers.

"I know seniors right now whose Social Security doesn't last a month because they're buying lottery tickets at the local store. If they can do it from home, their checks will be gone in less than two weeks," said State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

A new game system called iLottery would begin offering online sales of single tickets and instant games near the end of the year. The types of games available on iLottery have not been announced.

Jones, a co-sponsor of a Senate bill to prevent Michigan Lottery sales of Keno and lottery ticket sales online, denounced the idea along with other Republican legislators at a Holland Chamber meeting this week.

"I don't want people to lose their homes, because they're gambling from their homes," Jones said.

Rep. Amanda Price, R-Grand Haven, said gambling can easily become an addiction and she does not want to see the state putting betting slips in the hands of everyone who has an iPhone or iPad to encourage it.

"I know first-hand about addiction because there's alcohol addiction in my family — and the state lottery shouldn't be encouraging people like this," Price said.

"Putting gambling online would be almost pressuring people, from high school kids to seniors, to be tempted," she said.

Making more money for the state is the idea behind iLottery, which could bring at least $118 million in additional revenue to the Michigan School Aid Fund in the first four years and over $300 million a year by the sixth year.

Lottery Commissioner Scott Bowen told lawmakers in written testimony in February, "The ability to purchase products over the Internet is a modern-day convenience that our players demand. " He also noted the service would be provided in a "socially responsible manner," with security to prevent those underage from playing.

Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, and Rep. Joe Haveman also panned plans for an iLottery at the meeting.

"The lottery is a tax on those who are poor ... in math. It's a waste of money with more losers than winners," Haveman said.

Jones said he would rather stick with people having to go to service stations and stores for lottery tickets.

"At least they can pick up milk and bread and some food there that they can eat when their ticket doesn't win."

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