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Supermarket chain accused of allowing lottery sales to minors

Oct 2, 2014, 9:13 am

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Massachusetts Lottery

Children hoping to buy lottery tickets from vending machines may soon find it more difficult.

Northeastern University's Public Health Advocacy Institute is demanding that Star Market remove scratch lottery ticket vending machines from its Massachusetts stores after, PHAI claims, a 14-year-old was able to purchase tickets from two stores.

According to NECN, PHAI sent a letter to the company stating that a 14-year-old boy was able to purchase tickets at Star Market locations on Beacon Street in Somerville and in Porter Square in Cambridge.

Citing Massachusetts law and Lottery Commission regulations explicitly prohibiting the sale of lottery tickets to anyone under the age of 18, the PHAI accused Star Market with violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by selling lottery tickets to minors. Machines were placed near minor-friendly candy, soda, and snack machines to further entice children to use them, PHAI says.

To help curb this possible plague of wayward child gamblers, PHAI recommends that stores institute "effective controls," such as isolating the machines from areas most accessible to and frequented by minors, hang signs saying tickets cannot be sold to minors, and "lock" the machines so that an employee must unlock them to allow their use. Said employee must also verify that the intended purchaser is at least 18 years old. This would seem to make the process of buying a scratch card from an automatic vending machine significantly less automatic.

The PHAI sent the letter on behalf of Craig Kelley, the boy's father, and the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, which is dedicated to "ending the unfairness and inequality created by government-sponsored casinos and lotteries," according to itswebsite.

The PHAI asked for a response within 30 days with a "good faith settlement proposal." If not, the letter threatened:

"In the absence of an amicable resolution, we expect to seek an injunction against the continued operation of lottery instant ticket vending machines in your stores and other equitable relief, the award of statutory damages of $25 per sale, any appropriate multiplication of that award because of the company's use of unfair and deceptive sales practices, and the reimbursement of attorneys' fees and costs."

Star Market declined to comment on the letter.

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