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New Mexico's gas pump lottery sales face legal hurdle

Aug 9, 2016, 10:40 am

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New Mexico Lottery

The Play at the Pump pilot program is facing a legal test regarding how New Mexico customers purchase their Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets.

As Lottery Post reported last week, consumers can now purchase New Mexico lottery tickets at some gas pumps without having to enter a store. However, the New Mexico House and Ways Committee subsequently objected that state law allows for the purchase of lottery tickets by only cash and checks, not debit cards as used at the pump, and attempts to expand payment options were rejected by the state legislature.

The New Mexico Lottery Authority responded that lottery tickets "have always been legally permitted to accept debit cards for all lottery purposes," adding the law only prohibits the use of credit cards as lottery payment.

However, Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Jason Harper, (R-Rio Rancho), said this response is not persuasive.

"Just because lottery has been allowing debit card purchases inside the gas stations doesn't mean it's legal; it just means it hasn't been challenged yet.... I don't think the law as it is written right now says you can use debit cards at all," he said in an interview.

Harper added the Lottery Authority issued a "very legalistic response" that failed to address other concerns he has, such as if there are safeguards in place to prevent underage lottery purchases.

The Lottery Authority responded players must buy fuel at the pump and only one lottery purchase can be made per gas buy. Daily spending is limited to $20 per debit card, with a weekly limit of $75.

"There is no controversy here," lottery lawyer Justine Fox-Young said. "The lottery has a clear mandate to maximize the dollars available for students' lottery scholarships. This initiative is intended to do just that, and New Mexico law is very clear that individuals may purchase lottery tickets using debit cards, whether inside or at the pump."

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