Lottery online? Ask the peopleThe North Dakota Lottery operates like a business. Through retail outlets, the state lottery sells chances, pays prizes and expenses and generates profits. It’s a tidy little system.
By: The Bismarck Tribune , The Jamestown Sun
The North Dakota Lottery operates like a business. Through retail outlets, the state lottery sells chances, pays prizes and expenses and generates profits. It’s a tidy little system.
Net proceeds for the year ending June 30, 2011, were $6 million. That might not sound like much when compared to state tax revenues from oil and gas production, or sales tax, but it is real money nonetheless.
The U.S. Justice Department gave the go-ahead for states to sell individual lottery tickets from their websites. As a result, North Dakota could add Internet sales of lottery tickets to the retail outlets it now uses (convenience stores and other retailers), or it could eliminate the retail outlets and sell exclusively on the Internet, or it could say no to Internet sales.
Actually, this will be a decision for the 2013 Legislature. But if the North Dakota Lottery is to be run like the business it is, its managers should test customers’ — mostly North Dakotans’ — preferences when it comes to buying lottery tickets. After all, retail outlets sold $22 million in tickets last year to a reasonably loyal following that won nearly $12 million in prizes.
No business with those kinds of revenues and profits would make a major change in the delivery of its product without measuring consumer preferences.
While Internet sales might be easier for lottery managers, they may or may not meet with the approval of ticket buyers. It’s not like the state should give up its profits from lottery ticket sales.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, responsible for the North Dakota Lottery, seems to have the right idea — caution. “I certainly want to be careful that we’re not interfering with the good relationship we’ve developed with the retailers in North Dakota,” Stenehjem said recently.
And those retailers, through the North Dakota Retail Association, have made it clear: Go with Internet lottery ticket sales and you can forget the retail outlets.
During the next year, an election year, prospective voters will have ample time to quiz lawmakers about how the state should go about selling lottery tickets.
It also gives lottery managers an opportunity to measure customer preference and a chance to better understand the consequences for those retailers selling lottery tickets.
North Dakota House and Senate members should have a good feel for the lottery; after all, it’s a lot like running for office.