The Illinois Lottery’s internet pilot program takes off this weekend, giving residents of the state the opportunity to use the internet to purchase tickets to its traditional weekly prize drawings.
The pilot program has been a long time in the making. The legislature first approved the program in 2009, but only on the condition that the U.S. Justice Department first approve the plan as compatible with federal law. Approval finally came in September of 2011 in the form of a shocking Memorandum Opinion that fundamentally altered the Justice Department’s traditional view of federal law by declaring that interstate sports wagering is the only type of internet gambling that is prohibited by federal law.
The pilot program is a monumentally progressive step for American internet gambling policy, but it is only a very small step. The pilot program does not actually authorize internet-based games, but rather permits customers only to use the internet to purchase the same old tangible real-world products. Essentially, the pilot program merely creates a new convenient retail point for the consumer.
According to the legislature’s enabling act:
(1) The consumer market in Illinois has changed since the creation of the Illinois State Lottery in 1974;
(2) The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life for a significant number of Illinois residents not only in regards to their professional life, but also in regards to personal business and communication; and
(3) The current practices of selling lottery tickets does not appeal to the new form of market participants who prefer to make purchases on the internet at their own convenience.
It is the intent of the General Assembly to create an Internet pilot program for the sale of lottery tickets to capture this new form of market participant. (20 ILCS 1605/7.12).
Initially, customers can purchase only tickets for Lotto drawings and Mega Millions drawings, but it appears probable that the legislature will soon approve the sale of tickets for Powerball drawings as well (see S.B. 3497).
Presently there is no legislation pending in Illinois that would permit actual internet wagering such as poker, casino games, slot machines, or even instant scratch tickets.
Illinois residents can create accounts and begin playing on the Illinois Lottery website.