Debit Card Lottery Purchases Okay Under Baker Budget

by Colin A. Young, State House News Service

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has been pressing lawmakers for years to allow the cash-only Massachusetts Lottery to enter the modern age and shed its exclusive reliance on cash. The budget Gov. Charlie Baker filed Wednesday would let the Lottery take a small step in that direction.

In an outside section to his budget (H 2), Baker proposes allowing Lottery players to buy products like scratch tickets and draw game numbers by methods like debit cards. The prohibition on credit card purchases and online sales would remain.

"Although the Massachusetts State Lottery is performing at its highest levels, we must make sure it is well-positioned in this increasingly competitive environment," Goldberg said in a statement to the News Service. "To continue to perform at our best, we need the flexibility of cashless transactions to meet the demands of our changing marketplace."

Baker's proposal must still be approved by the Legislature, which has been mostly cool to Goldberg's lobbying for online sales and cashless transactions.

A 2017 survey conducted by U.S. Bank found that 47 percent of consumers prefer to use digital apps to make payments versus cash, which was the preference of 45 percent of respondents. The survey also found that 50 percent of people carry cash less than half the time, and half of the consumers who do carry cash keep less than $20 on hand.

Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney told lawmakers last year that the agency is at "a pivot point" and told the story of a phone call from a 72-year-old Lottery player upset that he could not buy a season ticket for a Lottery game with a cashless method and instead had to get a bank check to bring to the Lottery's regional office in Worcester to get his tickets.

"When a 72-year-old customer is calling you and asking you why you're not in the modern age trouble is not on the horizon, it is already behind us," Sweeney said. "We need to adjust to where those consumers are of all ages."

(Photo: Getty Images)

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