Published: February 24, 2023

NYC Gambling regulators consider limiting use of 'play' in some lottery advertising

Regulators at the New York State Gaming Commission are weighing whether to limit the use of the word "play" in advertising by so-called lottery courier services. 

The proposal is meant to better protect consumers, but is provoking opposition from the industry. The proposed regulation is set to be considered next week at the commission's meeting on Monday.

The proposed regulation, broadly, would affect lottery courier services in New York, licensed businesses that are allowed to accept orders to purchase New York lottery tickets on behalf of a customer. The services have become more widely used in recent years with the adoption of smartphones and other devices that can make it easier to access lottery tickets. 

Regulators proposed the limits on how the companies can advertise over consumer concerns in an effort to prevent "false, deceptive or misleading advertising" by the services. 

"There have been instances of a lottery courier service using marketing such as 'play the lottery on your phone,' 'easy to play,' 'play from your phone,' 'digital lottery' and 'win the lottery from your couch' in connection with its courier service application," the commission wrote in its outline of the regulation. "With this rulemaking, a courier service, instead, may market its actual services: fulfilling orders for the purchase of a lottery ticket from a licensed lottery sales agent and delivering tickets to the customer."

But the industry has concerns with the proposal's impact on how consumers would respond.

Brianne Doura, a former vice president of policy and strategic development with the National Council of Problem Gambling and now a consultant, wrote in a letter the change could lead to confusion for people who are using the services to purchase lottery tickets. 

"The terminology of ‘play the lottery’ is ubiquitous and any variation thereof could lead to confusion by the public," Doura wrote in the letter. "Allowing for transparency and truth in advertising that people using a courier service are doing so as means to ‘play the lottery’ would help avoid any confusion and would reinforce to the public that this activity even via a third-party agent (such as a courier service) does indeed come with risks that they are knowingly agreeing to."

New York has seen a proliferation of gambling in recent years with the advent of mobile sports betting as well as the expansion of commercial casinos in upstate regions. 

Up to three casino licenses are being considered for the New York City area as well.

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