Published: December 19, 2018

Iowa Lottery wants to modernize with e-tickets, mobile app purchases

The Iowa Lottery says it's armed with a legislative proposal for state lawmakers that includes e-ticket and mobile app purchases.

Modernization of the the state's lottery, which has been around since 1985, is essential to keep it moving forward, said Mary Neubauer, Vice President of External Relations.

Neubauer says it's time to modernize the lottery to keep up with national trends, which show Americans carrying less cash on hand and spending more of their money online. She cites research from banks like U.S. Bank and Capital One that indicates just 41% of Americans said in a survey they carry cash. When they do, it's usually less than $20, Neubauer said.

“We know it’s our responsibility to get out ahead of this to say to lawmakers to make changes now before they start taking a down turn," Neubauer said.

The lottery generates about $85-90 million a year in revenue that goes to a fund that helps Iowa's veterans and the state's general fund. This means that money helps provide essential services to Iowans like education and Medicaid.

10 states are already selling lottery tickets online, which is part of the proposal the Iowa Lottery is giving to lawmakers when they return in January. One of those states is neighboring Illinois and Neubauer says Iowans are taking note.

“We’ve been hearing overtime more and more chatter from folks in Eastern Iowa who know quite well if they just drive across the river to Illinois they can buy products online there," Neubauer said. "They’re very frustrated they don’t have that convenience here in Iowa.”

The legislation would re-define what a lottery ticket is to include e-tickets. Right now some lottery games are available online and through a mobile app, but this would ensure all products would be available through personal consumer electronic devices. These tickets could be purchased online as long as credit cards aren't used.

She said technology would be put in place to ensure the integrity of who's playing, like "age-gating" and "geo-gating" mechanisms to verify the age of the person purchasing and that he or she is within the borders of Iowa at the time of purchase. There could also be safeguards against gambling addictions like limits on how often you can play online. Many of these details still need sorting out, Neubauer noted.

Governor Kim Reynolds signaled last week that there would be discussions on the issue, but it’s too early to predict if lawmakers will see it through. Neubauer met with lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the proposal.  

The conversation, she said, is also happening nationwide.

“Everybody sees the trend of less cash on the marketplace, less people going to stores and I think we all need to find a way to respond to that," Neubauer said.

Other gaming topics are on the table including sports betting, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports wagering this spring.

The 2019 legislative session begins January 14

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