State Treasurer Steven Grossman plans to ask the Legislature to eliminate restrictions on selling lottery tickets online, weeks after telling a pair of US senators that an effort in Congress to regulate online gambling at the federal level would harm the state economy.
Grossman, who oversees the state lottery, discussed the possibility of selling tickets online during testimony Tuesday before lawmakers who convened a revenue hearing at the State House.
“We . . . plan to ask the Legislature to eliminate existing barriers in state law that prevent the lottery from selling online or accepting credit cards,” Grossman said, according to a written transcript of his remarks. “But we will not seek an appropriation to launch a major online effort and look only for possible pilot projects that would test the feasibility of online sales.”
Aides to Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and state Senate President Therese Murray had no immediate comment Tuesday night.
Grossman appointed a task force to study the implications of online gambling for the lottery after the US Department of Justice ruled last year that states could sell lottery products online, he testified Tuesday.
“The panel has reached a tentative consensus that while e-commerce is probably going to be a vital part of the lottery’s future, we do not yet have a business plan that we are confident would generate sufficient additional revenues to pay for the considerable startup costs of a such a venture,” he said.
Grossman said the task force recommended a plan to sell tickets online that protects the 7,400 agents and stores that currently sell tickets to customers and to ensure that online sales do not hamper job growth and revenue from casino gambling.
A long-term business plan for digital sales must also provide “a significant return on investment,” Grossman said.
His testimony Tuesday was given after he sent a letter Oct. 31 to US Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, in which he criticized a proposal to regulate online gambling at the federal level.
“The proposed act would effectively limit participation in the online gaming marketplace to gaming operations with a presence in Nevada and sharply constrain the ability of state lotteries to offer online products,” Grossman wrote.
Spokesmen for the senators could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Grossman said that the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission is studying the possibility of digital offerings.
“We are particularly puzzled by the act’s choice of Internet poker as the sole form of online gaming to be allowed, other than lottery games with no more than one drawing per day,” Grossman wrote. “It is well understood in the gaming industry that the profit margins on Internet poker are minimal. It is equally well understood in the Internet commerce world that attempts to wish the online gaming genie back into the bottle are doomed to fail.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@