Metro

Voters oppose online lottery, survey finds

Nearly 70 percent of Massachusetts voters do not support legislation that would allow the state lottery to sell tickets online, a new survey has found.

Just 5 percent said they support expanding the lottery to include Internet games “very” strongly, the survey found, while 7 percent said they support the proposal “somewhat” strongly.

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The survey was conducted by Princeton Research Associates on behalf of a coalition of business owners who fear they will lose business if lawmakers allow online lottery sales. The coalition includes the Massachusetts Food Association, the Boston Convenience Store Owners Association, the New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association, and the Massachusetts Package Stores Association.

“We’re heartened by this poll because it shows the public is as skeptical as retailers are about taking the lottery online,” said Joanne Mendes, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, which represents convenience stores. “We hope this poll goes a long way in educating lawmakers on how the public feels.”

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State treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the lottery, has pushed for online sales. Last year, a bill to allow online lottery sales passed the state Senate, but failed in the House.

Proponents of online ticket sales note that lottery revenue has fallen 16 percent between 2008 and 2015, accounting for inflation. In an increasingly cashless society, fewer people are likely to have money on hand to buy lottery tickets at convenience and liquor stores, they say.

“The only way to reach the younger market is via online lottery games,” Goldberg has said. “It’s the future and we need to face it.”

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Lottery officials declined to comment.

Lottery agents across the state say they rely heavily on lottery sales, and for several years have fought back online proposals.

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said the state’s lottery is the most successful in the country, raising almost $1 billion annually to help pay for police, firefighters, teachers and other local services.

“Abandoning the current system for a model which has yet to be proven successful anywhere in the country is simply bad policy,” he said.

The survey also found that 80 percent of respondents believe state residents already have enough access to the lottery through the more than 7,500 lottery agents at convenience stores, gas stations, package stores, and other locations. It found that 65 percent of voters believe stores would be better able to prevent minors from playing than an online lottery.

The survey was based on interviews with 550 residents, randomly selected from voter lists across the state.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.
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