Why You Should Not Buy Lottery Tickets Online

online lottery
Saturday April 27, 2019 10:57 am

The Lottery Lab Staff

Every so often a lottery jackpot rises to a huge amount and lottery fever sweeps the nation. Every lottery player wants to get their hands on the potentially record-breaking jackpot. But for some people buying a lottery ticket is difficult. Perhaps they are homebound, too busy to visit a lottery retailer or out of the country before the drawing. In such situations, buying a ticket over the internet seems like a simple solution. But is it possible to purchase tickets online? Is it legal? Is it secure?

Dangers of purchasing tickets online

The potential for fraud in lotteries is high.  Therefore, the United States government and most other governments around the world, carefully regulate how lottery tickets can be bought and sold. In the US, lottery tickets worth billions of dollars are sold and purchased which makes it even more important to be sure that the tickets are valid and that the promised prizes are really awarded.

You can read about various scams and frauds happened throughout the history of lotteries. Without these government protections, we would have many more cases where tickets are sold but, when winning numbers come up, the buyer is out of luck because the ticket was forged and the seller simply pocketed the money instead of the actual winner.

In order to counteract these frauds, lottery retailers need to be licensed. The procedure of getting a license can vary according to the state laws but one thing they all have in common that they have to pass a criminal background check. This means that retailers can’t obtain a license if they’ve been involved in any kind of criminal activity before. Moreover, lottery retailers have to post a hefty bond to make sure that their tickets are awarded fairly.

When people purchase their lottery tickets online, it opens the door to fly-by-night operations that can easily take advantage of customers on a large scale and disappear after their pockets are full. Due to this high risk to consumers, there are laws established in the US and many other jurisdictions which restrict online ticket sales. However, online ticket sales are not completely impossible or illegal within the US.

US law about online lottery tickets selling  

There are two kinds of lottery laws followed in the United States: Federal and State Laws.

Federal law is pretty clear that buying or selling lottery tickets by mail is illegal and punishable by fines or prison time. 18 U.S. Code § 1302 states:

“Whoever knowingly deposits in the mail, or sends or delivers by mail… any lottery ticket… any check, draft, bill, money, postal note, or money order, for the purchase of any ticket… shall be fined… or imprisoned not more than two years.”

But the internet is not covered by the postal codes.  Does that mean people can buy lottery tickets online? Not really. Another federal law, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 prevented online lottery sales for many years.  It states:

“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both”

However, in December 2011, the Department of Justice released an opinion that the Federal Wire Act applies specifically to sports betting as their ruling states:

“In a 13-page opinion, dated September 20, 2011, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) concluded that the federal Wire Act’s anti-gambling provisions do not bar states from selling lottery tickets over the Internet because the Act’s prohibitions apply only to Internet transmissions that relate to ‘sporting events or contests.’”

This opinion opened the doors to let states consider whether they should offer online sales for their lottery tickets.

States which allow online lottery sales

Currently, there are six states in America which offer legal online lottery sales. Despite the opinion of DOJ, states are still reluctant to offer online tickets. Only Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania offer online lottery ticket sales. Minnesota was the first state to introduce online lottery ticket sales in 2014 but they pulled all of their games and stopped selling tickets online.

Safe online ticket sales

In case you are not able to make a visit to the lottery retailer and decide to make an online ticket purchase, make sure you do your due diligence before buying tickets. Do not fall for hype or promises made by lottery apps or websites. Purchase tickets online for the aforementioned 6 states only and from authorized websites only. Purchasing tickets from the official website is the safest option when it comes to online lottery ticket purchase. Keep in mind that it is still not legal for the US residents residing outside those 6 states to make online lottery ticket purchase.