Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Lottery launches online gamble

Kansas’ ‘eScratch’ game draws questions from lawmakers

June 24, 2004

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— Kansas is taking a gamble on a new lottery game that can be "played" online and apparently is the only one of its kind in the world, officials said Wednesday.

The "eScratch" game is aimed at a younger market of 25- to 35-year-olds who are bored by traditional scratch-off games, according to Kansas Lottery Director Ed Van Petten.

"I thought it would be a great opportunity and be entertaining to a different demographic," Van Petten said.

Van Petten said the game made gambling industry news by being the first and only one of its kind run by a state.

But several lawmakers are unimpressed.

The Legislative Coordinating Council, composed of legislative leaders, called on Van Petten to provide information about the game.

"There is some irony in the fact that we approved an interim study on how we can increase personal, financial literacy -- educate our young people on personal savings and investment -- while another agency is trying to encourage younger citizens to increase gambling," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg.

Launched in May by GTECH, the lottery's vendor, the game begins when a player purchases a ticket from a standard lottery retailer. Then the player can get on a lottery Internet Web site, enter a unique account number, and play interactive games to find out whether the ticket won.

State and federal laws prohibit Internet gambling, but Van Petten said the game was legal because no wagering occurred online -- the ticket already has been predetermined to be a winner or loser, just like any other scratch-off ticket. The Internet element is only for entertainment, he said.

The games look like video lottery, slots and other kinds of games. Players can reveal small increments of the ticket at a time so that play could continue for several minutes on the same ticket.

A single chance to play can cost as little as 10 cents, with tickets available in amounts up to $50. That means someone can buy 500 chances to play with a single ticket.

Some legislative leaders told Van Petten they were upset that they weren't notified in advance about Kansas experimenting with the game, and some said they feared children would play by using tickets purchased by adults.

Van Petten said that already could happen with scratch-off games.

"In my opinion, that's up to the parent to control," he said.

He said the game was released without fanfare because there were numerous delays in developing it.

So far, he said, the game has not performed as well as expected, with about $3,000 per day in sales. Expectations had been it would hit about $20,000 per day.

"It hasn't been wildly successful at this time, but we are supporting it and hoping it will grow," he said.

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