Texas Lottery Considers Online Lottery Games

Wednesday October 28th 2015

A letter obtained by the Dallas Morning News has revealed that Texas Lottery officials are considering introducing online lottery games as well as casino games and sports betting, but they will have a tough legislative battle to fight if they want to turn their plans into reality. Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery Commission, apparently visited the Delaware Lottery earlier in the month and sent a letter to its director, Vernon Kirk, expressing his appreciation about the tour. The letter was then revealed to local media late last week.

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“As I mentioned to you during our visit,” Grief wrote, “the Delaware Lottery is conducting advanced types of lottery games as compared to the rest of the country. We were particularly interested to learn about your sports betting, Internet wagering and casino games. I know you must be proud of the significant revenue your operation has generated for the state of Delaware.”

Delaware currently offers sports betting, casino gaming and online gambling through its own state lottery, and provides online poker in the state through 888Poker. Grief seemed to take note of this success in his letter to Kirk, noting that “we came away from our visit with an amazing amount of information, information that I know will be very helpful as our state begins to consider other forms of lottery games in the future.”

This is the first time that any news of a potential shift towards online lottery sales and sports betting in Texas has been announced, and the Commission might hit a major snag in the form of the state legislature and religious interest groups. Any change to the operation of the lottery needs to be approved by state lawmakers, who have resisted any alteration of the current system.

An attempt to expand dog and horse racing under the authority of the lottery was soundly defeated by Republican lawmakers last summer, and anti-gambling lobbyists continue to push for stricter regulation of the lottery or its disappearance altogether.

A lobbyist for a Baptist Christian group in the state voiced his disapproval about the interest in online lottery sales. “That’s certainly concerning. I can assure you those guys [lawmakers] don’t think it’s fine,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

Even the state governor, Greg Abbott, has come out firmly against changing the role of the state lottery, with a spokesperson for his office claiming that Governor Abbott “supports current state law and does not support the expansion of gambling.”

A spokesperson for the Texas Lottery Commission maintains that the letter sent by Grief only refers to draw games or scratchcards, not betting or online gambling, claiming that the agency wants “to be knowledgeable of the industry so that we may serve as a resource to the Legislature” in the event that permission to expand operations is granted.

For now, Texas Lottery players can still pick up tickets for Lotto Texas, Texas Two Step, Mega Millions and Powerball at authorized retailers throughout the state. Whether or not the Commission can take the industry in the Lone Star State into the future with tech-friendly lottery sales remains to be seen.

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