Did New Jersey Just Legalize an Online Lottery Without Anyone Noticing?

Posted on: February 28, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: February 28, 2017, 03:10h.

New Jersey lottery tickets could soon be available online, thanks to a bill passed in December that appears to have legalized online lottery sales right under our very noses.

Does Burzichelli’s bill legalize New Jersey online lottery?
New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli has made no mention publicly of an online lottery, yet his bill appears to have legalized one. (Image: Philadelphia Inquirer)

AB 3094, which was signed into law two weeks ago, flew completely under everyone’s radar because, mainly because it was presented as a bill ostensibly to allow Garden State residents to pay to have private couriers deliver ticket to their door.  

Sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan, (D-Atlantic) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), the bill has been promoted as exactly that; a kind of “meals on wheels” for lottery players, delivering tickets to those who are housebound or have difficulty visiting a store.  

Burzichelli has noted that many other services, such as food, water and clothing, are already delivered to “make peoples’ lives easier,” so why not lottery tickets?

“This bill is aimed at saving players’ time and broadening a customer base that provides revenue for services that benefit all New Jersey residents,” he said in a statement February 13, on the day of its enactment. 

What the Bill Says

Burzechelli has made no mention at all of legalizing online lotteries, but this is what his bill essentially does, although it’s not yet clear whether state authorities intend to take full blown advantage of the potential benefits when the bill comes into force in November.

Some relevant passages state:

In accordance with the rules and regulation promulgated by the commission, a registered courier service shall maintain an Internet site and shall display prominently on that site: a warning of the risk of being defrauded if purchasing lottery tickets through a courier service that is not registered by the commission…

…A registered courier service shall safeguard the personal information, including credit card numbers, and properly verify the age and physical location of customers utilizing the service…

…In lieu of delivery of a purchased lottery ticket to a customer utilizing the courier service, a courier service may store such ticket on behalf of that customer, with the customer’s consent, if the courier service provides an electronic receipt of the ticket purchased with the numbers of the ticket shown on the receipt…

Press Indignation

Thus, from November, a company registered as a “courier” with the State Lottery Commission will be permitted to sell lottery tickets online, to take online payments for tickets, and to redeem tickets for customers. All the fundamental features of an online lottery are present.

The Press of Atlantic City, which was the first to spot the startling implications of all this, called it “worrisome” and queried why such a “momentous change in state gambling law” should have been taken without public consideration.

It also wondered why Christie vetoed a similar proposal in 2015 on the basis that it would “have the unintended consequences of empowering and appearing to legitimize fraudsters, giving them more opportunities to target the elderly and the infirm,” but passed this one without a quibble.