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Can You Buy Lottery Tickets Online?

Is It Legal (and Safe) to Buy Lottery Tickets Through the Net?

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Every so often, lottery fever sweeps the nation and everyone wants to get their hands on a potentially record-breaking lottery ticket. If buying a ticket is not easy for you for whatever reason, perhaps because you are homebound or not in the country at the moment, buying lottery tickets over the internet seems like a simple solution. Is it possible to buy lottery tickets online? Is it legal? Is it safe?

The Dangers of Buying Tickets Over the Internet

The United States government, like most other governments around the world, heavily regulates how lottery tickets can be bought and sold because the potential for fraud is so high. U.S. citizens alone spend billions of dollars on lottery tickets every year, so it’s important to be sure that the tickets are valid and that the promised prizes are really awarded.

Without these protections, we’d have many more cases where tickets are sold but, when the winning numbers come up, the buyer is out of luck because the ticket was forged and the seller simply pocketed the money. Or where retailers ensure that they are only selling losing tickets to customers.

To counteract these scams, lottery retailers need to be licensed. What they need to do to get a license varies by state, but it’s common that retailers need to have a criminal background check to get a license to ensure that they haven’t been involved in any felonies or illegal gambling schemes, and that they have to post a hefty bond to ensure that their tickets are awarded fairly.

Now, if people can buy lottery tickets online, it opens doors to fly-by-night organizations who can take advantage of customers on a large scale and then disappear overnight when they are caught.

Because of this high risk to consumers, there are laws in the United States and many other jurisdictions that restrict or prohibit online lottery sales. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s totally illegal or impossible within the United States.

What Does U.S. Law Say About Buying and Selling Lottery Tickets Online?

There are two kinds of lottery laws 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 jail 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 has opened up new ways for people to buy tickets remotely. The internet is not covered by the postal code, so can we just move on to state laws?

Not quite. For many years, a federal law that prevented online lottery sales for many years is the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, which 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 of 2011, the Department of Justice released an opinion that the Federal Wire Act applies specifically to sports betting,

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

States Which Allow Online Lottery Sales

Even with federal law allowing online lottery sales, many states have been reluctant to actually do so. Aside from the risks of fraud, there are also other problems. For example, it’s much harder to ensure that tickets aren’t being sold to people under the legal age to buy tickets. Plus, the states risk sales tax losses from people who go to a convenience store or gas station to buy a lottery ticket and end up making a few other purchases while they are there.

Currently, six states offer legal online lottery purchases:

  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

In 2014, Minnesota became the very first state to offer lottery games online; however, a year later, they pulled all of the games and stopped selling lottery tickets online.

Many of the participating states have tight restrictions about ticket sales; for example, only allowing residents to buy tickets online. With offline sales, you need to by physically present, but you don’t have to live in the state or even be a U.S. resident.

Furthermore, most states offer only a few games. Powerball, for example, can only be bought online from Illinois or Georgia, whereas California residents can use a lottery app to have someone buy Powerball tickets for them.

How to Stay Safe While Buying Lottery Tickets Online

If you decide to try your hand at playing the lottery over the internet, make sure you do your due diligence before buying tickets.

Keep in mind that residents of most United States cannot legally buy lottery tickets online. Watch out for websites that seem to let you buy tickets, but which are actually giving you the “opportunity” to bet on the outcome of the lottery draw.

Don’t fall for hype or for promises made by lottery apps and websites. Your safest option is to go through an official state lottery website if one is available to you. Make sure that you know which company you are handing your money over to, and research any website thoroughly before you commit.

Buying lottery tickets online would be convenient, but is it safe and legal? Find out where and how you can buy lottery tickets on the internet.

Lotto FAQ

Can I buy tickets online?

No. State law prevents the sale of Louisiana Lottery products through the Internet. Only licensed retailers are legally authorized to sell Louisiana Lottery tickets.

Can I claim a prize on a multidraw ticket before all the drawings have occurred?

Yes! The multidraw features on the Lottery’s draw-style games allows players to purchase plays for multiple drawings, up to 14 for Pick 3 and Pick 4 and up to 20 for Powerball, Mega Millions, Lotto and Easy 5. If you win a prize during one of the drawings, you do not have to wait until the last drawing has occurred before collecting those winnings. When you cash a winning multidraw ticket with drawings still remaining, the Lottery’s terminal system will print out an exchange ticket good for the balance of the remaining drawings and with the same numbers as on your original ticket. The retailer will retain the original ticket as it is no longer valid and give your exchange ticket with your winnings.

How long do you have to claim a prize?

Winning scratch-off tickets can be claimed up to 90 days following the closure of the game. A list of closed games and end-of-redemption dates can be found on this website. Winning draw-style game tickets can be claimed up to 180 days following the drawing in which the prize was won.

If I think I’ve won the jackpot, what should I do?

Players should sign the back of their ticket for security purposes, secure their ticket and treat it as cash. We also recommend that players who believe they hold a Powerball, Mega Millions or Lotto jackpot-winning ticket contact the Lottery’s headquarters immediately at 225-297-2000 to schedule a time to claim their prize and have their questions answered. This will facilitate a smooth prize payment process. Players who believe they hold a jackpot-winning ticket must bring the original ticket to the Lottery’s corporate headquarters in Baton Rouge within 180 days of the drawing in which the prize was won for verification and any prize payment. The Lottery recommends that before coming to claim a jackpot prize, winners get financial advice so they fully understand the tax or other legal implications involved.

If I win, can I remain anonymous?

If you win more than $600 and are therefore required to claim your prize at a Lottery office, you will be required to complete a claim form for tax purposes. Under the Lottery’s statute, all prize payment records are open records, meaning that the public has a right to request the information. Depending upon the amount won and public or media interest in the win, winners may NOT be able to remain anonymous. The statute also allows the Lottery to use winners’ names and city of residence for publicity purposes such as news releases. The Lottery’s regular practice is not to use winner information in paid advertising or product promotion without the winner’s willingness to participate.

What happens to prize money when someone dies?

When a prize is claimed it becomes the property of that individual, even if the prize is paid out as an annuity. Hence, all winnings become a part of the estate of the deceased.

What television stations carry the drawing results?

The winning numbers or results of Powerball, Lotto, Pick 3 and Pick 4 drawings are broadcast beginning at 9:59 p.m on the following television stations. Mega Millions drawings are broadcast at 10:00 p.m. on the following TV stations, except for WVUE-FOX8 where it airs at the top of the first commercial break of the hour.

Station Channel City
KALB 5 Alexandria
WBRZ+ Available over the air, Digital 2.2 (HD) and 41.2, on Cox cable 1011 (HD) and 11, Charter cable 193 and EATEL cable 02. Baton Rouge
KATC Available via antenna 3.1, on Cox cable 5, LUS Fiber 5, AT&T U-verse Direct TV 3, Kaplan Telephone 3.1, Suddlenlink cable 3 and Charter cable 3. Lafayette
KVHP 29 Lake Charles
KARD/FOX 14 14 Monroe
WVUE/FOX 8 8 Mega Millions drawings air at the top of the first commercial break of the 10 p.m. newscast. New Orleans
KPXJ/KTBS 21/3 Rebroadcasts on KTBS during second commercial break of the 10 p.m. newscast. Shreveport

What was the largest Lotto jackpot?

The Robert H. LeBas Family Partnership of Church Point won $21.2 million, which was the largest jackpot won on a single ticket. The largest multi-winner jackpot was $31 million and was split between Kimberly D. Hall of Bon Wier, Texas, and Roland and Marion LeBeouf Family Partnership of Houma, with each receiving $15.5 million. These jackpots were paid as annuities. The largest single-payment winner was Timothy M. Smith of Marrero, who won $15.6 million.

When are the drawings results aired?

Lotto: Wednesday and Saturday nights at 9:59 p.m., except Christmas Day.

Easy 5: Wednesday and Saturday nights at 9:59 p.m., except Christmas Day.

Powerball: Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9:59 p.m.

Mega Millions: Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 p.m.

Pick 3 & Pick 4: Daily at 9:59 p.m., except Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. There are no Louisiana-based drawings on Christmas Day or Easter. Drawings for the multistate games, Powerball and Mega Millions, will be conducted should Christmas fall on a draw day. Tickets must be purchased by 9:00 p.m. on the draw date for Powerball and Mega Millions, and by 9:30 p.m. on the draw date for Pick 3, Pick 4, Lotto and Easy 5 to be eligible for that drawing.

When did Lotto begin being drawn twice a week?

December 4, 1996. A second weekly drawing was added for drawings on Wednesday and Saturdays and the minimum jackpot prize was reduced from $500,000 to $250,000.

On Aug. 2, 2020, the Lottery raised the minimum starting jackpot from $250,000 to $500,000 in order to be able to offer players more jackpots worth $1 million or more throughout the year.

When did Lotto begin?

The Lottery’s first draw-style jackpot game, Lotto, was introduced January 22, 1992. The first drawing was conducted nine days later.

Ticket purchasers must be at least 21 years of age. Gambling Problem?
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