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Oregon Lottery considers offering smartphone games

Lottery games offered on mobile devices is a growing trend around the nation and world.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - Oregon Lottery parking signSALEM — Oregon Lottery officials are considering offering traditional lottery games on mobile devices as soon as 2019.

The proposal to launch games such as Scratch, Draw and Keno on smartphones is part of a draft strategic plan to modernize the state lottery and boost state revenue.

Lottery revenue helps pay for public education, economic development, state parks and natural resources and veteran services.

"Our focus is on the opportunity for the Lottery to join the current century and engage players on a platform they want," said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. "There are lots of people playing games on mobile devices. Naturally, they would want to play the lottery there."

At least 10 states, Canada and European countries offer lottery games on mobile devices.

Many states have turned to the option to try to appeal to millennials who play the lottery at significantly lower rates than their elders. For instance, the average age of a lottery player in Oregon is about 44.

Lottery officials started discussing joining the trend in November when Pack took over as the lottery's permanent director and began crafting the agency's three-year strategic plan.

"There is no decision right now," said MardiLyn Saathoff, lottery commission chairwoman. "This is sort of a beginning of a lot of work to be done to see if the strategy is one that will work for us and one we can continue to support."

The "iLotto" plan envisions subscription sales through a mobile app and player accounts that would allow for a personalized experience and time and money limits. It is unclear whether players would purchase tickets directly from the lottery or from retailers.

Players would be required to purchase prepaid or debit cards to pay for the tickets. Pack said he opposes allowing players to use credit cards.

The concept is still in the early stages, he said.

"There are many questions to answer. What kind of games, and what is the technology available, and what is the demand among current players and future players?" he said.

The cost of the program will depend on the scope of offerings. Lottery officials are still studying whether offering mobile games would require any law changes. Those issues could be addressed during the 2019 legislative session.

The agency's draft strategic plan was presented to lottery commissioners Friday, July 28, in Salem.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
email: pachen@portlandtribune.com
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