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California Lottery Warns Retailers About Lottery Couriers

The California Lottery sent a press release to over 23,000 retailers asking them to avoid selling tickets to online courier services.

Wan Walks By California Lottery Sign
Photo by AP Photo/Gregory Bull
J.R. Duren Avatar
3 mins read

Lottery officials in California have sent a press release to more than 23,000 lottery retailers asking them to avoid selling tickets to courier services.

Selling California Lottery tickets online is illegal in California. As a result, well-known courier services such as Jackpotcket, Jackpot.com, and theLotter do not list the Golden State as a location where they do business.

Lottery Deputy Director for Public Affairs and Communications Carolyn Becker offered a stern warning in the release: “Online lottery ticket courier services are illegal in California. We are thankful for the support of our retail partners in helping our customers play safely, rather than exchanging money with a third-party, unregulated business.

Any California Lottery player who buys their games through an online courier is not eligible to win.”

What’s behind the lottery’s announcement?

Becker told PlayUSA in a phone interview that the directive wasn’t the result of any specific event but that it’s part of the lottery’s ongoing effort to make retailers aware that courier activity continues to take place.

The ramifications of retailers selling tickets to couriers are severe. The Lottery said that any retailer that “knowingly” sells tickets to couriers, the retailer could lose its contract with the California Lottery. That loss could prove costly according to how the Lottery pays out its retailers for selling winning tickets.

For example, a 2022 version of the lottery’s retailer payout structure includes the following bonuses:

  • Draw games: 6% for tickets sold at the register, 4% at self-service machines
  • Scratchers: 6%
  • 0.5% of Powerball and Mega Millions prizes of $1 million or more (at least $5,000)
  • 0.5% of SuperLotto Plus jackpots
  • 0.5% of Fantasy Five top prize jackpots
  • 0.5% of Daily Derby grand prize jackpots
  • 0.5% of scratcher prizes of at least $1 million
  • 3% of draw game prizes of $99 to $599 cashed out in the store
  • 1% of scratcher wins of $1 to $599 cashed out in the store

California Lottery’s advice to lottery retailers

Becker offered the following advice for retailers approached by couriers: politely turn them away.

“They should advise (couriers) that they’re not in a position to do business with them because (couriers) are operating illegaly in California,” she said.

Buying tickets through a courier is a jackpot death knell for lottery players, as the lottery won’t pay out any wins from tickets purchased from a courier.

“If a lottery player came forward with a winning ticket that was purchased by a courier, the lottery is prohibited from paying out a prize and we want our players to know that,” Becker said.

She added that couriers are unregulated and that ordering tickets from them is a risk.

“In California, the only safe and secure way to play the lottery is to buy a ticket in person at one of our 23,000-plus (retail) locations,” Becker said.

Lottery could solve its courier problems with one move

Courier services are important; only 12 state lotteries and Washington D.C. sell lottery tickets online (“iLottery”). In a world where virtually everything is available for online purchase, lotteries that outlaw the iLottery are woefully behind the times.

Of the 45 states that offer lotteries, 33 don’t have a state-run online lottery. However, 14 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.) have chosen to catch up with the times and allow couriers to operate in their states.

New Hampshire and New York’s lotteries sell tickets online and allow couriers, according to data from PlayiLottery.

If California’s courier issues continue, lawmakers can resolve the problem by legalizing the iLottery in whatever capacity they feel comfortable, whether it is a state-run iLottery, a courier-based iLottery, or both.

One reason California may be hesitant to do this is the impact it will have on retail businesses. A big shift to online lottery sales could cause a deep cut in retail commissions.

J.R. Duren Avatar
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J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

View all posts by J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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