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    Florida to Approve More Lottery Sales via Vending Machines

    Game tickets, now available only through counter sales, could be purchased from 350 new machines, netting the state $21 million per year.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida is likely to be the next state to offer lottery players a more convenient method of purchasing game tickets. State legislators are reportedly on the verge of approving Gov. Rick Scott's request for more vending machines that would dispense tickets for Powerball, Lotto and games currently available only through counter sales, according to the Palm Beach Post.

    Instant and scratch-off tickets are already available for purchase at vending machines within the state, most of which are stationed at Winn-Dixie and Publix stores, as well as inside a few convenience stores. Tickets for games such as Lotto, Powerball, Fantasy 5 and Cash 3, though, can only be purchased from a cashier.

    If the governor’s request is approved, 350 new lottery vending machines could provide Florida schools with $48.1 million the first year and $21 million per year afterward, according to state economists' estimate. Each full-service machine would cost $700 per month to lease.

    More than 13,000 Florida retailers now sell lottery tickets, but state officials are searching for new outlets in order to increase sales, according to the report. Scott included new vending machines and 500 additional instant-ticket machines in his budget. The state House of Representatives included the same plan in the budget it approved Feb. 9, but the Senate has only included the 350 new full-service machines. Revenue estimators predict the proposed additional instant-ticket-only machines would bring in approximately $100,000 per year.

    Lottery officials believe full-service machines would be meeting the demands on both consumers and retailers, who prefer vending machines to counter sales."It's really just providing our players more of what they want, in one convenient transaction," said Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell. "And we constantly get positive feedback from the retailers about how they're not having people stand in line unnecessarily."

    Florida's last peak in lottery sales took place in 2008, when $4.2 billion in ticket sales brought in almost $1.3 billion for education. The key to reversing the slumping sales is convenience, according to some."The availability of self-service machines that dispense both instant and online lottery game tickets, in all probability, will be the key factor in the Florida Lottery's ability to persuade larger corporate retailers -- in some cases, 'big box' stores -- to begin selling lottery tickets," economists wrote in a Nov. 3 analysis.

    Anti-gambling activists have cautioned against the machines, noting that they could make it easier for minors and gambling activists to unobtrusively purchase tickets. When forced to buy from the counter, compulsive gamblers have to think twice about their actions. "Now, if they're buying from a machine, there's nothing to interrupt that," said Pat Fowler, executive director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. "For people who have gambling problems, any interruption is a good thing because it allows them time to think about what they're doing."

    However, officials don't see the new machines as an expansion. "It's simply a distribution method," said O'Connell.

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