A pilot program by the California Lottery in which gamblers can buy lottery tickets at gas pumps in the Sacramento area is being embraced by players, but the convenience raises concerns for an anti-gambling group.
“Play at the Pump” lets motorists buy up to $20 worth of Quick Pick tickets when they pay with a credit or debit card at the gas pump. The program – which started about a year ago in Roseville – has spread to 86 other locations in the region and Southern California. The plan is to expand to about 100 stations. Only California and North Carolina have the option, but other states are considering it.
Customers appear to like the convenience of paying for the Powerball, Mega Millions and SuperLotto Plus draw games without walking inside a gas station mart. Other stations want to come on board, said lottery spokesman Alex Traverso.
The program also allows the lottery to market tickets to the bulk of motorists who never set foot inside the stores, where lottery products are located.
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“About 73 percent of people who pump their gas don’t go into the store,” Traverso said. “They pump their gas and drive off. Play at the Pump is a good way to get some of our products in front of the people that don’t play. It’s also convenient for the player.”
But the Rev. James Butler of Sacramento’s faith-based California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion said Play at the Pump tempts those with gambling addictions, exploits the poor and targets young people more comfortable using the gas pump screen to buy tickets.
“Studies do show that the poor and the less-educated spend a larger proportion of their income on the lottery,” he said. “This is an intrusion into our life, an exploitation of the poor and jeopardizes the lives of problem gamblers.”
Players are limited to spending $50 a week on Play at the Pump, a safeguard instituted to prevent people from overspending. A $1 service charge is added for each transaction.
Some motorists at the East Roseville Parkway Union 76, where the pilot program began, are eager to add up to $20 to their gas bill for lottery tickets, according to station owner Robert Robinson.
“At first, it was confusing for the customer, but once they got the hang of it, it has done pretty good,” Robinson said. “Most people like it.”
Robinson said his store’s income has increased from Play at the Pump, which is mentioned on gas pump screens.
“It reminds them that the lottery exists,” he said.
California lottery sales in general have shown steady growth to $5.5 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30. A new game scheduled to be introduced soon to commemorate the lottery’s 30th anniversary will feature a $30 Scratchers ticket.
The state lottery funded $1.3 billion for California schools from last year’s sales.
How to use ‘Play at the Pump’
▪ Before fuel purchase, player swipes credit or debit card, chooses game.
▪ Player chooses number of Quick Pick tickets.
▪ Player must verify he or she is at least 18 years old with driver’s license.
▪ Fuel pump receipt has lottery numbers.
▪ Win of less than $600 automatically is deposited into account associated with card used for purchase.
▪ Winning draws of $600 or more must be redeemed at lottery offices.