OTHER VIEWS: Consider online lottery sales

  • Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013 12:59 p.m.

ORANGEBURG — Business and financial transactions are increasingly being conducted by computer across the Internet. While some people remain cautious, even resistant, to the trend, not even instances such as the invasion by hackers of the South Carolina tax system can slow the pace. In two high-profile instances, moving toward online transactions simply makes a lot of sense.

State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, is making a suggestion that could increase S.C. Education Lottery sales, which are already on the rise. No longer would waits in convenience store lines be necessary, though many buying lottery tickets by the present method will continue to do so. Consider, however, how many would buy online if they could and how many more would buy for the first time if tickets were available on the Internet.

According to an Associated Press report, S.C. lottery sales increased 8.5 percent to $1.1 billion in 2011-12. The lottery’s profits contributed nearly $300 million that lawmakers use to pay for college scholarships, K-12 school projects, school buses and libraries.

And sales are up nearly 9 percent in the current fiscal year, aided by a rush for tickets from a $587 million Powerball jackpot in November.

South Carolina lawmakers would need to approve online lottery sales via legislation, which they may be reluctant to do because merchants want the monopoly on sales inside their stores.

But that is a losing argument for the long term.

At least two states, Illinois and Georgia, started selling lottery tickets online last year. Michigan is set to begin later this year. South Carolina should not wait.

From counting dollars to counting people, the U.S. Census Bureau for the first time is giving U.S. households a chance to respond to government surveys over the Internet.

The new online option will supplement the traditional census mail-out operation. It is a major shift for the agency, which has relied almost exclusively on paper forms since 1970 but is now moving toward a more Internet-based system after spending a record $13 billion on the 2010 census.

As with lottery sales, computers should not be a replacement for traditional efforts to reach the full population. With the census, the upside is that money saved by implementing an Internet option could help pay for the ballooning costs associated with reaching hard-to-count groups.

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