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Illinois online lotto sales fall flat

Illinois Lottery sales jumped nearly 18 percent during the last fiscal year, according to new state numbers released this week. But the state’s experiment with online ticket sales fell drastically short.

In March Illinois became the first state in the country to sell lotto tickets online. By July, sales reached just $2.2 million. Northstar, the private firm that runs the lotto, had predicted sales between $78 million and $118 million.

Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones blamed a complicated website interface that makes would-be players fill out lengthy online forms: in many cases just to play a $1 game.

"[You have to] give your Social Security number, and set up a payment plan, and Northstar was going to send you a Visa debit card and I think a large number of people recoiled" at the process, Jones said.

Going forward, Jones said Northstar will be overhauling the website to make it more user-friendly.

Despite the dismal online ticket sales, total lotto sales climbed to $2.67 billion.

"I think that’s because of the recession," Jones said, adding later: "As they’ve said  about other recessions, they’re the eras of simple pleasures."

Money from the lotto helps pay for schools and state construction projects.

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