The association representing gas stations and convenience stores could drop its opposition to an online lottery.

The association representing gas stations and convenience stores could drop its opposition to an online lottery.


The Illinois Petroleum Marketers’ Association/Illinois Association of Convenience Stores had believed  that when the state’s lottery goes online, as it is scheduled to do so on Sunday, ticket sales in stores would be squeezed out. The association has said its stores get more revenue from customers who buy lottery tickets because they tend to buy other items as well.


So when Senate Bill 3497, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Schoenburg, D-Evanston, was being considered by the Senate Executive Committee on March 7, Bill Fleischli, the association’s executive vice president, testified against it.


It was during Fleischli’s testimony that Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones learned of retailers’ concerns. He said there are no plans to end ticket sales at stores.  


“They never mentioned it. They never asked. And I didn’t think that was even a question because it was so clear in the law what the (Internet) test was all about,” Jones said. “So I was flabbergasted.”


Now, the IPMA/IACS has indicated it could support Schoenburg’s bill if it includes language to commission studies that will examine the impact the online lottery has on convenience stores and gas stations.


“If all those things are there, we’ll remove our opposition to it. In fact, we’ll support it,” Fleischli said Monday.


Jones said the vast majority of people who walk into a lottery retailer do not buy lottery tickets, even though they support the program and its cause.


“So you have this incredible marketing opportunity with these people, and the idea behind the Internet side of it is you overcome a great deal of ignorance about the lottery in general or the intimidation from walking into a retailer and noticing all the games on display or the jargon of players and retail clerks,” Jones said.


Fleischli said the convenience-store operators still support creation of a “value-added card” that would be sold only in retail stores and would be the only way players could play the online lottery. It would also ensure that retailers are not left out of the money that could be made from an online lottery.


Fleischli added that Schoenberg’s bill could be amended to study this option as well.


Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, has proposed House Bill 5676 that would require these cards to play the online lottery. But while Schoenberg’s bill has moved out of the Senate Executive Committee, Watson’s bill is still in the House Rules Committee.


David Thomas can be reached at 782-6292.