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Why Can’t You Buy Your $640 Million Lottery Ticket Online?

Mega Millions logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The multistate Mega Millions biggest ever lottery has enticed people from around the nation to go out and buy lottery tickets in the hopes of winning $640 million.

But unless you live in Illinois you will not be able to purchase your $640 million winning ticket from the office today or from the comfort of your home. The reason: for years state lotteries have been thwarted in their efforts to sell lottery tickets online by the federal government.

The Department of Justice years ago took the position that the federal Wire Act of 1961 prohibited all sorts of online gambling even though the law itself seemed to only apply to sports betting. As a result, the states felt that they could not conduct even in-state lottery transactions via the Internet because of the possibility that transmissions over the Internet during these transactions might cross state lines. The New York state lottery felt the Justice Department’s criminal division might go after it if the New York lottery sold tickets online to residents of New York and the Internet packets transmitting lottery information went through, say, New Jersey for a second.

With the states strapped for cash, however, they decided to pin down the Justice Department’s position. In 2009 New York’s lottery division and the Illinois governor’s office asked the Justice Department to clarify its view on the Wire Act because they planned to sell lottery tickets to adults in their states.

The Justice Department did not move swiftly. It literally took years for the federal government lawyers to come up with an answer. Then on September 20, 2011, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Virginia Seitz wrote a simple 13-page legal opinion that said “nothing in the materials supplied by the Criminal Division suggests that the New York or Illinois lottery plans involve sports wagering, rather than garden-variety lotteries. Accordingly, we conclude that the proposed lotteries are not within the prohibition of the Wire Act.” In other words, the feds were conceding that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

But it took another three months for the Justice Department to make its new position known. It only released its new legal opinion on the Wire Act on the Friday afternoon before the Christmas weekend, announcing that it had essentially flip-flopped on one of its most important and long-held positions on Internet gambling.

In the three months since the policy reversal, only Illinois has managed to get its online lottery ticket operations up and running. Illinois started selling Mega Millions online lottery tickets last Sunday and it reportedly has already sold $425,000 of tickets. Other states, like Iowa, are taking notice. The next time there is lottery frenzy, there’s a good chance you won’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket.

The federal government made it very hard for people to buy their $540 million lottery ticket online.

Lottery Pick Okongwu Won’t Suit Up For Opener

Hawks lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu will miss at least the first three regular-season games, according to a team press release.

The rookie big man out of USC is recovering from inflammation of the sesamoid bone in his left foot. He has participated in modified team practice with contact and is progressing toward unlimited team practice. He will be reviewed again on December 28.

The Hawks will open the season on Wednesday against the Bulls. They’ll also play the Grizzlies (Dec. 26), Pistons (Dec. 28) and Nets (Dec. 3o) before New Year’s Day.

Okongwu, who turned 20 this month, was a one-and-done player. In his season with the Trojans, he started 28 games and averaged 16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 2.7 BPG in 30.6 MPG. He was the sixth overall pick.

The Hawks previously announced that guard and free agent acquisition Kris Dunn would miss the opener.

The former USC big man is recovering from a foot ailment. ]]>