Amid changing demographics and increased competition from other forms of gaming, a growing number of state lotteries have begun toying with the idea of expanding their reach to the internet. Only a handful of states have gotten around to authorizing online lottery ticket sales, but more are likely to follow suit over the next few years.
There are also a handful of offshore lottery providers that claim to sell tickets online by sending people out to buy tickets on your behalf from official retailers. Such sites are unregulated in the United States and their legality is questionable. Our official position is that it is best to stick with the official lottery in your state to ensure you are paid when you win.
Today, 44 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of lottery. Each state has its own mix of instant win scratch tickets and traditional drawing-style games with large jackpots. The majority of states require you to visit a retailer in person to purchase tickets, but a few states have moved to online sales of tickets or at least subscriptions.
Several states have also established lottery sites that don’t just sell tickets online, but that also offer instant win games with top prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – all playable from the comfort of home. Michigan and Pennsylvania in particular are home to some of the best online lottery options but other states offer their games online as well. Read on for a complete picture of the online lottery situation in every state.
How to Buy Lottery Tickets Online
Increasing numbers of states are moving to online sales of lottery tickets. It was long believed that the Federal Wire Act made it illegal to sell lottery tickets online, but as states come under increasing financial stress despite ever-increasing taxes, lawmakers are under tremendous pressure to raise revenue without raising taxes.
Then in late 2011, the Justice Department clarified its stance on the Wire Act. In December of that year, the Justice Department announced that it believed the Wire Act applies only to sports betting. This opened the door for state-by-state sales of online lotto tickets.
Only a few states have actually made the transition, but interest is growing. A few states already sell online lottery tickets and a few more states are looking into the idea. The train of thought goes something like this:
“If we allow online lottery ticket sales, more people will buy tickets. This will lead to increased revenue to the state without raising taxes.”
And so far, it appears that line of thought has been right on the money. Illinois was the first state to sell lottery tickets online and reported online sales of $425,000 in the first week alone.
Note: Customers must be located within state lines to buy tickets or play games online through that state’s online lottery system.
In some cases, you must also be a resident of that state. This means users located in Colorado, for example, are not eligible to play instant win games offered by the Georgia Lottery or buy subscriptions online from the Virginia lottery.
Authorized online lottery websites make use of geolocation technology to ensure every customer attempting to make a purchase is located within state lines. Attempts to purchase tickets from out of state will be detected and automatically blocked.
US States With Online Lotteries
More than a dozen states have approved measures that allowing online ticket sales, subscriptions, online scratch card-style games or all of the above. The list of states with legal online lotteries is growing by the year and more will almost undoubtedly come online in the near future.
In these states, you can either buy your tickets in person like normal or visit the official state lottery website to buy lottery tickets online. You can enter state-level drawings from home or even major, multi-state drawings such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Some state lotteries also offer instant win scratch cards online.
Let’s begin with a look at legal online lotteries in the USA. We’ll start first with a list of states that allow you to buy online lottery tickets online, play instant win games or both:
Minnesota had an online lottery at one point, but the state legislature voted to put an end to that in 2015. The Minnesota online lottery has since discontinued its services (including subscriptions) and now sells tickets in-person only.
The Delaware Lottery does not sell lottery products online, but it does manage games at three online casinos. Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway all offer their games online in conjunction with the DE Lottery. You can read more about those casinos here.
Some states also have lottery ticket subscription services that you can manage online. Online lottery subscriptions tend to allow customers to buy tickets into every drawing for a week to many weeks on end. Naturally, pricing varies widely depending on how many drawings you choose to enter in advance. Official, state-sponsored lottery websites always charge the same price online as you would pay in the real world; no premium is charged for the convenience of playing online.
The wheels of government legislation turn slowly, but we expect to see online lotteries come to most states at some point. Some states have no lottery at all, so it will be a long time (if ever) before those states join the action.
State officials like the increased revenue offered by online sales and lottery fans like the convenience. Those two sides will come together at some point and make it happen in most states. In between those sides are the anti-gambling groups that oppose all lottery and casino expansions. Below is a map showing states that have legalized online lottery sales of any type.
- Green: Tickets, instant win games and keno available online
- Red: Tickets and subscriptions available online
- Blue: Tickets and instant win games available online
- Yellow: Instant win games and keno available online
- Orange: Subscriptions only
Types of Online Lottery Games
|Draw Games||Instant Win||Keno||Subscriptions|
|Online Subscriptions Only|
*Subscriptions may be managed online, but payment and request must be sent via mail.
Online Lottery Subscriptions
A handful of states offer lottery subscriptions that you can use to purchase tickets automatically on a recurring basis. Visit your state’s official lottery website and look around for a “subscriptions” link somewhere. There, you can purchase subscriptions for weeks, months or a year at a time.
States that allow you to buy and/or manage subscriptions online include:
- Maryland (subscriptions managed online, but must send your subscription request via mail)
- New York
With a lottery subscription, you pick your numbers ahead of time and the lottery will automatically buy your tickets and check them for winning numbers. If you win less than $600, the state will send you a check in the mail. If you win more than $600, the state will send you a form with instructions for claiming your prize.
An online lottery subscription in most states will allow you to register, pay for subscriptions, check winning numbers, see past results, extend your subscription and more all from the comfort of home. An online lottery subscription is almost as convenient as individual ticket sales over the internet. The only real difference is that online subscriptions require you to purchase entries into at least a few drawings at a time.
Third Party Lottery Courier Services
Third party lottery courier services offer a hybrid from of online lottery sales by taking orders online and then sending agents out to buy actual tickets in-person from authorized retailers. The legality of such services is unclear in most states, but most lottery websites explain that online ticket sales are prohibited.
However, one such courier service has emerged in recent times and seems to be doing things the right way by working with state regulators and only offering online ticket sales to customers in states that have given their tacit approval.
Multi-state lotteries are the result of state teamwork. Instead of limiting ticket sales in one state, multi-state lotteries sell tickets in multiple states. With bigger ticket sales come bigger jackpots. Bigger jackpots lead to more ticket sales, which in turn lead to bigger jackpots. It’s a powerful cycle that works to generate enormous jackpots.
Whenever you hear about those massive hundred-million-dollar jackpots on the news, you’re hearing about multi-state lotteries. Powerball and Mega Millions are the two largest and most well-known lotteries of this type.
These lotteries are governed by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL). 33 states participate in the MUSL and share their pools to increase ticket sales and jackpots. Some of the lotteries within the MUSL are spread across all 33 states while others are limited to only a few states. Some of these lotteries even extend beyond the MUSL member states.
For example, Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. It is no surprise then that Mega Millions is one of the largest. Powerball is also offered in those same areas. In those lotteries, the jackpots routinely reach more than a hundred million dollars. In more recent years, Powerball jackpots have reached as high as $1.6 billion.
Read more about the biggest multi-state lotteries here: