SPRINGFIELD — Imagine being able to forgo a trip to the convenience store when the Mega Millions lottery game prize hits nine digits and buy your ticket for that drawing from the computer in your den.
No state sells lottery tickets over the Internet now. But a leading Senate Democrat and group of influential backers are urging Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to embrace the concept, which could generate as much as $100 million annually for the state’s cash-starved public school system.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said state Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who has introduced legislation authorizing a pilot study of an Internet-based lottery system. “I just wonder why we are passing up an opportunity to get money into the common school fund. It’s not an expansion of gambling. It’s legal, and it would appeal to wealthier patrons.”
The group that approached Cullerton with the idea is led by Mark Doyle, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and member of Blagojevich’s transition team. Also included are Dr. Steven DeAngelis, who is Mayor Daley’s physician and first hatched the idea, and Chicago restaurateur Phil Stefani, who has donated more than $43,000 to Illinois politicians, including the governor and Cullerton.
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The three are developing software that would enable the state to sell tickets over the Internet and be able to screen out underage buyers and cap purchases, among other things.
Besides the prospect of making money off the venture, the plan’s backers say it would raise new resources for the state, reinvigorate stagnant lottery sales and, most importantly, shift the lottery toward those with higher incomes who aren’t big users of the lottery.
So far, Blagojevich has been cool to the proposal, which is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee Wednesday, the day of the …