By M.R. KROPKO, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Directors of state and provincial lotteries in North America will huddle this week, trying to figure out ways to cut costs and increase sales.
One item of interest is whether lotteries are any closer to selling plays of their various games over the Internet, said Mark Zamarripa, director of Colorado's lottery and president of the suburban Cleveland-based North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
David Gale, the association's executive director, expects about 30 lottery executives to attend the private meetings Tuesday through Friday in Cleveland. The spring directors' meeting will lay the groundwork for the association's annual conference Sept. 13-18 in New Orleans, he said.
"Currently, no states are using the Internet to sell tickets. We all have Web pages, but we don't believe it's clear that it's legal to sell tickets on them," Zamarripa said.
Congress has been working on legislation aimed at restricting online casinos. The General Accounting Office, in a report last year, called Internet gambling "a fast-growing industry" with estimated 2003 revenues of more than $4 billion. Virtually all Internet gambling operations are based outside the United States.
Zamarripa said the association doesn't take a position on Internet lottery sales. But he said lottery directors tend to think states should be able to decide whether to put their lottery games online.
"As states experience severe budget issues, some states have turned to lotteries for help on solving the budget crisis," he said. "You also see some states putting video lottery terminals at racetracks.
"On the flip side are ideas to save money, and all state agencies are going through that process right now."
States are battling to balance budgets in hard economic times.
The sessions will include meetings between lottery directors and vendors who supply the technology to run the games.
The lotteries association was founded in Washington 32 years ago and has been in based in Willoughby Hills, about seven miles east of Cleveland, for seven years. Gale is a former director of marketing for the Ohio Lottery.
The meeting, Gale said, is "an opportunity for lottery CEOs to get together and talk about whatever is facing our industry," he said.
According to the association's tabulation of state and provincial lottery sales in fiscal 2002, New York's lottery had the most sales, followed by Massachusetts. Quebec had the most lottery sales in Canada.