ATLANTA - Georgia Lottery customers soon will be able to buy tickets with the click of a mouse.
Lottery officials on Thursday approved an online ticket system for the first time, with sales expected to begin this fall. The online sales are projected to increase the lottery's revenue by millions, which would help the state's lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who has opposed expanding gambling in Georgia, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was fine with online lottery ticket sales.
"I think that is a useful area to explore," Deal said. "It does open the participation up to a generation of younger citizens of our state who might not take the time to go to a store to physically purchase a ticket."
Online sales initially will be limited to Powerball, Mega Millions and Fantasy 5.
Lottery officials said controls are planned to make sure players are at least 18 and to assure tickets are bought only in Georgia. Those controls include mandatory registration, banking requirements that would match an applicant's name, address and Social Security number, and limits on how much account activity or playing time will be allowed.
"This is not a silver bullet, but the long-term potential to this is very large," Georgia Lottery Board Chairman Jimmy Braswell said. "It really is just a change in our existing business model to reach a new set of players" who are Internet-savvy, he said.
The U.S. Justice Department last year reversed itself to make online lottery sales possible, saying the national Wire Act of 1961 applies only to sports betting. The act otherwise prohibits placing bets over telecommunications systems across state or national boundaries.
Illinois in March became the first state to sell lottery tickets online. Some other states have approved the practice but haven't implemented it yet, and eight to 12 other states are working on it, state and national gambling officials said.
Georgia lottery officials also approved a new debit card Thursday that can be used for both lottery and retail transactions. It's called the "iHOPE" card. It will allow customers to preload funds, buy tickets and have their winnings automatically downloaded into the card's account. It can be used anywhere that accepts debit cards, and stores that sell lottery tickets won't face debit card transaction fees for lottery sales made with the card.