Reporting from Amanda Vinicky in Springfield was used in this report.
Illinois officials are hoping to start online sales for the Illinois Lottery early next year.
The U.S. Department of Justice made public on Friday a legal opinion that supports state-regulated online gambling, such as lotteries. Illinois was one of the states to ask for legal clarification on whether the Wire Act applies to online sales of lotto tickets.
The superintendent of the Illinois Lottery, Michael Jones, called the ruling a Christmas gift from the feds. Jones says it'll take three to four months to set up a secure website that's accessible to Illinoisans over the age of 18, but says he'd start online sales now if he could.
The ruling, he says, will increase sales and expand the audience for the lottery.
"We can match our market to our products in a way that we've never done before," Jones said. "And if we did that, if you add 300,000 new players, each of which plays $5 every time, the prize goes up $100 million. And you have that happen 50 times a year over a five-week period, that's enormous potential profit for the state."
In Illinois, lottery proceeds go to education and infrastructure projects.
A 2009 state law required the lottery to create a pilot program to sell Mega Millions and state lotto tickets online. Jones says he'd add Powerball tickets as well.
At an appearance in Chicago today, Gov. Pat Quinn called the ruling "a long time coming."