What to know about the 'iLottery' debate in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Lottery number tickets at a display counter at College Convenience on Huntington Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts Lottery number tickets at a display counter at College Convenience on Huntington Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

The Celtics got one. To paraphrase Kevin Millar, don’t let them get two. (Game 5 is back in Boston tomorrow night.)

Now, to the news:

Scratch that: Plans for a so-called “iLottery” in Massachusetts suffered a setback yesterday. State House News Service reports that the state Senate — which has long been skeptical of online lottery measures — rejected a proposal to roll an “iLottery” system into their budget.

  • It’s not over yet: The Senate’s public rejection of the proposal effectively moves the debate behind closed doors, where House and Senate negotiators will eventually meet to work out the differences between their two budget proposals.
  • Supporters — which include a majority of state representatives, Treasurer Deb Goldberg and, perhaps most importantly, Gov. Maura Healey — say letting the Massachusetts Lottery offer its products online is necessary so that it can compete in the 21st century, especially when online sports betting ads are everywhere.
  • Why do they care? Unlike private casinos and sports betting companies, the state lottery’s net profits go to cities and towns to help pay for everything from schools to snowplows.
  • However, critics point to a striking number: $800. That’s how much the average Massachusetts resident spends on lottery tickets each year, which is the most in the country. If an online lottery system does move forward in the state, Attorney General Andrea Campbell says there needs to be guardrails to prevent gambling addiction and other public health concerns.

Phones away: Massachusetts education officials are encouraging schools to crack down on cellphones in classrooms. Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said yesterday the state will likely roll out a grant program to help schools test out various restrictions.

  • Zoom in: Some private boarding schools in Massachusetts have already implemented smartphone bans to limit distraction. And many other public schools are trying lighter restrictions.
  • Zoom out: There’s no statewide policy … yet. “But we’re certainly interested in piloting more of this,” Riley said.
  • Go deeper: The U.S. surgeon general warned yesterday that social media presents real risks to the mental health of children and teenagers because of how their brains are affected by using it.
  • Temperature check: A new poll shows that Massachusetts parents are mostly satisfied by the quality of their kids’ education. But mental health challenges are a top concern.

Parents of young children in Cambridge will have free, publicly funded preschool as an option beginning in the fall of 2024. The city said yesterday that it plans to open applications for its new universal pre-K this upcoming winter for the 2024-2025 school year. The $20 million-a-year initiative will replace the city’s current public preschool program, which is based on a lottery system and includes tuition fees.

  • Who’s eligible? All Cambridge children who are 4 years old by Aug. 31, 2024 will be accepted into the preschool program. Three-year-olds can apply too, but they’re not guaranteed a spot.
  • The free program will run during school hours and the school year, but families can pay for after-school and summer preschool.

A prep school in Danvers is resuming classes for the first time today after a police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a bathroom while responding to a hoax report of a school shooting. While no one was injured, officials say the accident elevated the situation and resulted in a larger police response. Some students at the all-boys Catholic school ran into the woods near campus after hearing the gunshot.

  • What’s next: The investigation is now focused on who was behind the hoax call and what caused the officer to fire his gun.

P.S.— Want to know what is in the state Senate’s budget proposal? Listen to today’s episode of The Common for more on the ongoing debate and how the Senate budget lines up with the House and Healey’s proposals.


Headshot of Nik DeCosta-Klipa

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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