The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) today sent a demand letter to the Star Markets supermarket chain, charging the company with violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by illegally selling lottery tickets to minors. The letter calls on Star Markets to remove lottery scratch ticket vending machines from its stores.
PHAI sent the letter on behalf of Craig Kelley, the father of a 14-year old boy who purchased lottery tickets from vending machines at two Star Market locations, and also on behalf of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit organization with an office in Massachusetts, whose mission is to end the unfairness and inequality created by government-sponsored gambling.
According to the letter, Massachusetts law expressly prohibits the sale of lottery tickets to “any person under age eighteen” (G.L. c. 10, sec. 29). Yet, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that over two-thirds of teenage boys (aged 14-17) have gambled in the past year, and over half of teenage girls have done so. About a third of these children gambled by playing lottery games.
The boy’s father, Craig Kelley, said, “Both my son and I were amazed at how easily a 14 year-old boy could walk into a major supermarket and buy lottery tickets from a vending machine. This easy access to gambling simply does not give our children the safe environment that we owe them, and we need to stop it.”
The boy purchased the lottery tickets on the evening of September 24 at the Star Market stores in Porter Square in Cambridge, and on Beacon Street in Somerville. He was able to get access to the machines and purchase Mega Millions and $500 Frenzy game tickets without any difficulty, and without being asked to provide any proof of age.
“The future of lotteries and casinos hinges on luring kids to develop a gambling habit,” said Stop Predatory Gambling’s National Director Les Bernal of Lawrence. “Our state government appears to be training kids with these free-standing lottery machines and their addictive scratch tickets – training them for slot machines in casinos.”
Northeastern University Professor Richard Daynard, President of PHAI, also addressed the implications for casinos: “If a basic protection like age restrictions on the sale of state lottery tickets is not being enforced, what can we expect if casinos and slot parlors are actually allowed to open in Massachusetts?”