Are lottery ticket sales next thing to go in Michigan amid coronavirus?

Michigan lottery ticket

A state representative and merchant group say shop owners shouldn’t be responsible for crowds lining up to buy lottery tickets during the coronavirus epidemic.

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is under pressure to halt in-store sales of lottery tickets over concerns that lines for them could spread the coronavirus.

State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, and the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, which represents many store owners, are calling on the Michigan Lottery to halt the sales because it’s difficult for owners to enforce social distancing guidelines. 

“That is something we’re taking a very serious look at,” Whitmer said during a televised town hall forum on Thursday. 

“It is important though that every single business owner who is selling food or essential needs is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the people who are coming into their stores are standing 6 feet apart.”

The possibility comes as coronavirus cases in Michigan have nearly tripled in seven days to 12,744, and officials are increasingly frustrated that not enough people are doing their part to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Manoogian told Bridge store owners have told her about “folks … leaving their homes not to purchase essential goods but specifically go out and purchase lottery tickets.”

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the state Lottery Bureau sent notices to the state’s 10,500 retailers with lottery terminals saying they “must immediately cease lottery sales… if you are unable to implement social-distancing measures and follow all requirements of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order.”

Since March 16 — when Whitmer issued the executive order to temporarily close theaters, bars, casinos and dine-in restaurants — 182 retailers have requested the state deactivate their lottery terminals, said Michigan Lottery spokesperson Jeff Holyfield.

More than 60 percent of those requests came on Thursday and Friday, while 30 retailers will be deactivating their terminals on Monday. 

“People should not leave their homes just to buy lottery tickets,” Holyfield said. If businesses allow customers to violate social distancing rules, they may lose their right to sell tickets and face other disciplinary measures, he added. 

Whitmer has issued a series of executive orders since mid-March to restrict unnecessary movement, closing restaurants and other businesses and requiring residents to stay home.

Over that time, lottery sales have taken a significant dive: The week bars, restaurants, theaters and casinos closed, sales fell 28 percent over the previous year. The week the stay-at-home order was implemented, sales were down 35 percent.

But closing lottery sales could hurt state revenue at a time they’re seriously declining because of the lockdown. In 2019, sales of nearly $4 billion funneled about $1 billion into K-12 education. 

Whitmer said she’s unaware of other states ending lottery sales, but added “it is something that has been raised and that we are looking very seriously at.”

In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan said this week he still hears reports of long lines for lottery tickets, adding “we’ve got to find a way for people not to cluster together.”

Manoogian told Bridge she’s concerned that making it optional for businesses to take machines offline may have the “unintended consequence” of attracting more crowds to the few businesses that continue to sell tickets.

That is why Manoogian said she wants the state to be “a little more consistent and not putting the onus on the store owners” by shutting down sales throughout the stay-at-home order. 


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Kevin Grand
Sat, 04/04/2020 - 8:07am

"But closing lottery sales could hurt state revenue at a time they’re seriously declining because of the lockdown. In 2019, sales of nearly $4 billion funneled about $1 billion into K-12 education. "


The only reason why Gov. Whitmer hasn't touched the lottery is because that would blow an even bigger hole in the state budget due to her overreaching executive orders. She was hoping that people wouldn't take notice.

$4-billion means a lot of cuts coming in the next few months.

But hey, at least Gov. Whitmer "did something".

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 7:14am

Gee, I thought it was more important to keep people safe? Funny how it's all about the money now. What about families that are facing the same problem? Apparently the liquor tax and lottery money is more important.

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 8:22am

It is SUCH. A problem. I can TOUCH customers by my counter. They DO NOT respect the rules or guidelines bc this is "just a virus" or "im old enough to not care about a cold." I have watched my healthy customers get runny noses, stop coming in, or blatantly cough, sneeze or talk ONTO me! Now Im sick with symptoms and have to self quarantine and only 1 girl can run the store this weekend.

We are girls! No reason to have to yell at the customers. Ever. Yet, WE have to yell and enforce longer lines, angry people, and they gotta stay away while someone orders $40 in lotto when they want bread and to leave to GO HOME.

The lottery is KILLING my elderly customers. 2 have gotten really sick. 2 are ignoring the symptoms and WILL NOT stay home bc $12 of Daily 3 &4 is the ONLY TIME they get to go outside

Lets kill this together. Please. I miss my store and my customers. Ban it for 4 weeks bc people over 50 keep saying they lived through worse a virus is nothing....and they're all at risk....

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 1:31pm

Stopping the lottery has nothing to do with people not going out, whose to say that the only reason a person go out is to play the lottery, if someone wants to go out they are going to do it anyway.

doug wons
Mon, 04/20/2020 - 3:56pm

it is stupid to stop ticket sales----people do not handle tickets like pop,chis,beer and other snacks -----only the person behind the counter due----why stop the thing that funds our schools? --- is the state going to stop paying lottery personal when they stop ticket sales---NO !!!!they will still pay them and there car lease and insurance payments---so there will be less money for our schools---that tells you how stupid our Gov. is --she wants everyone to pay higher taxes---if there is no lottery money she can make us pay higher property taxes to make up the balance thus adding more taxes to the people---every school system will get less money so more school cuts will happen--- thanks Gov. Witless