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Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 11:19am

Georgia's Gambling Stigma Wanes

This is the first week the Georgia Lottery is selling tickets online, an expansion of gambling in a state that has traditionally opposed more gaming.

Lottery officials said adding online ticket sales would engage younger generations when they approved the plan this summer. Another goal is to reach new players who might not go to a store to buy a ticket but would do so online.

Gov. Nathan Deal has opposed any expansion of gambling in the state, but he said he had no problem with the Georgia Lottery’s plans.

“You have states experiencing fiscal difficulties, and lottery revenue is a voluntary tax that folks pay. It makes it politically much more palatable than, say, we’re going to increase the state’s income tax two-tenths of a percent,” said Patrick Pierce, who studies the politics of gambling at St. Mary’s College in Indiana.

He said increasing lottery revenue at a time when states are facing tight budgets is attractive. Web sales are expected to boost lottery revenues by millions.

Plus, resistance to gambling has gotten weaker, Pierce said.

“After all, almost everyone does it. It’s hard to say that it’s sinful and muster up that moral disapprobation of legalized gambling when, in fact, everybody’s doing it,” he said.

Initially, only Powerball, Mega Millions and Fantasy 5 tickets are available to Georgians online.

Illinois already sells lottery tickets online. About a dozen states have approved or are considering it.