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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    5

    Default Purchasing Lottery Tickets from Other States

    My question involves federal law.

    I was reading about a case, "PIC-A-STATE PA V Reno" in which PIC-A-STATE felt that a new Pennsylvania law was unconstitutional. However, prior to this law being implemented, I don't understand how their service was legal.

    Prior to the amendment in 18 USC 1301 allowing Pennsylvania to use their new law, it appears that PICK-A-State allowed people to, in effect, purchase lottery tickets in other states. This was supposedly accomplished by printing "receipts" for their service, while the actual tickets were purchased and remained out of state, in order to prevent interstate commerce of lottery tickets. But why don't the receipts constitute a transfer of an "instrument purporting to be or to represent a ticket"? My original thought was that it was because the tickets were likely printed locally, but I would imagine that there must have been some kind of electronic confirmation that the ticket information was received in the state where the ticket was purchased. Assuming this is the case, why wouldn't this electronic transfer of information relating to the ticket be a transfer of something representing a ticket in interstate commerce?

    (Note that 18 USC 1301 has since been amended to specifically prevent this type of service. I just don't understand why the law, pre-amendment, didn't cover it)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Are Lottery Ticket Receipts Legally the Same As Tickets

    Who actually purchases the tickets in the other states? I'm not familiar with the system but if the receipt was the basis of a contract with another entity that purchases the ticket on behalf of the first party it would avoid the interstate ticket sales concerns.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    8,238

    Default Re: Are Lottery Ticket Receipts Legally the Same As Tickets

    As I reconstruct the statute before the 1994 amendment, it read as follows:

    Whoever brings into the United States for the purpose of disposing of the same, or knowingly deposits with any express company or other common carrier for carriage, or carries in interstate or foreign commerce any paper, certificate, or instrument purporting to be or to represent a ticket, chance, share, or interest in or dependent upon the event of a lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme, offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance, or any advertisement of, or list of the prizes drawn or awarded by means of, any such lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme; or knowingly takes or receives any such paper, certificate, instrument, advertisement, or list so brought, deposited, or transported, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

    This was a very old statute, dating back to 1909. I think given its construction it refers to carrying or transmitting in interstate commerce the actual lottery ticket or other paper that was issued to participate in the lottery. While there might be a way to construe it to extend to what you described, criminal statutes cannot be vague in order to be enforceable. It must be clear what the statute prohibits, and in my view it isnít so clear under the pre-amendment version of this Code provision. So, it might have been subject to attack on the grounds of being vague if the feds tried to prosecute it. That may be why Congress decided to make it clear in the amendment that this kind of service is illegal, too.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    18,340

    Default Re: Are Lottery Ticket Receipts Legally the Same As Tickets

    That brings up a question.

    My buddy in Nevada sends me money to buy him Powerball or Megamillions tickets in AZ.

    So far the paltry winnings just go to buy more tickets.

    But if he ever won the jackpot would Nevada laws prevent him from collecting in his own name?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Are Lottery Ticket Receipts Legally the Same As Tickets

    You acted as his agent to perform an act for him in AZ? And a receipt would prove ownership of the ticket, getting back to the OP question. A state would have no standing to prevent one of its citizens from purchasing a legal product in another state through an agent and leaving it in that state for later retrieval. They could, however, collect taxes on the winnings (except Nevada doesn't do that).

    It would be similar (broadly) to buying some pot in Colorado, smoking some, and leaving the remainder at my sister's house in Colorado. My home state could not prosecute me for possession of pot or going back there and smoking the rest.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Posts
    5

    Default Re: Are Lottery Ticket Receipts Legally the Same As Tickets

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
    View Post
    As I reconstruct the statute before the 1994 amendment, it read as follows:

    This was a very old statute, dating back to 1909. I think given its construction it refers to carrying or transmitting in interstate commerce the actual lottery ticket or other paper that was issued to participate in the lottery. While there might be a way to construe it to extend to what you described, criminal statutes cannot be vague in order to be enforceable. It must be clear what the statute prohibits, and in my view it isn’t so clear under the pre-amendment version of this Code provision. So, it might have been subject to attack on the grounds of being vague if the feds tried to prosecute it. That may be why Congress decided to make it clear in the amendment that this kind of service is illegal, too.
    Thank you for your insight, it is most appreciated!

    Quote Quoting jk
    View Post
    Who actually purchases the tickets in the other states? I'm not familiar with the system but if the receipt was the basis of a contract with another entity that purchases the ticket on behalf of the first party it would avoid the interstate ticket sales concerns.
    The way the system supposedly used to work is as follows: A person would go to the store in state A, where the service operated. They would pay the service a fee to act as a "messenger" and the service would issue them some kind of receipt. The service would have an agent in state B buy a lottery ticket in that state, and store it in the state where it was purchased. My understanding is that if the ticket won, the "messenger" who purchased that ticket would be contractually obligated to claim the winnings and transfer them to the person who hired the messenger service.

    Hypothetical question: Suppose that the statue could be extended to cover telecommunications (although it seems likely that this is not the case. Thank you "Taxing Matters" for your reading of the law). While I don't know how Pic-a-state's technology infrastructure functioned, for the purpose of my question lets assume that it was the following: By paying the company, the user enters into a contract with the company, obligating them to purchase the ticket. Their computer sends the purchase order to the computer in the other state, which in turn replies with a confirmation (perhaps a sales number) showing that it received and processed the order. Could something like a sales number being transferred interstate to be printed on a receipt be considered transferring something that represents the ticket? On one side I would think so because the purchase number is generated to show that the ticket order has been received and processed, thus representing a ticket. Yet on the other side I would think not because it is only a confirmation number that is to be printed on a receipt for a contract that was paid for.

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