Bill barring credit cards for Idaho lottery tix advances; plastic still good for ladies’ shoes

The Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday approved a ban on using credit cards to buy state lottery tickets and recommended its passage to the full Senate. House Bill 120 passed the House, 44-23.

Proponents, including the sponsor, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, and former GOP Sen. Grant Ipsen of Boise, said the bill will help fight the social costs of gambling by requiring cash to buy lottery tickets.

The bill was opposed by retailers and convenience store owners, who sell the bulk of lottery tickets.

“What you’re saying to the retailer is, ‘No, you cannot accept this legal tender for a legal product. We are making that business decision for you,’” said Pam Eaton of the Idaho Retailers Association. “You’re coming as a government and telling a retailer how to run their business and it’s not going to solve the gambling problem.”

Eaton said some retailers don’t accept credit cards for purchases of lottery tickets alone because the credit card fees exceed fees for ticket sales. But when a customer buys multiple items, for example, gas, food and a drink, many retailers are happy to take a credit card.

If HB 120 becomes law buying a lottery ticket would have to be a separate transaction paid by cash or debit card, which Eaton said would suppress sales and prompt congestion at the cashier’s stand.

Eaton said if keeping people out of debt is the Legislature’s aim, then they may wish to consider requiring cash for additional products, such as ladies’ shoes, sweaters and purses.

That prompted a jocular comment from Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, who sounded warm to the idea. “Are you asking us to send this to the amending order?” said McKenzie.

Jeremy Chou, a lobbyist for the Idaho Lottery, did suggest a serious amendment: to ban credit card purchases at lottery-owned vending machines, but not to restrict over-the-counter retail purchases.

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, tried to send the bill to the Senate for amendment, but his motion failed, 5-3. Werk was joined by Sens. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, in favoring amendment. But GOP Sens. Bart Davis of Idaho Falls, Russ Fulcher of Meridian, Brent Hill of Rexburg, Jeff Siddoway of Terreton and Chuck Winder of Boise opposed the amendment.



Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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