HARRISONBURG — For many people, it’s hard to take their eyes off their smartphones, so the Virginia Lottery adapted.
Customers can now play a variety of games through MobilePlay on the agency’s mobile app. The games launched this month.
“It’s definitely about meeting people where they are,” said John Hagerty, a spokesman for the lottery.
MobilePlay expands on the lottery’s app, which launched in July. Previously, players could only check winning lottery numbers and scan their tickets to see if they won.
The app now offers 12 e-games, including Texas Hold’em Champion’s Edition, Crossword Royale and 50X. The lottery plans to launch new games each month.
However, there’s a catch. To play, a customer must be inside one of the 5,400 traditional retailers, or a growing number of non-traditional retailers, that offer MobilePlay.
Jesse’s Quick Lunch in downtown Harrisonburg is the only nontraditional retailer to offer MobilePlay in the Harrisonburg area, but the lottery says they hope to add more restaurants, hotels and malls soon.
To play, a customer must connect their smartphone or tablet to the retailer’s Bluetooth signal, Hagerty said.
Since a device is connected through Bluetooth, it’s not considered online gambling, which is illegal in Virginia, according to 58.1-4007.2 of the Code of Virginia.
In its first week, 1,700 people played MobilePlay at roughly 1,400 retailers.
In addition to the new games, residents will also be able to purchase traditional lottery tickets, including those for Mega Millions and Powerball. However, the customer still must be inside a retailer.
Hagerty said this will come in handy when jackpots climb. He said often lines can get pretty long inside convenience stores. He said the app allows the player to skip the line.
“In essence, your smartphone is walking up to the cashier to make the purchase for you,” he said
Like traditional lottery tickets, proceeds from the e-games will go toward Virginia’s public schools. In fiscal year 2018, the lottery generated roughly $600 million for schools.