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Pa. Lottery Experimenting With Debit Cards For Powerball, Other Purchases

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Without any announcement, the Pennsylvania Lottery is quietly implementing an experimental program to allow customers to play the lottery with debit cards.

"Our debit pilot program is intended to help us prepare for the future," Drew Svitko, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lottery told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

Svitko says the pilot, begun in Harrisburg, has come to Pittsburgh in recent weeks.

"It's an opportunity for us to learn all about the business," he said.

Allowing debit cards for lottery purchases reflects the changing nature of cash in American economic life.

It turns out that a majority of Pennsylvanians, 60 percent, don't carry more than $20 in cash.

And the number is growing as we become a cashless society.

That's where these cards become really important, and so the Pennsylvania Lottery is experimenting with using debit cards for the purchase of lottery tickets.

In this area, some of the state's wine and spirits stores and local supermarkets have devices where you can swipe your debit card to make purchases.

Some lottery players love it.

"I think it's going to make it more convenient. I don't see much of a difference. Cash or debit, it's all the same to me," says Vadim Kipiller, of Squirrel Hill.

But others think it's a bad idea, especially for those with gambling issues.

"People who gamble have a serious problem sometimes, and making it easier to gamble creates more serious problems," notes Sally Graubarth, of the North Shore.

Those concerns have kept the lottery away from credit cards, even while they embrace debit cards.

"We're just doing a debit because it avoids the potential problems that might arise from somebody gambling on credit," says Svitko.

With one exception.

Two local service stations allow you to buy Powerball and Mega Millions tickets with a credit card when you purchase gas.

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