Why California Should Expand Their “Play At The Pump” Lottery Program To All Gas Stations Statewide

I don’t know about you folks, but it came as news to me when I recently jumped onto the California Lottery website and noticed that they actually started a new Lottery program wherein you’re able to buy lottery tickets at the pump. Not inside the gas station food mart but at the actual pump itself where you slide in your credit card, punch in your zip code, and then proceed to select your favorite gas and start pumping gas into your car. For me personally? This is a boon. Why? Because I never go into the gas station food mart to pay the clerk and then pump gas. No. I’d much rather just pay with my credit card at the pump, instead of waiting in line inside the food mart, then tell the clerk which pump number I want to pump gas at and the amount I’d like to put down.  That, to me, is so inconvenient, especially at a busy gas station.

This is especially true if you fall under the Millenial generation. It’s not that you dislike talking to a live person to purchase gas and lottery tickets. It’s just that you’re used to the speed and convenience of doing it all yourself. At least I am. Between shopping at a brick and mortar store or buying from an online website at the comfort of my own home? I’d choose the latter, hands down, 99% of the time. That occasional 1% is when I feel like I need to see the actual size or quality of the product before buying it online. In which case, I would show up at a brick and mortar store to “check it out” before buying it later online at a far cheaper price. But lottery tickets? I don’t need to see what the ticket actually looks like. So the whole idea of having to pay cash for the lottery ticket just seems so primitive. So backwards. So pre-internet, you know what I mean? If the California lottery sold their tickets online, I would buy it more consistently, hands down. Without a shadow of a doubt. My time is precious, after all. I don’t have the time to run into the gas station, wait in line, tell the clerk which pump I want to pump gas at, wait for him to punch in the amount I want and “open” the nozzle at the pump, then run out there and pump gas. Plus, I don’t normally carry cash on me. If by happenstance, I happen to have cash on me, it was because I was driving through Downtown LA and many of their parking structures DO NOT take credit cards as viable payment options.

But let’s get back to buying lottery at the pump. The best thing that I like about buying lottery tickets at the pump is that you can actually use your credit card to pay for the lottery tickets. If you’ve ever bought lottery tickets in California before, it has always been a cash-only rule. I’ve never seen an instance where you can actually pull out your credit card to pay for a lottery ticket. The downside to buying a lottery ticket at the pump is that you can’t actually select your favorite numbers. It has to be Quick Pick and you can only buy them in odds of 5, 10, and 20, if you’re playing Super Lotto Plus or the Mega Millions draw games. For Powerball, you can only buy them in odds of 3, 5 and 10. Plus, there’s a $1 surcharge/convenience fee. In other words, no matter what, you’ll have to spend at least $5 plus the $1 surcharge for a total of $6 at the pump, in addition to gas. That might sound like a lot of money to spend at the pump for some lottery tickets but you have to keep in mind, you can use your credit card. So if your credit card can pay back 1% for every dollar that you spend, you’re actually spending a little less for every dollar that you spend for lottery tickets, in addition to whatever rewards you would get for pumping gas.

So far as what is actually classified by your credit card with regards to the lottery? It’s actually classified as a government service. Again, I don’t know about you folks but I don’t know of any credit cards that rewards users for spending money at a government affiliated organization as a specific credit card feature. Nevertheless, there are credit cards out there like Capital One’s Venture (2x points/2% per dollar spent) or VentureOne (1.25x point/1.25% per dollar spent) or QuikSilver (1.50x points/1.5% per dollar spent) that will reward you with a fix rate, regardless of where you make your purchases. And those points can easily add up to some significant rewards in the form of gift cards or frequent flyer miles or cash back. At present, I personally have a Capital One VentureOne credit card. It’s quite handy for when I’m making purchases on things that I know that I won’t be able to get 2-5% on purchases on my other credit cards.

As it stands though, there is only one gas station that is somewhat close to where I live in East Los Angeles and that the pump actually sells lottery tickets. That gas station just happens to be a Mobil gas station in Glendale. Specifically, the one on Chevy Chase and Brand Blvd. Admittedly, I don’t usually drive up to the city of Glendale for anything other than to shop at the Glendale Galleria occasionally or to go to the Barnes and Noble at the Americana, which is adjacent to the mall. That gas station is out of my way. I’d have to have a reason to go up to Glendale to buy gas. Lottery tickets alone isn’t enough even if it is the closest one where I can use my credit card to purchase lottery tickets. California needs to start putting those same lottery machines at the pump at all the gas stations. I can bet you straight up that all the ghetto East LA residents will be buying up lottery tickets at every chance they get at the pump without having to step foot into the foot mart. I know I would. Once a week, hands down, I’ll buy at least $5 worth of Mega Millions or Super Lotto Plus whenever I fill up gas. The gas stations can obviously still keep their clerks inside the food mart for those who’d rather talk to a live person to purchase tickets but I don’t care much for that. As it stands, I’d rather purchase my lottery tickets at a kiosk like the one’s found at all the CVS pharmacy stores. I love those machines! LOVE THEM! There’s almost never a line at those kiosks. The only thing I’d wish they would allow is the use of credit cards. I mean, it’s already automated from the machine, right? You might as well let folks who wish to purchase draw games and scratchers using a credit card. It just makes sense to do that as oppose to making them withdraw cash at the ATM (which also happens to be in the pharmacy as well) and then put cash into another machine to get lottery tickets. It just seems like an extra step for nothing. I mean, I get that credit card companies charge a nominal fee per use to the retailers that allow credit cards but they can always do that thing like charge a $1 convenience fee like they already do at the pump at select gas stations. It just seems like a logical thing to do from a business standpoint.

Bottom line: it’s convenient, it saves time, it’s faster, and more people will play it (hence the jackpot will be bigger), if they allowed credit card purchases.

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