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Chris Sieroty

New Las Vegas lottery ticket delivery may not be legal

16 May 2011

The business concept is simple and unique -- provide a delivery service for local residents tired of driving to California and Arizona for lottery tickets.

The Las Vegas business, Lotto Express, will go and pick up the tickets for nothing more than a tip to help cover costs. The lottery is illegal in Nevada so the company cannot charge a service fee.

At the company's office on Eastern Avenue, just south of Flamingo Road, customers can find out the size of the each jackpot is and fill out tickets before the driver leaves.

For 20 or more tickets, the company asks a $10 tip for the driver. Less than that the requested tip is $5. Customers have the option of registering online and placing orders for four different lottery plays, including California Mega Millions, California SuperLotto Plus, Arizona Mega Millions, and Arizona Powerball.

"Helping customers save time and money related to gas and mileage are the primary goals of our business, as we attempt to make an impact on the environment by decreasing the number of cars on the road," Brandon Tran, president of Express Management Co., said in a statement.

Tran, who did not respond to requests for comment, started operating May 8. He hasn't said how many customers he's had or how much he's made in tips.

So is this a viable business?

"Have you ever read 'Freakonomics?' There is a story about a guy selling doughnuts ... you pay what you want for them," said Stephen Miller, chairman of the Economics Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' College of Business, referring to a best-selling book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. "What he found was people on average tend to be altruistic."

Miller described it as behavioral economics, which is different from standard economics, in which people tend to maximize their own well-being.

Another question: Is this legal? Depends on whom you ask.

Nevada law enforcement officials and gaming regulators differ.

Edie Cartwright, a spokeswoman with the Nevada attorney general's office, said she's confident the business violates a state law, which makes the unauthorized sale or transfer of a lottery ticket a misdemeanor.

A gaming regulator was less certain.

"We are looking into it," said Jerry Markling, chief of the Enforcement Division with the Nevada Gaming Commission in Carson City. "We haven't determined if it's a legal or illegal business. We are conducting an investigation to determine that."