© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jackpot.com brings the Texas lottery to users’ fingertips but not without risks

A Powerball lottery ticket
Joshua Lott
Reuters /Landov
A Powerball lottery ticket

A lottery courier services company launched in Texas in early January promising convenience for its users.

It holds a certification from the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) for its safeguards against underage and problem gaming. But that certification comes with a caveat: the NCPG doesn’t actually test those safeguards.

Jackpot.com is an app and website where Texas residents can purchase digital lottery tickets from Mega Millions, Powerball, Texas Two Step, and Lotto Texas Extra.

Jackpot.com’s CEO Akshay Khanna said the business model was about convenience in the digital world.

“What we saw was an opportunity here to take a commerce experience and, with the addition of smartphones and the internet and the nature in which particularly today’s 20-something and 30-something and 40-something-year-olds are purchasing, to give people the opportunity to purchase in a way they are buying everything else,” he said.

Users who buy the digital tickets never have to hold on to a physical piece of paper or manually check to see if they won — that will all be handled by the app.

Warnings and limits

Because the ease of access to gambling presents risks, Khanna said his company had devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars and significant consideration to its safeguards.

“We have maximum deposit limits that prevent any customer from depositing more than a certain amount, which in our case is $100 a day,” Khanna said. “We have proprietary technology that notifies our team in case anyone is exhibiting any behaviors in terms of spend that may indicate a problem gaming issue, and we have the ability to suspend people’s accounts if we see that.”

Before those suspensions, Khanna said the app would provide users with notifications warning them of their gaming habits to try to disincentivize the behavior.

Users themselves can also set limits on how much they deposit, and the platform includes information for users to get help for gambling problems.

Khanna also said the company works with a third-party software to confirm any potential user is of legal age to play the lottery — 18 in Texas — before they can deposit any money into their account.

These safeguards are why the NCPG offered the company an internet Compliance Assessment Program (iCAP) certification before it even launched.

Since November's Powerball jackpot, the lottery program has netted around $70 million for the Texas Education Agency.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Powerball lottery tickets.

“It is our intent that the certification provides a consumer and jurisdiction specific review that a[n] online gambling site has some of the basic responsible gambling protections in place,” explained NCPG executive director Keith Whyte.

Though Jackpot.com is a member in the NCPG, the iCAP reviews are kept independent by using a third-party to conduct the review.

The iCAP review is limited in that it only checks to see whether safeguards are in place, not necessarily that they work. Khanna acknowledged that while that’s true, it doesn’t take away from the efforts his company has made.

“It is our job as a company to make sure that [the safeguards] continue to work,” he said. “We have teams of folks, particularly on the engineering side, that are ensuring that each of the processes that I just talked about are working at any given point in time.”

He added that if any safeguards were to break down, the NCPG would become aware and action could be taken regarding Jackpot.com’s iCAP certification. Khanna also said it would not be in his company’s interest to let the protections — especially the ones that prevent underage gambling — fail.

“It is morally the wrong thing to do, and two, it’s just bad business,” Khanna said. “You’re inviting disaster by allowing that to happen.”

'Systems in place'

Besides the business concerns, Khanna said the issue of problem gaming is very personal to him and several of the other members of his team, offering them even more incentive to make sure the safeguards are doing what they’re intended to.

“We have spent a significant sum of money and a significant amount of resources in ensuring that we have all the systems in place, that we have the monitoring to ensure that those systems are working at all times,” Khanna said.

Jackpot.com’s January launch came after a $42 million round of funding that included investments from the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the owners of the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Giants.

The company has also joined marketing partnerships with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Cowboys.

Khanna said despite the investment from major league sports teams, Jackpot.com currently has no plans to get involved in sports betting.

The company is planning to expand to several new states in the coming weeks and months, with hopes to continue to expand around the country, and has Spanish-language functionality as well.