- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico lawmakers are questioning a state lottery pilot program that allows people to purchase tickets at the gas pump using a debit card.

Some lawmakers from both parties think the program violates a law requiring customers to pay for the tickets with cash or a check. They have also raised concerns that drivers younger than 18 could buy the tickets, The New Mexican (http://bit.ly/2aBFNuU ) reported.

In a letter sent to New Mexico Lottery CEO David Barden this week, 13 state legislators argue that the agency might be overstepping its authority. They wrote that expanding the state lottery can have complex ramifications and the matter should be considered by the state legislature.

“We are extremely troubled by the New Mexico Lottery’s unilateral actions in this matter,” the lawmakers wrote, “as well as others that it may be contemplating, such as expanding online or mobile lottery ticket sales without legislative approval.”

The test program began at 13 gas stations on July 25. The system is now installed at about 100 fuel pumps, New Mexico Lottery advertising and marketing director Wendy Ahlm said Tuesday.

Ahlm said the pilot system is designed to raise more money for the struggling Legislative Lottery Scholarship program, which covers in-state college tuition for thousands of students. She said teens won’t be able to buy the tickets because personal information tied to their debit card will reveal they are underage and stop the transaction.

Ahlm also explained that the system is supposed to increase sales by giving drivers an opportunity to purchase a ticket without having to enter the convenience store.

“They go to the pump, slide the card and never even go into the store,” Ahlm said.

Still, at least one signatory of the letter, Democratic Rep. Javier Martinez, thinks the program isn’t the answer to the scholarship’s funding issues.

“In my opinion,” said Martinez, “it is an industry that is subsidized mostly by working-class people, and this is just another attempt at squeezing more money out of those working-class people, which I find troubling.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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