Giving lottery retailers their fair share

By State Senator Tony Avella

Imagine if you lived in a world where nothing changed over the last 50 years; a world where the same policies, procedures, or pay never changed. That last example is exactly the world where lottery retailers—or “agents”—live.

When the New York Lottery was created 50 years ago, the state decided that stores selling tickets would receive a commission. The commission rate was set at 6 percent, meaning the “agents” made six cents on a $1 scratch-off ticket. Fifty years later, that commission on a $1 scratch ticket is still only six cents.

In the 50 years since the creation of the lottery, the minimum wage has increased 547 percent and will continue to climb over the next four years. Lottery agents’ energy, property, and payroll taxes have increased along with the costs of insurance, regulatory compliance, waste disposal, and other operating expenses have risen exponentially.

All of these increases in costs and yet no increase in the commission that the agents receive. This is simply unacceptable and it is appalling that the state thinks this is acceptable.

In order to try to update this archaic policy, I have introduced legislation in the New York State Senate (Bill S5108) to amend the current policy in order to increase the commission paid to lottery retailers. My legislation would increase the commission from 6 percent to 8 percent. This increase will help over 17,000 small businesses that have been and continue to be harmed by rising costs and stagnant pay.

We need to do a better job at properly compensating our small business owners. Our society is quick to point out the difficulties facing small businesses in our city, yet very few ever put forward reasonable solutions to those problems.

I will continue to push this legislation and other legislation that seeks to provide small business owners with a fair wage and encourage them to remain in business and continue to provide good jobs and great services to their communities.

State Senator Tony Avella represents the 11thSenatorial District in Northeast Queens. He serves as the chair of the State Senate’s Children and Families Committee and sits on ten additional committees, including Cities, Cultural Affairs, Education, Environmental Conservation, Elections, Finance, Housing, Judiciary, Libraries, and Transportation. For more information, visit

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