Rio de Janeiro’s state lottery, Loteria do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (LOTERJ), has decided to suspend its lottery services due to the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic until March 28. The decision comes from an ordinance of the Secretary of State for Economic Development, Energy and International Relations.

LOTERJ will only run its lottery prizes payment service, but this must be previously scheduled by phone or email. Other types of public services will continue via phone.

The resolution also suspends instant lottery winning tickets, as well as all LOTERJ’s ongoing administrative deadlines, physical or virtual, that depend on a physical process.

LOTERJ implemented an Electronic Information System (SEI) in late 2019, allowing processes to be made online. However, the migration program hasn’t been completed and most of the required information for the lottery services still depend on physical processes.

With the intention of slowing down the spread of the virus, other lotteries in Latin America have already decided to stop or limit their daily operations. The National Charity Lottery (LNB) of El Salvador and the National Lottery of the Dominican Republic have suspended their services, while the National Lottery of Panama has modified its normal operations to safeguard the health of its workers.

Last week, the Consumer Protection and Defense Authority of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Procon RJ) launched an investigation into abusive business practices and misleading advertisements by the company in charge of the distribution of RJ da Sorte, Hebara Distribuidora de Produtos Lotericos. RJ da Sorte offers lottery-style bonus draws that can be exchanged for money.

The president of Procon RJ, Cássio Coelho, said that the lawsuit was carried out after complaints made by consumers and the board of directors of LOTERJ. He said that the legal actions come after they visited 16 stores and discovered that advertising was confusing and ambiguous.

While Hebara insists that they’re not in charge of the bonus draws and therefore have no legal responsibility, the municipality urged the company to release a public explanation in the next couple of weeks in order to clarify the lottery’s methods.