Sales figures for the Pennsylvania Lottery took a major hit — down 25% — as coronavirus shutdowns closed 30% of the state’s retail agents in March.
But there’s been a healthy rebound since, according to an account by The Daily Item, a central PA news site.
Available online and scratch-off lottery demand led to stability
A spike in online lottery play plus increased spending on scratch-offs has stabilized revenue, according to The Daily Item.
Lottery spokeswoman Ewa Dworakowski is quoted as saying,
“We are still working to finalize the sales and profit figures for the 2019–2020 fiscal year. We expect that the final numbers will show that lottery profits for senior programs are very close to where they were last year.”
“Overall, traditional lottery sales are about 0.6% below last fiscal year due to the lack of big jackpots from the multistate games, Powerball and Mega Millions. However, we are happy to report that scratch-off sales, which account for nearly 70% of lottery sales, are up about 7%.”
The state’s revenue from traditional lottery sales for the first 11 months of the fiscal year was running about $60 million behind the same period in 2019.
The state has sold more than $4 billion in lottery tickets through May. That includes scratch-offs and draw games like Powerball, Pick 3 and Mega Millions.
Nearly back to normal for revenue
After costs, including prize payments, the state got $1.07 billion in revenue from traditional lottery sales in the first 11 months of 2018–19.
By comparison, the state had revenue of $1.01 billion in the same period this fiscal year.
Online lottery surge fuels recovery
The retail disruption has led to a surge in online growth, said Dworakowski.
“Online play increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now about 24% ahead of the estimate for the fiscal year,” she said.
PAOnlineCasino reported in June that the iLottery had surpassed $1 billion in sales in its first two years. And according to Scientific Games, it’s on track to hit more than $1 billion in annual sales.
The Quaker State’s iLottery was averaging $3 million in daily sales during the virus shutdown.
Revenues benefit senior programs
Pat McHugh, group chief executive, lottery, for Scientific Games, the operator of the PA Lottery’s online platform, told The Daily Item this shows that states can offer online gambling while still having successful traditional lottery sales.
McHugh said PA’s online program helped the Lottery adjust and protect funding for senior programs paid for by lottery proceeds.
Lottery revenue benefits programs for older residents, such as property tax and rent rebate programs, prescription assistance and Meals on Wheels.
Lottery fluctuations widespread
Other states have also had erratic sales for their lotteries during the pandemic.
Several states saw a drop in revenue from big-money games like Powerball and Mega Millions, which saw lower jackpots.
Neighboring Delaware‘s lottery sales are off almost $40 million through May compared to the last fiscal year, mostly due to the closure of casinos with video poker and table games, according to the Associated Press.
Many state lotteries rebounding
Maryland had mixed results.
Some weeks in April had sales down as much as 30%, according to Gordon Medenica, Maryland’s lottery and gaming director.
“We really didn’t know where the bottom was at that point. We were just seeing sales absolutely collapse,” he said.
“Since then, they have rebounded remarkably well. In the month of May, we actually had our all-time best month for the year in both sales and profits.”
Since March, Texas, Arkansas, Montana and several other states have seen an increase in sales. That’s driven in part by housebound residents putting cash down for scratch-off tickets, the AP reported.
Other states, like Massachusetts and Oregon, have had revenue drops due to stay-at-home orders.
A lack of online buying option a big issue
And a lack of an online presence exacerbated the issue.
At least nine states allow online lottery sales with PA being the only state to offer $20 free to new players that use a PAiLottery bonus code.
Deborah Goldberg, state treasurer of Massachusetts, where there are only retail lottery sales, told the AP:
“This pandemic has dramatically exposed the limitations and vulnerabilities of the lottery’s all-cash, in-person business model.”