US Lottery Officials Are Concerned by Millennials’ Disinterest in Lotto Tickets
United States lottery officials are concerned about the future growth of their games, because millennial gamblers seem less interested in playing the lotto than their parents.
The US lottery industry generated $80 billion in sales in 2015, more than the combined sales for movie tickets, musical concerts, and song downloads. It is a huge industry and it continues to grow year-to-year.
Lottery Revenues Continue to Rise
Driven by the multistate lotteries and statewide scratch-off tickets, lottery ticket sales continue to rise. In 2015, lotto ticket sales rose by 9%, largely fueled by changes in the Powerball Lottery’s mathematics. Those changes accounted for 5 of the 10 largest Powerball jackpot drawings ever.
The number of millennial lottery players declined, despite the incentive of bigger prizes. Millennials are that segment of adults ranging from late teens to their early 30s, those who came of age after the turn of the millennium. These past few years, millennials’ spending habits have been giving casino and lottery executives fits.
Millennials Discuss Their Attitudes
When asked about their disdain for lottery tickets, millennials give sensible answers. CNBC News talked to Melissa Mancilla, a 21-year old hotel worker living in Los Angeles. When asked why she did not buy lotto tickets, Mancilla said, “I feel like everything’s just too expensive nowadays to just kind of throw away your money on luck.”
Andrew Hunter, a 26-year old software designer, was asked the same question by the CNBC news crew. He gave a slightly different reply, but the ultimate reason boiled down to lottery gaming lacking an entertainment factor, and thus its value was less.
Hunter said, “If I was going to bet money for entertainment it would probably be on sports betting versus lottery, just because it’s more interactive.”
Demographic Studies of Lottery Habits
A Gallup survey indicated that 61% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 played the lottery last year. Only 33% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 bought a lottery ticket. The number fell from 39% in a survey from 2003 to 2007, when millennials necessarily would have been on the younger end of the spectrum. It would seem that experience taught the younger generation that lotto tickets have little value.
From a long term perspective, that is a big problem for American lottery companies. Charles McIntyre, the New Hampshire Lottery’s executive director, attributed the lack of interest in a desire for immediate gratification.
Mr. McIntyre said, “Most millennials don’t want to wait two days to see if they won the Powerball. They consume entertainment content just much faster than consumers did 20 years ago.”
Changes in Lottery Sales
Charles McIntyre, like a growing number of lottery officials, says that changes need to be made to encourage millennial lottery players. In essence, the lottery companies need to offer sales more conducive to millennial spending patterns.
The executive said the problem is not immediate, but it is one of planning. He added, “We’re not broke, we’re just at the inflection point where a failure to change will have a steep decline over time.”
Debit Card Payments
The problem with changes in the “inflection point” is most states’ lottery laws prohibit the sale of online tickets and credit card sales. Those laws were instituted for good reasons, because the states wanted to discourage compulsive gambling. For that reason, the laws are unlikely to change.
Some lottery officials have begun to encourage debit card sales. Debit cards are considered less dangerous, because they imply the gambler has the cash. Where gambling on credit is considered the path to ruin, gambling on debit is a way to encourage electronic payment methods which are deemed more responsible.
Paula Otto on Millennial Habits
Paula Otto, the Virginia Lottery’s executive director, said the point is to make buying lottery tickets more comfortable for millennials. Otto said, “The next generation of lottery players grew up with technology and approach making purchases and playing games differently.”
The U.S. lottery industry tries to make itself a socially acceptable form of gambling. Lotteries contribute over $20 billion a year to educational and military family funds. Many of the 44 US states which have lotteries claim their funds are earmarked for school funding or scholarships. That might be true, but the money usually goes into general funds, which is used for general spending. The lottery helps the state treasury, is a better way to describe its contribution.
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