U.S. Lottery Directors Hopeful About Online Expansion Following Pandemic

  • U.S. lottery officials hopeful about more states legalizing online sports betting, casino gaming
  • Maryland lottery director believes legal sports betting could lead to overturning ban on online lottery sales
  • Arkansas Lottery director to step down next month

Many gaming industry executives have expressed their hope since the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak that the effects of the pandemic would lead to more states adopting online sports betting and casino gaming, and that hope extends to lottery directors as well.

Now armed with the data that shows how states with iLottery have fared through the pandemic compared with those without online lottery games, lotteries will have a better case to put before legislators, said Bishop Woosley, director of the Arkansas Lottery and president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL).

“We actually have the data to show what happens when players can’t get out and purchase tickets in the brick and mortar,” he said. “We’ve always speculated for years what would happen, well now we know it.”

“That is something that is going to be very valuable for all lotteries going forward.”

Woosley announced this week that he will step down as Arkansas Lottery director on August 3, but that he hopes to remain in the lottery industry, an industry he said will have to be a much quicker one to adapt to a changing market going forward.

“We all move at a glacial pace, it’s like turning an aircraft carrier around, but COVID changed that,” he said Thursday. “You’re going to have to be much more agile, and we’re going to have to be an industry that can turn on a dime and change.”

“I think with COVID, it’s taken iLottery from being the future of lottery to the now of lottery,” added Gregg Edgar, executive director of the Arizona Lottery.

In Maryland, state law specifically prohibits online lottery sales following a 2017 push from retailers fearing cannibalization.

The state also has a pending voter referendum to permit sports betting, and Maryland Lottery director Gordon Medenica remains optimistic that online sports betting, combined with the effects of the pandemic, will help clear a path for reversing the 2017 law.

“I think that will help us get over the reluctance some legislators have over sports betting,” Medenica said. “The experience now with the pandemic is that everybody who is able to sell on the internet has been doing extremely well with it.”

“We’re confident that our retailers, who we absolutely adore, will do well and it will help us all.”

Charlie McIntyre, director of the New Hampshire Lottery, where online lottery sales have been ongoing since 2018, pointed out that the goal of any online lottery program is to create new customers, not simply transfer existing customers to the new channel.

Moving scratch ticket sales online and replacing it does nobody any good, that’s just exercise,” McIntyre said. “That’s not additional sales, we’re looking for more money, not that same money.”

As lotteries continue to add new channels, like New Hampshire did with sports betting in 2019, McIntyre said the challenge for lotteries is to concentrate on all the different offerings.

“They all act very differently, a sports-betting consumer is very different than a person who plays bingo, somebody who buys scratch tickets, or somebody who plays Powerball,” he said.

“For us, sort of managing all the segments gets more complicated, and the data we drive from that also gets more complicated to manage.”

Each of the four lottery directors spoke Thursday during a panel discussion at the SBC Digital Summit North America on the state of U.S. lotteries, moderated by May Scheve Reardon, director of the Missouri Lottery.

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