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Skyrocketing scratch-off sales indicate lotto players are resilient

May 14, 2020, 2:08 pm

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By Kate Northrop

While ticket sales and jackpots are down for draw games like Powerball and Mega Millions, Americans have no problem finding entertainment in other lottery alternatives.

Vendors have been selling tickets for multi-state games during stay-at-home orders, but customers are understandably reluctant to take the time to pick out numbers and hand cash to attendants while making essential shopping trips. Instead, quick buys like scratch-off tickets make great substitutions for the level of enjoyment draw games offer.

Cornell University business professor David Just, who competed a study on lottery purchases earlier this year, found that scratch-off tickets enable immediate gratification, as opposed to draw games that require more planning, interaction, and delayed benefit.

"When we feel a loss, we become much more willing to take a risk to regain what we had," he said.

According to Just, most players don't actually play the draw lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions until the jackpots reach a significant amount, but scratch-off games have brought players and states alike some good luck.

Quite a few states have reported increased sales this month compared to the same time last year. For example, Oklahoma saw extraordinary sales increases for the week ending April 25, with total lottery sales just over $7.7 million. That is 75% higher compared to the same time last year, driven almost entirely by scratch-offs. Scratch-offs contributed nearly $5.9 million to that total, up from $2.5 million last year.

Jay Finks, the marketing director for the Oklahoma Lottery, cited various reasons for the increase, such as a new $20 scratch-off ticket introduced in December and the expansion of lottery sales into 7-Eleven stores in February. Contrary to an initial decline in sales at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Finks also attributed an increased demand for gaming to successful lottery sales. "People are looking for things to do. People can't gamble on sports, can't watch sports, can't go to casinos, can't go to movies," he said.

As some states gear toward re-opening businesses, other non-scratch-off lottery sales are finally seeing some much-needed relief as well. According to Brad Bohannon, the Georgia Lottery Corp.'s vice president for government relations, the Georgia lottery saw its highest sales week of the year from April 26 to May 2. April sales were up $7.4 million, or 1.8%, over April of last year. The lottery is reporting increases for all product lines, not just scratch-offs.

"While most other forms of entertainment were limited, April sales rebounded extremely well," Bohannon said. "We feel very confident we'll be able to show another increase in May."

These figures bode well for the HOPE Scholarship program and Zell Miller Scholarship, funds that provide tuition for students in Georgia. After the fiscal year ends on June 30, the lottery projects that it will transfer $1.13 billion to education programs.

The Georgia Lottery Corp. is planning on re-opening its offices around the state by appointment only to distribute prizes to winners.

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