Has the Pennsylvania Lottery done enough to appeal to online generations?

The Pennsylvania Lottery has been running for almost five decades following its initial launch way back in 1972, and it has paid out huge sums regularly to residents since then. During the 2009/10 fiscal year, for example, more than $3bn in gross revenue was generated, and around $1.87bn was paid back in prizes.

The Pennsylvania Lottery also has a rich tradition of helping older people in the state. It is the only lottery in the US that earmarks every single dollar of its proceeds for programs for the elderly. During the 2009/10 fiscal year, that amounted to $915.7m.

With its focus on over 65s, the lottery has typically struggled to attract and retain the interest of younger players, but it has made strides in that area during the last two years following the passing of landmark legislation in October 2017 that gave permission to casinos to explore new revenue-generating options.

Several months later, the Pennsylvania Lottery became the seventh state in the US to start selling lottery games via online platforms in a move designed to appeal to more tech-savvy players, including Millennials and Gen Z.

The new games offer big prizes with jackpots of up to $250,000, sizable sums that could change a young person’s life for the better. On announcing the new format, lottery executive Drew Svitko said that the ability to play games across smartphones, computers and other mobile devices would give players a “fun, new way to play” while at home and on the go.

The ‘PA iLottery’ covers all of the new, digital interaction games that are now available. These video-style games offer players new ways to interact and engage with the lottery on a regular basis. Players can deposit funds and play with the chance of winning cash prizes on a daily basis rather than having to wait for a weekly lottery.

Traditional lottery games such as Mega Millions, Powerball and Daily Number, which are available at more than 9,000 retail vendors across the state, are still a fundamental part of the experience, but online platforms open up the lottery to a much wider and diverse audience.

For the younger demographic in particular, this has made the Pennsylvania Lottery more accessible, more fun and better suited to their smartphone-centric routines. The changes appear to be paying off as sales soared to a record $4.495bn in the fiscal year ending June 30 2019 – almost $300m higher than the previous year.

The good news is that the digital-based lottery games will drive further growth in the coming years. Pennsylvania Lottery spokesperson Ewa Dworakowski notes: “The new games currently represent a small portion of the lottery’s overall growth, but the Pennsylvania Lottery anticipates iLottery, keno and Xpress Sports will continue to grow.”

Svitko also revealed that it has partnered with all of its registered retailers to encourage more players to sign up to the new platform. This page on online-gambling.com goes into greater detail about all of the legal online lotteries available in the state and how to choose the best games. 

One area in which the lottery could improve is by allowing players to buy tickets for its online games through a mobile app. Currently, Pennsylvania has not partnered with third-party apps such as Jackpocket, which offers a secure way to purchase state lottery tickets for a variety of games. The app, however, does allow users to check results and winnings, buy instant tickets and access exclusive drawings. 

With only formative steps into the digital realm, the state lottery still has vast scope for expansion and improvement to capture a younger demographic who are just as eager as their older counterparts to win big.

The launch of iLottery is a great starting point though. Players as young as 18 can now sign up and create an account as long as they submit proof of their identity and age. The PA iLottery also promotes responsible play through a variety of customizable settings for time, deposit and spend limits. There is even a ‘cool-off’ feature for those who want to take a step back for a short time.

All of these improvements and the mix of online games available are attracting younger players to the lottery’s operations at a time when program costs are increasingly on an annual basis. While more can be done, the state is now in a great position to build on its digital services to cater to more players, both young and old.

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