Pennsylvania Online Lottery Reports 29 Percent Uptick In Play Amid Social Distancing

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Gambling via the internet is up across the board in Pennsylvania, including online lottery play.

The Pennsylvania Lottery, like most if not all lotteries in the country, has taken a major hit due to retailers closing their doors and/or people staying at home, whether by an order from a governor or by one’s own volition. The U.S. online lottery industry, active in only a handful of states, is still in its infancy. No state lottery snags the bulk of its revenues from the internet.

Still, the online lottery in Pennsylvania is unsurprisingly seeing a major boost right now.

According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, online play last week, in the fourth week of March, increased by 29% compared to the corresponding week in February, Penn Bets learned.

Good to have an online option

The Keystone State’s iLottery launched in May 2018. Individuals 18 and older are able to play a wide array of interactive games such as scratch-offs and draw contests. Intrastate prizes can reach $250,000. In January, Pennsylvania started selling tickets via the web to Mega Millions and Powerball, multi-state draw games that commonly award eight- or nine-figure prizes.

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Last week, Powerball announced that it would cut in half its minimum jackpot after the current $180 million purse is hit. Sales for the game apparently have plummeted nationwide.

The 29% Pennsylvania online lottery uptick doesn’t include sales from Powerball or Mega Millions, the PA Lottery said. Just 4% of ticket sales for those games are coming through the internet, as many retail locations in the state are still open thanks to being considered essential businesses. Lottery retailers include gas stations and grocery stores.

According to the PA Lottery, about 30% of the network of roughly 9,8000 retailers have closed due to the coronavirus situation. It is possible more could close in the weeks or months ahead.

Sales for the PA Lottery’s traditional games played via brick-and-mortar retailers is down about 25% since the state started implementing mitigation for COVID-19.

“It’s important to note that the increase in online sales is not enough to offset the sales the Lottery has lost on the traditional side of the business,” PA Lottery spokesperson Ewa Dworakowski told Penn Bets. “Just to put it in perspective, an estimated 70% of our business comes from our scratch-off sales. So, it’s our traditional products that remain the foundation of our business.”

Roughly $3 billion worth of traditional scratch-off tickets are sold in the state each year.

Lottery-funded services after COVID-19

The Pennsylvania Lottery uses all of its proceeds to fund programs that benefit older residents, including low-cost prescription assistance, free and reduced-fare transportation, property tax and rent rebates, and home-delivered meals, among others. Those are especially important now and going forward.

Lottery retailers still open, along with the iLottery, allow the programs to still have funding.

“Those life-sustaining programs that seniors depend on will be needed more than ever once the pandemic is over,” Dworakowski said.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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