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Online Lottery’s Not So Slow Expansion In The US

In statehouses across the country, sports betting is the hot topic, with online casinos and poker have been traveling in its wake. But another form of online gambling has stealthily spread on a parallel track: online lottery.

Online lottery is often overlooked, as there isn’t a commercial industry lobbying for its expansion and touting its benefits. Instead, lotteries are run by the state, with all proceeds going to state programs. That is the critical distinction between the lottery and the (usually) commercially-run sports betting and online casino and US online poker industries.

Online Lottery Availability and Products

In terms of availability, online lottery rivals online sports betting. Online lottery products are available in a dozen states and Washington DC. More than a quarter of the US population has access to state-run online lottery products, and far more if you include online lottery courier services.

That said, specific online lottery products and purchasing options vary by jurisdiction.

  • Illinois – Draw games only.
  • Kentucky – Draw games only.
  • Georgia – Draw and instant win games.
  • Maine – 13, 26, and 52-week subscriptions are available. Customers can buy and manage subscriptions online, but account funding requires a check or money order by mail.
  • Michigan – Draw, instant win games, and keno.
  • Pennsylvania — Draw and instant win games.
  • New Hampshire —Draw and instant win games.
  • New York– The minimum subscription length is two weeks.
  • North Carolina– Subscription lengths range from a single draw to a full year.
  • North Dakota–Subscription lengths range from a single draw to a full year.
  • Rhode Island – Instant win games and keno.
  • Virginia – Draw, instant win games, and keno.
  • Washington DC – Draw and instant win games.

Online lottery tickets can also be ordered through the online lottery courier service Jackpocket in the following locales:

What States are Performing the Best

Not surprisingly, the states that offer a full suite of online lottery products and don’t restrict purchasing options are outperforming their peers.

According to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming’s Lottery Tracker, the top-performers in the online lottery space on a gross sales per capita basis are:

  • Michigan – Over $21 per capita in Q4
  • New Hampshire – Roughly $12.50 per capita in Q4
  • Virginia – Roughly $8 per capita in Q4
  • Pennsylvania – Over $5 per capita in Q4

The remainder of online lottery states have sales under $3 per capita.

Instant Win Games Overshadow Draw Game Sales

One of the more interesting aspects of this is the hold percentage of online instant win games compared to retail instant win games. And piggybacking on that, the hold percentage of online instant win games compared to online slot machines, which iLottery instant win games strongly resemble. 

Pennsylvania provides a good look into this dynamic.

Retail Instant Win Hold %Online Instant Win Hold %Online Slot Hold %
28%13%4.4%

COVID Lifts Online Lottery Sales

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Spring 2020, online lotteries sales grew significantly.

According to E&K Gaming, in Michigan, online lottery’s percentage of total lottery sales went from just over 20% to well over 40%, before settling in at just over 30%. Most online lottery states followed a similar trajectory, with one notable exception, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania experienced a minor increase, with online lottery growing from 15% of total sales to just over 20%. And unlike Michigan, Pennsylvania’s boost has been less sticky and is back to pre-pandemic levels.

A Handful of States Considering Online Lottery Expansion

A quartet of states have active online lottery bills, but prospects are dubious outside of New England.

Connecticut

Connecticut is considering a full suite of online gambling expansions, from sports betting to online casinos to online lotteries. Sports betting appears to be the most popular piece among lawmakers, but for legal sports betting to become a reality, online lottery has to be in the mix.

Illinois

Illinois already sells draw game tickets online, and new legislation would expand its offerings to instant win games. It’s unclear what kind of appetite exists in the state to add instant win games as the state also eyes online casino games. Similar legislation was filed in 2018/2019.

Maryland

An online lottery bill exists in Maryland, but after a successful referendum in 2020, the state seems laser-focused on passing the enabling sports betting legislation in 2021. Still, online lottery continues to be a topic of discussion.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts is also hyper-focused on sports betting, but Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s previous comments point to the Lottery’s desire to be involved in online sales. To pass a sports betting bill, Massachusetts will almost certainly need to extend an olive branch to the Lottery.

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