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Accelerating Innovation in iLottery

There are now 13 American lotteries offering some form of lottery games online, including subscriptions, and the vibrant segment is being energized by new games and new player tools.

 

By Patricia McQueen

June 25, 2024

NASPL Insights Online

 


It was big news recently when a $522 million Mega Millions jackpot was won in Illinois on June 4. The ticket was purchased online from the Illinois Lottery, making it by far the largest lottery prize ever won in North America from an online ticket purchase.

 

Illinois was actually the first American lottery to offer single-ticket online sales, which made their debut in March 2012. It was followed by Georgia (November 2012), North Dakota (July 2014), Michigan (August 2014), Kentucky (April 2016), North Carolina (June 2016), Pennsylvania (May 2018), New Hampshire (September 2018), Rhode Island (May 2020), Virginia (July 2020), District of Columbia (December 2020) and Connecticut (June 2024). In addition, the New York Lottery offers online subscriptions for selected games, and had its own big jackpot winner when a subscription player won a $128 million Mega Millions jackpot in March 2022.

 


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For these lotteries, and those in Canada, online play helps them meet consumer expectations in world where people increasingly manage most of their activities using mobile devices.

 

These consumers expect seamless interactions with businesses of all kinds, so an important consideration for lotteries today is minimizing the distinction between retail games and online play. Cross promotions and omnichannel games are two ways to help keep players thinking about “lottery” as games that meet them wherever they are. As we completed this article, the New Hampshire and Virginia lotteries were launching major loyalty programs that seamlessly integrate all lottery play regardless of platform. Virginia has also implemented options for players to deposit retail winnings into their online wallets and withdraw wallet funds at retail (see related article).

 

The Pennsylvania Lottery is excited to be working with its business partner, Scientific Games, on an omnichannel lottery wallet solution. With My Lottery Wallet, players will be able to play online, cash retail tickets to the wallet, and use the wallet funds to play online or at retail – making it a complete 360-degree solution.

 

“We are always looking for solutions to integrate the retail and online channels for players and break down the silos,” explains Stephanie Weyant, the Pennsylvania’s Deputy Executive Director, Marketing & Products. “Players play online and at retail, so we want to make it as convenient as possible for them by offering various integrated payment and cashing options.”

 


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Multi-Jurisdictional eInstants

 

In the traditional lottery environment, there’s no doubt that multi-jurisdictional jackpot games provide the WOW factor with jackpots far outside the range that any individual lottery can create on its own. That concept is now spreading in the iLottery world with the development of progressive eInstant games available in multiple jurisdictions.

 

The first group launched in Pennsylvania and Virginia in July 2023, and has since been joined by New Hampshire, with Kentucky waiting in the wings. Virginia has five eInstant games contributing to the Mega Money Jackpots pool, Pennsylvania has four and New Hampshire has one. In late April, a whopping prize of $5,794,333 was won in Virginia.

 

“The multi-state eInstant games are performing very well for us here in Pennsylvania,” says Pennsylvania Lottery Director of Products Kara Sparks. She noted that even if the jackpot is won elsewhere, “the excitement is felt by our players nonetheless. Progressive games will always be a player favorite, so it is crucial to look for opportunities to expand upon the success of this category of eInstant games.”

 


The Kentucky Lottery will launch Jackpot Spectacular, one of the games contributing to the Mega Money Jackpots pool, as soon as the current jackpot is hit. “We see Jackpot Spectacular as a great acquisition game,” says the Lottery’s Vice President of Products Ashlee Richards. “By offering a multistate jackpot that grows quickly, it’s a great selling point to bring players through the door and give them a great experience in that game, and introduce them to our broad portfolio of other games that will appeal to them.”

 

The North Carolina Education Lottery, which launched eInstants last fall, expects to join the game early next year.

 

The Canadian lotteries are embracing the concept as well, with a new category of eInstants called Turbo Jackpots developed through the Interprovincial Lottery Corp. The first game is launching this summer under the name Cash Blast. It joins a broad group of national games that includes Lotto Max, Lotto 6/49, Daily Grand, along with a number of scratch games.



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Restructure and Refocus in Kentucky

 

The Kentucky Lottery recently completed a partial corporate restructuring that has already produced some exciting results across the board, and especially for iLottery. President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Harville doesn’t think iLottery was given the proper “love” in the early years after its launch in April 2016. After taking the helm in 2020, she led the charge to make improvements in the program. Expanded marketing and an increase in eInstant payouts to 85% were the first two initiatives, quickly followed by the addition of Optimove to the platform. That provided the customer relationship management tools that focus on giving players the love that they need.

 

More recently, there’s been the introduction of omnichannel games and the addition of the Lottery’s first third-party game provider (IWG), with more to come.

 

Structural changes to the organization began in April 2023 after longtime Director of Interactive Content Lauren Walker resigned. Harville immediately began looking for opportunity in that upheaval, and she found it. Rather than simply hiring Walker’s replacement, she shuffled things around. The product group, which had been under the marketing umbrella led by long-time employee Edie Frakes, was given its own department. Ashlee Richards, who had been with IGT at the beginning of Kentucky’s iLottery journey, was brought in as Vice President of Products. In turn, Frakes was promoted to Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, and in that capacity she ensures that all marketing efforts across product lines are in lockstep. The newest member of the team is Matt Nichols, Director of Digital Product. He came on board in late January and oversees iLottery as part of the products group. “I’m really excited about what everyone is doing right now,” says Harville.

 


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Along with the new team comes a comprehensive effort to build cohesion across products. “We are thinking about our players as ‘lottery players’ and not just ‘iLottery players’ or ‘retail players,’” explains Richards. “We are meeting their needs wherever they are.” In the process, there’s a big focus on trying new things and finding what resonates with players.


Underlying these efforts is a transition to a new iLottery platform and mobile app, which will bring in all sorts of new features. “It gives us an opportunity to step back and look at our player journey and the user experience, and see where we can streamline that experience,” she says.

 

Looking ahead, IWG continues to provide different game styles and features that enrich the overall eInstant portfolio. For FY25, there are plans for even more new features that will add dimension to the category, such as innovative game mechanics and visuals, along with adding $30 play for all new games and $50 price points on selected games. Bringing on additional game studios is also on the table at some point. “All these are things that will keep the experience fresh, with players coming back and finding more of what they like,” says Nichols.

 

From the marketing perspective, in today’s fast-paced media landscape it’s important to capture player attention right away. Kentucky is moving to digital-first campaigns, and the Lottery’s recent Let the Fun Shine campaign is a prime example. Created in a manner that facilitates swapping in individual products or games as desired, the general concept is built around telling a story with strong visual impact.


 



Frakes emphasizes that the restructuring has really allowed the Lottery to focus on the brand, rebuilding from the inside out while keeping all the stakeholders in mind. “That includes making room at the table for the eInstant channel – the baby in the family is now the second largest contributor to our lottery’s overall portfolio. It’s an enhancement and a natural evolution of lottery games to meet our players wherever they are.”



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Other Recent Developments

 

Overall it’s been a very busy year for lotteries with online play, as they continue to enhance their online product portfolio. Here are a few highlights from other lotteries that shared some of their exciting recent developments.

 

British Columbia Lottery Corp. There is a continued emphasis on bi-channel games, with retail and eInstant games of the same theme. The strategy is to create relevant digital products that provide an exceptional player experience through additional and varied ways to play and more chances to win. For example, the launch of Canada’s first national eInstant game, Cash Blast, will be paired in British Columbia with a retail scratch ticket. With the lottery segment providing the largest player base within BCLC’s entire gaming ecosystem, the goal is to create and deepen relationships with loyal bi-channel players and to support the transition of known to verified players.

 


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DC Lottery. This spring, the DC Lottery launched its official mobile app, giving all players a whole new level of convenience. For iLottery players in particular, many eInstant games and selected draw games are available (Mega Millions, Powerball, Lucky for Life, DC 3, DC 4 and DC 5). Players can instantly check if they’ve won their retail-purchased games by scanning their tickets. They can also stay updated with the latest jackpot amounts, locate the nearest DC Lottery retailers, and manage responsible gaming features in their accounts. The app also offers exclusive promotions and offers throughout the year, including bonus credits and new game alerts. Importantly, the app’s platform ensures secure and convenient deposits and withdrawals, prioritizing the safety and convenience of players. As of May 31, 2024, the DC Lottery app had approximately 3,000 downloads, leading to nearly 1,500 new account registrations.



On the eInstant front, in July 2023 the DC Lottery welcomed a second game vendor, as EQL Games joined IWG in the game portfolio. The first EQL game was Drop the Balls, an extended-play multi-level Pachinko game. This was followed in September by the introduction of Luck of the Dead, the Lottery’s first digital scratcher-themed eInstant. The addition of EQL has been a game-changer for DC Lottery, providing a wide range of unique and exciting games that players have enjoyed, and showcasing the potential for future growth and diversification of the Lottery’s game offerings.

 

Just recently, iLottery introduced three back-to-back eInstant game launches and the June Triple Play Bonus Month promotion. This was the first time since inception that iLottery launched games weekly, and the promotion offers players special bonus credit incentives to play throughout the month.

 

Looking ahead, there are plans to add one or two more game vendors during the next fiscal year (which begins October 1). The team anticipates adding a licensed property game via a partnership with Scientific Games, which will add another level of versatility. These future plans are a testament to DC Lottery’s commitment to providing the best gaming experience for players.

 


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Illinois Lottery. Illinois remains the only North American lottery to offer Fast Play games online, and they represent a true bi-channel product. All iLottery Fast Play games are offered in some form in the retail environment; only a very few Fast Play games are retail-only. It’s a winning combination; in FY24, retail Fast Play sales are up 6%, and weekly online playership is up 20% over the prior year. On June 4, a $2.786 million Fast Play prize was won on Ultimate Diamond Jackpot, the largest Fast Play win in the U.S. to date. This game is available both online and at retail, and the big winning ticket was sold online.

 

Throughout FY24, the Lottery and its private manager Allwyn have focused on Fast Play game mix optimization (e.g. price point, theme, top prize), prize structure optimization including jackpot strategy, improved merchandising in both retail and online, and enhanced digital customer journeys. Examples include an increase in number of games from 21 to 29, the first crossword theme and the first $30 game.

 

One important enhancement for the online merchandising of Fast Play was the introduction of dynamic digital game tiles on the homepage of the website and app. Believed to be the first lottery to use dynamic, instead of static, images on game tiles, these provide a small showcase of the game experience before playing or selecting a demo. They have increased visibility, awareness and ease of navigation and play. Of players that navigate to Fast Play from these homepage tiles, 60% go on to purchase a game.

 


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Loto-Québec. This year, the focus is on progressive jackpot games for the eInstants category, with 10-12 games launching under three different brands. One of them will be the national jackpot game (mentioned earlier). The team has noticed over the past few months that products with a progressive jackpot tend to perform up to two times better than regular games. There is also a new category of games called Presto; as the name implies, these are games that are quick to play. With one click, players can see whether they win.

 

Another priority is to leverage the experience of brick-and-click scratch games, with online eInstant games that have a game mechanic that mimics what is available at retail. There’s an added bonus component with great animations and sound to improve the player’s experience.

 

It’s all part of portfolio optimization, which is key to providing a comprehensive offering while prioritizing products that offer growing jackpots. Yet fast-paced games like Presto also have their place, even though they may not appeal to all players. It’s all about finding the right balance in the offering.

 


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Ontario Lottery and Gaming. In April, OLG introduced a new Group Play platform on its website and mobile app. This platform makes it easier to play the lottery with friends, family and coworkers. Players can form online groups, purchase lottery tickets together and track prizes electronically. Collecting funds and distributing winnings is all done automatically, reducing the work so players can focus on the fun. Once the team is set up at olg.ca, Captains can build group packs of tickets, and group members can choose to purchase the pack. If a group wins under $1,000 per play, the system automatically splits the prize equally between the group members that participated in the group play. For larger prizes, winners follow the standard prize claim process. All members must register for an OLG account online, and players can be part of multiple groups at the same time.

 

Another popular feature of OLG’s iLottery offerings is QUCKPICK PACKS, which offer players a convenient way to play some of their favorite games with one purchase. Each QUCKPICK PACK includes some of Canada’s most popular draw games, and price points range from $5 to $40.

 

Pennsylvania Lottery. In addition to developments in the area of category integration with an enhanced player wallet solution, noted above, Pennsylvania has strongly supported omnichannel opportunities from the very beginning. Starting with seasonal games (e.g., Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.) and then branching out with licensed properties, the goal with omnichannel games is to get the brand and/or theme into all three instant win game categories: Scratch-Off, Fast Play, and eInstant.


The most recent omnichannel offering includes three games with a Ford Bronco theme. The $5 scratch ticket Keys and Cash, along with the Adventure Ahead Fast Play game, each offer a Bronco as a top prize, and non-winning tickets can be entered in the Buckin’ Buck$ Second-Chance Drawing. There are also cross-promotional codes which drive players of the traditional games to the Off-Road Riches eInstant, and after playing that eInstant game, a coupon offer sends players back to retail for a free $5 scratch-off game.

 

On the winner awareness front, each week the Lottery’s communications team asks online players who win $5,000 or more to share their story; $20 in bonus play is offered as an incentive. The player receives a souvenir check with basic details to help protect their identity. These stories and photos are shared on the Winners’ Circle page at palottery.com. As a result of these efforts, online winner stories have increased by over 15% from the previous fiscal year.



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Always More To Come

 

Perhaps the best thing about iLottery is that there is constant change to keep players engaged. From games that can swap colors and graphics almost instantly depending on the season, to game styles that range from quick play to extended play, to innovative promotions and personalization, there’s something for everyone. It all keeps a lottery’s digital team busy!

 

All the while, there are also plenty of responsible gambling tools and techniques for players, things that aren’t possible in the retail environment.

 

And there will soon be another lottery in the online realm, as the West Virginia Lottery is on track to launch iLottery (under the local name iPlay) on Oct. 6. At launch, included draw games will be the Lottery’s three multi-state games: Powerball, Mega Millions and Lotto America. Ten eInstant games will also be available, with two new games added monthly. At the same time, West Virginia will launch Play On, a loyalty program for both retail and online lottery players.



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