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Fun for the Holidays

April 23, 2024

By Patricia McQueen

NASPL Insights Online

In the traditional season of gift-giving, lotteries and players alike enjoy the holiday festivities that drive sales of holiday instant games each year. While there were fewer comments about record sales and fast sellouts in 2023 compared to the past two seasons, overall lotteries seemed pleased with their results.


North American lotteries reported offering a total of 245 holiday instant games, including seasonal games in some jurisdictions. That’s down from 252 reported in 2022, although differences in the way some lotteries count those seasonal games year to year may be a factor.


With a small decline in the number of $1 and $2 holiday games offered, games at $5 have emerged the clear leader among all holiday price points. There were 54 $5 holiday games introduced in 2023, matching the number reported in 2022 but now well clear of $1 and $2 games (46 and 45 offered, respectively).


While Atlantic Canada and Ontario Lottery and Gaming had previously dropped the $1 price point for holiday games, a few American lotteries followed suit in 2023, including Georgia, Iowa, Kansas and New York. The number of $2 holiday games also declined slightly. Yet as you’ll read in the accompanying roundup, many lotteries continue to emphasize just how important the lowest price points are during the holidays.


The overall number of $10 holiday games remained constant at 44, although some lotteries continue to swap games in and out at various price points. The biggest mover among them all was the $20 price point, with seven more games in 2023 compared to 2022; one each in Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Vermont.


There were three reported holiday games at $30, including Ohio with its first such game. No lottery has yet ventured beyond $30 for a holiday-themed game.


As always, there are differences in markets as well as in strategic goals, and lotteries typically know their own players; any significant changes are made only after careful consideration. The Iowa Lottery, long the North American leader in number of holiday games (13 each in 2020, 2021 and 2022), shook things up in 2023, scaling back to just seven games. That leaves Western Canada and British Columbia alone at the top with 12 and 11 holiday games, respectively.


Gift packs containing multiple tickets remain popular in Canada, with four of the five Canadian lotteries offering these packs. Western Canada offered two packs in 2023, both with a guaranteed winner inside – the $5 Gift Tag Winnings and the $20 Player’s Choice Mega Pack. Atlantic’s $25 Holiday Pack included a guaranteed winner plus an online play promo code, and Ontario’s $20 Instant Gift Pack had a guaranteed winner for the first time. British Columbia’s Holiday Gift Pack had great overall odds (1 in 2) with nine games included.


Families of games are popular throughout the year with many lotteries, providing easy ways to market and promote games at different price points. For the holidays, lotteries may alternate families and games with different themes, to keep the season fresh year after year.


This past holiday season, 10 lotteries offered families as some or all of their holiday offering, the same number as the year before. Those using primarily families with identical or common graphical themes were Florida (Triple Match), Kansas (Sparkling Cash), Louisiana (Snow), Maine (Holiday $100’s/$200’s/$500’s), Nebraska (Holiday Classic) and Virginia (Holiday Cash 5x/10x/20x)


Those with some family games were Georgia ($10 Holiday 50x the Money and $20 Holiday 100x the Money), Massachusetts (Snow Much Money at $1, $2 and $5), Minnesota ($5 Holiday $500’s and $10 Holiday $1,000’s), and Montana ($1 and $2 Holiday Wishes, and a similar $5 Winter Wishes).


Although instant games dominate the holiday season, many lotteries also take the opportunity to offer holiday themes for Fast Play and eInstant games, and even monitor games adopt a festive appearance during the season. Raffles remain staples in a few lotteries’ holiday portfolios, and are eagerly-awaited options especially in Idaho, Kansas, Virginia and Wisconsin. These companion holiday offerings are included in the accompanying roundup.


It should be noted that in addition to the specific holiday advertising and promotions mentioned by lotteries, all eligible lotteries included the Gift Responsibly campaign among their 2023 initiatives.



Intensive Planning

With holiday sales often making or breaking a lottery’s instant ticket sales year, it’s no wonder that so much time and effort goes into holiday game planning. The Louisiana Lottery provided a peek into its 2023 holiday planning process, which began last spring. Staff members from across the Lottery’s entire team came together for a game planning workshop to learn about the game development process and to put their creative stamp on the 2023 holiday games set to launch in October.


One of many small groups during the Louisiana Lottery’s holiday game brainstorming process.

“Planning for new games is one of the most important and fun things we do at the Lottery,” said Lottery Products Director Susan Clayton. “The workshop allowed staff members interested in game planning to participate in the process and see the results of their hard work as their ideas are developed and moved to market in the ensuing months.”


The workshop included presentations from Lottery staff and its instant ticket printing vendor, Scientific Games, about various aspects of the game planning process, including budgeting, the life cycle of an instant ticket, game creation, and the results of past game planning workshops the Lottery has hosted. The real fun began when attendees were separated into small groups and began working on their scratch-off game ideas for the Lottery’s 2023 holiday games. After these group sessions were over, each team presented their ideas to the other workshop attendees.


Afterwards, the Lottery’s internal game-planning team reviewed all ideas submitted and worked with Scientific Games to massage the concepts. They were then put up for a company-wide vote based on the Lottery’s ability to advertise the family effectively, its visibility in a dispenser, and its overall graphic design. After gathering valuable feedback from the Lottery team, it was clear that the “Make it Snow” family of games stood out. The end result was a $1 Snow Much Fun, a $2 Snow Much Cash, and a $5 Snow Me the Money.



Your Results May Vary

Not every lottery’s player base has embraced holiday tickets, and a few lotteries have been careful not to concentrate on games that they don’t want on the market very long. For example, Arkansas and Oklahoma offered the fewest holiday games last season, with just two each, and both had only recently added the second game. South Carolina was in a similar position until adding a third game beginning with the 2022 holiday season.


For the 2023 holiday season, the still-young Mississippi Lottery decided not to release any dedicated holiday games. “We chose this route in hopes of preventing slow-selling holiday-themed games in the market, taking up valuable dispenser space after the holidays,” explained Senior Manager of Products Angie DiGrazia. “We believe it has worked well!”


Instead, Mississippi offered a “Presidential” family of games headlined by the $20 Jackson ticket with a top prize of $1 million. “It’s the first time we’ve offered a million-dollar top prize on an instant ticket. It was planned specifically for a holiday release with the top prize being the draw to the game.” And although the games weren’t holiday-themed, “the television spot for the whole family was a fun holiday theme.” She added that extras in the commercial were actual lottery employees.


Whether holiday games return to the Mississippi lineup for the 2024 season remains to be seen. November marks the Lottery’s fifth anniversary, so there will certainly be plenty to celebrate. At press time all options were being considered.


On to the Details

With the enthusiastic response to our holiday survey this year – 41 lotteries provided a recap of their holiday season – our edited roundup is divided alphabetically into three segments to provide more manageable browsing. As always, we thank the participating lotteries for their insights into the all-important holiday season.

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