US Lotteries Suffer Millennial Angst

Posted on: February 10, 2017, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2017, 12:58h.

Young adults aren’t playing the lottery. According to a recent Gallup survey only a third of Americans aged 18 to 29 said they bought a ticket in the past year, compared with 61 percent for those aged 50 to 64.

Millennials avoid lotteries
State lottery officials are anxious to find ways to engage with millennials but find themselves stymied by state laws. Without adapting, the lottery may become a thing of the past. (Image: Daily Mirror)

Moreover, fewer people from the 18 to 29 age group are playing than they were in 2003 and 2007, suggesting that the younger you are, the less interest you have in investing financially and emotionally in the prospect of numbered balls whizzing at random up tubes.

It’s in stark contrast to all other age groups, for which the likelihood of playing has increased over the past ten years.  

These figures are enough to make lottery officials concerned for the very existence of the lottery concept itself. Lottery revenues are driven by ticket sales, which are driven by staggering jackpots, which are driven by ticket sales. It’s a perfect circle. But as the ticket sales dwindle, so do the jackpots, and it becomes an ever-decreasing circle.

In short, the lottery’s days may be numbered.

Something’s Got to Give

Lotteries contribute over $20 billion per year across America to help fund everything from education to programs to support military veterans, and, in many cases, lottery revenue helps to supplement a state’s general fund. For the 44 states that operate lotteries, their demise would be a big loss.

This means that either millennials need to change their habits or state lotteries do, and since lottery officials can’t rely on the former, they must assume the latter is the only way forward.

Casinos have reacted to the fact that millennials are bored by slot machines by introducing video-gaming-slot hybrids to the casino floor. In many cases this required a change in local gaming laws to permit variable payouts, which means that players who are more skilled at the game have better odds of winning.

Previously, everyone had to have exactly the same chance to ensure a fair game.

Millennials’ preferred forms of gambling involve technology, strategy and skill. They like daily fantasy sports and live, in-play sports betting (in countries where it’s legal and available).

They have created their own forms of gambling, such as esports and skins gambling. They like instant gratification, instant interaction, challenges, puzzles and games of skill.

New Dynamics

Just as states like Nevada and New Jersey have changed their laws so that their casinos can offer skill-gaming, states will increasingly change theirs to adopt online lotteries as they realize the potential damage to revenues by failing to engage millennials.

Their sites will likely offer new kinds of instant-win games, involving puzzles and social gaming,

“The next generation of lottery players grew up with technology and approach making purchases and playing games differently,” Paula Otto of the Virginia Lottery told Reuters this week.

“They want an experience, not just a prize,” said Rose Hudson, president of the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries.

Of course, the existence of online lotteries are just as dependent on the current interpretation of the Wire Act as the online gaming industries of Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

This makes new US attorney general Jeff Sessions’ declaration that he would “revisit” the opinion an alarming prospect for 44 US states.