I’m in a lottery frame of mind this week as I cover the NASPL Professional Development Seminar in San Diego. This event brings together more than 350 lottery industry professionals in a hands-on workshop format across various disciplines, including public relations, marketing, sales, legal, accounting, audit, security and information technology. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to share the latest developments in an environment exceptionally conducive to learning.
At this year’s meeting, those in the sales, marketing and public relations sectors in particular will discuss ways to continue the extraordinary success most lotteries experienced in the past couple of years – success driven in no small part by record jackpots in multi-state games. The luck of the draw is one thing that is out of their control, of course, but it’s by no means the only tool in a lottery’s arsenal. For example, creative game design, effective marketing and promotions and retailer initiatives can all be managed to optimize both sales and net returns.
Last year, fiscal 2012, sales records were set in 32 of the 44 American lotteries; most also set records for revenues transferred to good causes. In general, that success was due to a world-record jackpot of $656 million set by the Mega Millions game; an increase in the ticket price of Powerball from $1 to $2, and continued strong performance in the instant ticket market.
One problem lotteries always face after such a record year is that it’s always a tough act to follow. Rarely do circumstances combine to create two such record years in a row, but that’s exactly what happened in fiscal 2013, at least according to preliminary results from more than a dozen lotteries. It looks like we can call it Powerball’s year, because that game appears to be responsible for much of the record sales and profits lotteries are now reporting. Two tremendous runs during the year (which runs July-June for most lotteries) produced record Powerball jackpots of $590.5 and $587.5 million. Two additional jackpots exceeded $300 million. Together, they fueled the fire that sent lotteries to new heights.
So will this be a tough act to follow for fiscal 2014? Maybe not, if the Mega Millions relaunch in October has the desired result. The game, which hasn’t changed in several years despite a tremendous influx in population base when the cross-selling of Powerball and Mega Millions began in 2010, will have a new matrix that will dramatically lengthen the odds of winning the jackpot, but at the same time make it easier to win prizes at other tiers. The hoped-for result is bigger jackpots that drive sales by attracting less-frequent players, and more winning experiences overall to keep players in the game.
And again, lotteries don’t just sit back and wait for jackpot runs. Some of the many topics to be discussed this week are players’ clubs and loyalty programs, social media promotions, retailer management, new distribution methods and game design and development. Ideas flow freely in the workshop format, and the industry is better for the effort.