HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania’s Lottery sales dropped 25 percent in March as the state shutdown most businesses, including 30 percent of the state’s Lottery retailers, according to data provided by the state on Friday.
But in the months since, Lottery sales have rebounded, in large part due to a spike in online Lottery playing along with increased spending on scratch-off tickets, Lottery data shows.
“We are still working to finalize the sales and profit figures for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that ended on June 30. However, we expect that the final numbers will show that Lottery profits for senior programs are very close to where they were last year,” said Ewa Dworakowski, a Lottery spokeswoman.
“Overall traditional Lottery sales are about 0.6 percent below last fiscal year due to the lack of big jackpots from the multi-state games, Powerball and Mega Millions. However, we are happy to report that scratch-off sales, which account for nearly 70 percent of Lottery sales, are up about 7 percent,” Dworakowski said.
Through May, the state’s revenue from traditional Lottery sales for the first 11 months of the fiscal year was running about $60 million behind the same period in 2019.
In each of those periods, the state sold more than $4 billion in Lottery tickets -- including Scratch-offs and draw games like Pick 3, Powerball and Mega Millions. But after costs, including prize payments were deducted, the state got $1.07 billion in revenue from traditional Lottery sales in the first 11 months of 2018-19, compared to $1.01 billion in the same period this fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the state’s online Lottery saw a spike in growth, she said.
“We have seen a surge in players turning to the Lottery’s online games available on pailottery.com,” she said. “Online play increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now about 24 percent ahead of estimate for the fiscal year.”
During the pandemic shutdown, the state’s iLottery was averaging $3 million in sales a day.
Pennsylvania’s experience shows that states can offer online gambling while still having successful traditional Lottery sales, said Pat McHugh, Group Chief Executive, Lottery for Scientific Games, which operates the Pennsylvania Lottery’s online platform
"What's encouraging to states looking to launch online/mobile lottery sales is that when the COVID crisis happened, Pennsylvania had a partnership and program in place to protect vital funding—including effective management of the combined retail and digital game portfolio, an iLottery platform and services to attract and retain players, integrated to support retailers while continuing the strategic management of traditional lottery products sold in stores," he said.
Pennsylvania Lottery revenue benefits programs for older residents, including property tax and rent rebate programs, prescription assistance, and Meals on Wheels programs, Dworakowski said.
Pennsylvania is not alone in seeing erratic sales for the state Lottery.
Since March, Texas, Arkansas and Montana and several other states have seen an increase in sales, in part, driven by housebound residents putting cash down for scratch-off tickets. But lottery officials say other states, like Massachusetts and Oregon, confronted revenue drops due to stay-at-home orders that forced the closure of restaurants, bars and some retailers selling tickets.Some also blamed a lack of an online presence.
Delaware's lottery sales are off almost $40 million through May compared to the last fiscal year, mostly due the closure of casinos with video poker and table games, according to state data. Other factors in several states was a drop in revenue from big-money games like Powerball, which saw lower some jackpots.
Virginia saw sales drop 21%, or just over $45 million in March and in April by 8%, or more than $15 million compared to a year ago. They were up nearly 9% in May but are still down 8% for the fiscal year.
In Massachusetts, sales were down by about 13% in March, 30% in April and around 10% in May, leaving the lottery down 5% for the fiscal year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.