The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 24, 2019 1:00 am

Lottery seeing record figures

Player winnings have stayed same

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Having celebrated its 30th birthday in October, the Hoosier Lottery is considered a “mature” product.

Regardless of its age, it is racking up more sales than ever and sending more money than ever to state tax coffers. But are players getting their money's worth?

“It seems there isn't as much bang for your buck as there used to be,” said 42-year-old Glenn Turney of Fort Wayne.

He has played about 10 years and recently pulled back from buying as many scratch tickets as he did.

Data shows the lottery paid about $859 million last year in prizes – up from $797 million the year before. Based on sales, that meant about 63.81% collected went back to players in fiscal year 2019.

Hoosier Lottery Executive Director Sarah Taylor said that percentage has remained steady in recent years – meeting its goal.

“We are also trying to do better with winner awareness. As sales increase, so goes the winning opportunities to our players, so it's important for us to message,” she said.

The payout percentage has remained steady at a time when sales have grown – jumping from about $1 billion in 2015 to $1.34 billion last year.

Over the life of the lottery, almost $14 billion has gone to winners and $6 billion to the state to reduce license plate fees and aid teacher and police and fire pensions.

Still, Turney isn't the only one disappointed.

“Seems like the scratchers went to hell in the last two years or so. It's not any fun to buy $10 or $20 or higher and not get anything so I stopped and put my wagering on sports betting and horses,” said Roger Caine, who lives on the south side of Indianapolis. He has been playing since the beginning of the Hoosier Lottery.

“As soon as sports betting came online I have had much more success on that,” he said. 

States all across the nation have legalized sports betting after a U.S. Supreme Court decision. So it's not just the Hoosier Lottery that might feel the pinch.

“It's too early to tell quite frankly,” Taylor said. “We are monitoring it. Lotteries are all kind of keeping an eye on it.”

She said sales have dipped this year but explained it as not having a major Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot like last fall.

Taylor said the lottery believes it has had a 2% growth in new player acquisition recently with the rest of the players being core customers. The entity hasn't done a traditional demographics study to know what its average customer looks like but does regularly conduct focus groups and surveys to track what games they like the best and why.

The private entity that largely operates the lottery now – IGT Indiana – is also in the midst of a significant study about online options for the lottery, including buying tickets online.

The lottery commission – five Hoosiers that oversee the public-private partnership – Tuesday had its last meeting of the year. During the meeting the commission celebrated with a handful of employees who have been with the lottery the entire 30 years of its existence – including a few before the first ticket was ever even sold.

Lottery Loot!

Hoosier Lottery sales have been going up while the rate of payout remains stable. Here is a look at the last five years:

Year Sales payout
2019 $1.34 billion 63.81%
2018 $1.27 billion 62.77%
2017 $1.21 billion 63.84%
2016 $1.21 billion 64.05%
2015 $1.04 billion 64.48%

Source: Hoosier Lottery

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