New survey estimates e-gambling draws away up to $7 billion from US state lotteries


Small wonder there are US states alarmed by the popularity of Internet gambling; the results of a survey released last week by Frost & Sullivan indicate that lottery sales have the potential to increase by 127 percent, plugging holes in state budgets....but that online gambling could be drawing away up to $7 billion due to its popularity with the punters.

The survey recommends that lotteries need to retain the exisiting player base whilst attracting new blood from younger generations. The Baby Boomer generation and generations before that grew up playing lotteries, but there is an entire - and younger - generation that does not view lottery as a primary form of entertainment. And this younger set may be more active in online gaming for 'free,' enjoy virtual experiences on the Internet, and even indulge in online wagering.

Holding existing players could also be under pressure, the survey found. Baby Boomers are passing beyond their primary lottery spending phase as they near retirement. In the United States, peak spending years on lottery games are between the ages of 50 to 64, which means that the mainstay players of lotteries - those who buy the most numbers on a regular basis - could be on the wane.

It is therefore necessary for US lotteries to develop a broader player base using more up-to-date demographics.

Currently, the most frequent (as opposed to biggest spenders) among US lottery players are 35 years of age or older, with 18 to 24 year-olds having the lowest levels of participation. In addition, women generally have lower rates of participation than men. On average, those who play the lottery have been playing for 12.5 years.

A UCLA study of a cross-section of California players showed that 74 percent of total sales for 18 to 24 year-olds was from scratch tickets. In general, as age increased, interest in scratch games decreased and interest in jackpot games increased.

A 2007 survey of 1 000 U.S.online adults showed that 56 percent 'strongly' or 'somewhat' believe that it is desirable for lottery gaming to be accessed via the Internet.

Overall, Internet gambling is estimated to be about a $15 billion industry worldwide. It is estimated that half of that comes from U.S.players. Although financial transactions with online gambling companies are in general illegal, the numbers show that U.S.players are still participating in widespread Internet wagering. Legalising Internet gaming in the U.S.could raise money, and protect consumers by requiring regulated licensed providers....and lotteries can benefit from actively participating in the national debate regarding legalised US Internet gambling.

The study found that prize payout flexibility has been shown to be a key factor in increasing state lottery per capita participation. Logically, better odds and bigger prizes encourage more lottery participation and increase overall sales.

The state with the highest per capita sales and profits in 2007, Massachusetts, also had the highest prize payout allocation, returning more than 70 percent (significantly higher than the average) of sales to prize money.

When prize payout reforms are implemented along these lines, the results are overwhelmingly positive: In Florida, sales and profits from scratch tickets more than tripled between 2002 and 2006 after legislation was passed to allow the lottery to increase prize payouts. Furthermore, a 2003 study found that a dollar in additional advertising for lotteries was accompanied by an average $56 in additional sales. And in New York, after the lottery boosted prize payouts for scratch tickets during 2000, sales grew by 223 percent over seven years, and profits increased by 257 percent from approximately $188 million to $671 million.

More recently, North Carolina increased prize-payout percentages in 2007, and during July through September of 2008, the lottery transferred $20 million more to state education than for the same period in 2007. Georgia, which has the third highest per capita sales in the nation, also has one of the highest prize payout percentages at 62 percent.

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