Connecticu­t Lot­tery wants mil­len­ni­als to play

The News-Times - - NEWS - JAC­QUE­LINE SMITH Jac­que­line Smith’s col­umn ap­pears Fri­days in Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia news­pa­pers. She is the ed­i­to­rial page ed­i­tor for The News-Times and The Norwalk Hour. Email her at [email protected]­medi­

When was the last time you walked into a place, say a con­ve­nience store, and bought a lot­tery ticket?

Your an­swer might de­pend on your age. If you are mid­dle age or older, chances are you’ve picked up a scratch-off ticket or Powerball or Lotto at some point. But if you’re a mil­len­nial? Not likely.

I find this de­mo­graphic trend in­ter­est­ing. CT Lot­tery folks find it alarm­ing.

With­out younger peo­ple buy­ing into the lot­tery, even­tu­ally the rev­enue is go­ing to trickle away — in­clud­ing prof­its that fun­nel into the state’s Gen­eral Fund. This is no small amount: We’re talk­ing about $1.3 bil­lion in sales last year with 30 per­cent of that go­ing right into the state’s check­book.

The solution, CT Lot­tery of­fi­cials be­lieve, is to al­low game pur­chases over the in­ter­net. Voilà — iLot­tery.

“We’re be­com­ing a cash­less so­ci­ety,” said Chelsea Turner, vice pres­i­dent of CT Lot­tery. “We have to be able to mod­ern­ize like other busi­nesses.”

The idea is to let peo­ple who don’t walk around with dol­lar bills in their wal­lets any­more to get a Powerball or Lotto ticket or such over the in­ter­net with their phone. Their data in­di­cates this would reach those “predominat­ely in their 30s.”

“We are con­fi­dent we can create new play­ers,” Turner said.

We spoke Mon­day af­ter­noon in a Hearst Connecticu­t Ed­i­to­rial Board meet­ing that in­cluded CT Lot­tery Pres­i­dent and CEO Gre­gory Smith, Coun­sel An­drew Wal­ter, and Pub­lic Re­la­tions Direc­tor Tara Chozet. On the other side of the ta­ble at Hearst Connecticu­t head­quar­ters in Norwalk were my ed­i­to­rial page coun­ter­parts John Bre­unig of Stam­ford Advocate and Green­wich Time, and Hugh Bai­ley of the Connecticu­t Post and New Haven Regis­ter.

(Edit boards are fas­ci­nat­ing. We hear pitches and get to ask ques­tions of politi­cians, or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers, agency heads and oth­ers. Th­ese ses­sions help in­form our ed­i­to­rial po­si­tions. In this col­umn, I’m speak­ing just for my­self, not the full ed­i­to­rial board.)

“Our five-year pro­jec­tions to­tal over $50 mil­lion in new Gen­eral Fund rev­enue,” Smith said. That’s a lot of scratch.

Who’s not play­ing

“Only a third of Amer­i­cans aged

18 to 29 said they played the lot­tery in the past year, com­pared with 61 per­cent for those aged 50 to 64, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 Gallup sur­vey,” CNBC re­ported in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

A report by In­ter­na­tional Game Tech­nol­ogy, a gam­ing in­dus­try re­source, spot­lights the po­ten­tial.

“By 2020, mil­len­ni­als are ex­pected to control be­tween $19 tril­lion to

$24 tril­lion of the global econ­omy, and 48 per­cent play a fa­vorite game at least once a week — yet they tend not to play the lot­tery,” noted the

2017 report “Mil­len­ni­als Mat­ter: Tap­ping Into the Pref­er­ences of a Game-Chang­ing De­mo­graphic.”

Mil­len­nial refers to those born be­tween 1981 and 1997 and are about one-quar­ter of the global pop­u­la­tion.

“There may not be much love for the lot­tery amongst mil­len­ni­als, but they en­joy their non-lot­tery gam­ing more than most other gen­er­a­tions,” the IGT report stated.

What do mil­len­ni­als want? Con­ve­nience.

“Given that smart­phone own­er­ship amongst mil­len­ni­als in the United States is at 87 per­cent, con­ve­nience pri­mar­ily means mo­bile ac­cess. How­ever, the lim­ited availabili­ty of digital pay­ment for lot­tery is not meet­ing the de­mand of the 63 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als who shop on their mo­bile phones each day or the

38 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als who have made a pur­chase on their mo­bile de­vice within the past week,” the report noted.

Connecticu­t’s re­la­tion­ship with gam­bling

CT Lot­tery of­fi­cials, whose job it is to make money for the state, know all this. Which ex­plains why they asked leg­is­la­tors to al­low on­line tick­ets for games.

The re­sult was Se­nate Bill 1015, to “au­tho­rize the Connecticu­t Lot­tery Cor­po­ra­tion to of­fer on­line lot­tery draw games.”

Al­though the state Of­fice of Fis­cal Anal­y­sis pro­jected a “po­ten­tial net rev­enue gain to the Gen­eral Fund of $4.7 mil­lion in FY 20 and $7.6 mil­lion in FY 21,” it “as­sumes that sell­ing lot­tery draw game tick­ets on­line does not vi­o­late the agree­ments be­tween the state and the tribes” — the Mashan­tucket Pe­quots and the Mo­he­gans. Dur­ing a March hear­ing, Chuck Bun­nell, chief of staff for the Mo­he­gan Tribe, said the tribe was “con­cerned” about the Lot­tery ex­pand­ing to the in­ter­net and pos­si­bly vi­o­lat­ing the com­pact.

That could ex­plain why what would seem to be a simple bill ended up getting re­ferred to a study, which must report by Feb. 5, the start of the next Gen­eral As­sem­bly session.

Ac­tu­ally, gam­bling in Connecticu­t is an in­ter­wo­ven thicket right now. There are fights over new casi­nos (or we could politely call it ne­go­ti­a­tions) in Bridge­port or East Wind­sor, to join the two es­tab­lished casi­nos run sep­a­rately by the tribes in south­east­ern Connecticu­t. And then there’s sports wa­ger­ing, al­lowed last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, with the tribes, com­pa­nies such as Sportech, and the CT Lot­tery all want­ing in on it. A bill to al­low sports bet­ting didn’t get adopted by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly this term, but could pop up in the spe­cial session.

It makes sense to me to al­low Connecticu­t’s lot­tery to sell tick­ets on­line with mo­bile apps, as 10 other states do. Lot­tery of­fi­cials say that their 2,900 re­tail­ers, such as con­ve­nience stores, would not see a drop in their rev­enue. They get 5 per­cent; by the way, play­ers get 60 per­cent.

No drop be­cause they see more peo­ple — mil­len­ni­als, in par­tic­u­lar — buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets. And that’s the part that makes me feel uneasy. Is it re­spon­si­ble for the state to pro­mote broader gam­bling, even though it does bring in mil­lions each year?

Per­haps that ques­tion had more rel­e­vance be­fore Connecticu­t al­lowed the lot­tery. At least an on­line ver­sion would ac­tu­ally have more con­trols. Peo­ple could sign up with only one debit or credit card and limits, maybe weekly, would be set. In the ex­ist­ing sys­tem there is no cap — any­one can walk into any num­ber of stores in a day and spend all their money on lot­tery tick­ets.

In recog­ni­tion gam­bling can be harm­ful, the lot­tery com­mis­sion would in­crease by $500,000 the an­nual con­tri­bu­tion to the state Depart­ment of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices’ chronic gam­blers treat­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion account.

We’ve got the lot­tery. Odds are, even mil­len­ni­als will end up seeing that $1 ticket as a dream to be­com­ing an in­stant mil­lion­aire.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticu­t Me­dia file photo

Greg Smith, pres­i­dent of the Connecticu­t Lot­tery Corp., speaks at an in­ter­ac­tive ed­u­ca­tional fo­rum to at Lot­tery head­quar­ters in Rocky Hill in March to demon­strate some of the prod­ucts available for on­line and mo­bile lot­tery and sports bet­ting.

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