Seeing North American Lotteries in a Global Context

We are a big deal, but not the biggest. We are growing, but not as fast as some. We are proudly part of a truly global enterprise that produces, on average, over $3 million in annual sales per employee. The World Lottery Association provides this perspective, in the form of its annual Compendium, reviewed in NASPL Insights February 2020.

Slowly expanding territory of lottery games

Thinking about lottery games structurally helps us to understand how true innovation might happen. Players, however, have their own ways of thinking about games – notions not to be corrected, but simply understood as we offer new things. The folk categories might have to twist or expand to accommodate things like ‘Fast Play’ -i.e. instant games that print while we watch. This and other innovations appear in NASPL Insights December 2019.

Betting Randomly on Sports: New Lottery Territory?

People are publicly passionate about sports, as about little else. Where they bet money on sports, the collision of passions and skill can support a big business. Lotteries, accustomed to running games of pure chance,  face a steep learning curve if they get involved in  sports betting. But there is potential to use a sporting event to determine the outcome of a game of pure chance- if the player bets randomly. How can lotteries develop this opportunity? I explore this question in NASPL Insights September 2018.

Risky Business – Time for Insurance?

Historically, state-sponsored lotteries have relied on the sheer volume of transactions, achieved through their monopoly status, to make the risk of paying big prizes reasonable. However, these advantages may be absent when a new game is started.  Other businesses have developed risk-sharing mechanisms, including insurance against specific risks.  ‘Synthetic’ lotteries like Lottoland have shown these can work in gaming. There maybe something to learn here, as I discuss in NASPL Insights August 2018.

The Age of Lotto

Are classic lottery games like Lotto evergreen– that is, will they continue to thrive indefinitely? This depends on whether the player population can be sustained into the future.There are two schools of thought about this: 1) Lotto play is something a player ages into; young people coming up will sustain it, and 2) Lotto play is a thing of the past; young people will not join. Looking at historical data from Washington, I show that age groups that now account for a significant share of spending played a lot less years ago.  However, the low level of engagement of the youngest age classes is unprecedented. The analysis supports hope but certainly not complacency for the future of these games.  NASPL Insights February 2018 


Daily Fantasy Sports: Entertainment, Information, and Gambling

European lotteries have had sports betting for some time, and have had to deal with the predictable problem of match-fixing. Daily Fantasy Sports is a US invention that caught fire in 2016, and that seems to avoid this hazard. The World Lottery Association asked me to write an explanation of Daily Fantasy Sports for a non-US audience. I was fascinated by how the sports-as-entertainment industry and the penetration of the Web changed how people talk about TV sports.This appeared as WLA Fantasy Sports summer 2017. 

Effects of the January 2016 Record Jackpot on the Outlook for 2017

After January 2016, we saw sales for jackpots in the range $200 to $400 million significantly lower than before. My math models support estimating the effect of these changes on the development of big jackpots in the future. I estimate the likelihood of a jackpot reaching $1 billion in 2017 at about 10%, down from about 17% at the start of 2016. NASPL Insights December 2016

Go ahead, call us “the Lotto”…

The Lotto game, developed in the middle of the 20th century, was a big improvement over earlier games, but needed the scale that only government monopolies could at that time provide. Now, state lotteries offer big and small versions of Lotto under a variety of names. When people call us “the Lotto”, they may be recognizing that this is our particular franchise -not a bad thing, I suggest. NASPL Insights April 2016

What I Learned About the Lottery from the Economist of a Remote Pacific Island

Pio is an economist educated in the US Ivy League, who serves his native island of Zoa in many capacities, including Director of the Lottery. I was introduced to him at a meeting of economists in Seattle, and he opened my eyes to a factor that drives our year-on-year increases in Instant game sales. Economists agree: if money is getting cheaper, it takes more of it to express the same value, year after year. NASPL Insights June 2015