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After Initial Coronavirus Plunge, PA Lottery Sales Rebound

Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania’s lottery sales have rebounded after taking a big hit this spring when the statewide shutdown took effect. While other state lotteries are facing huge deficits as people buy fewer tickets when they head out for essential items, Pennsylvania's rebound comes via a spike in online lottery sales, according to PA Lottery executive director Drew Svitko. 

Sales initially dropped 25 percent in the first five weeks since the Wolf administration began placing restrictions on businesses in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Svitko blames the drop on the halt in sales at 30 percent of the Lottery’s retail partners statewide. 

But at the same time, online sales increased about 25 percent. Online revenue generally accounts for a small portion of the Lottery’s portfolio, but that growth served as a safety net while other state lotteries plummeted. Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states with an online lottery presence.

Scratch-off ticket sales jumped this year too, according to Svitko. Once the closed retailers started reopening, lotto players returned to the store to play in person, while online sales remained strong.

The 2019-20 fiscal year is only the second full year the PA Lottery has offered online games. Svitko sees it as an opportunity to entice Pennsylvanians to play the lotto at partner retailers.

"Our online play helps us create a better relationship with players. Those players go into retail stores and are more attracted to our products and more likely to play," Svitko said.

Sales and profit figures are still being finalized for the fiscal year 2019-20. But Svitko said the Lottery ended the year just 0.06 percent short of its total for the 2018-19 fiscal year —which was its all-time best— and 5 percent ahead of its estimated total. 

Other states will be looking at lotteries like Pennsylvania’s for ways to recover losses through online platforms, according to Svitko. He expects more lotteries to explore online platforms.

The Pennsylvania Lottery benefits older Pennsylvanians by generating funds that support programs like rent rebate, Meals on Wheels and prescription assistance. It’s not clear if the temporary revenue drop in March had a tangible negative impact on these programs.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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