Lotteries which sell tickets through retail units and online are reporting changes in customer behaviour, with many seeing more online activity in the past couple of months. These changes reflect lack of access to shops selling tickets as well as increased promotion by lotteries of their online services. As the public starts to return to the high street, lotteries are wondering if there will have been a long term shift in attitudes towards lotteries and changes in buying habits. Companies that specialise in betting on worldwide Lotteries have also seen increases in new customer registrations and have responded by adapting their marketing activity. Lottoland, for example, have just launched a charity lottery game in the UK in the form of Win-Win Charity Lotto.
Some lotteries have remained in operation throughout, including the Irish Lotto which reports strong sales from its bi-weekly draws. It has extended the deadline for lucky winners to claim their prizes and has chosen to funnel additional funds to health-related projects. Additionally, its Lottery Plus Raffle to be drawn on has an extra €1million available as prizes. The Irish Lottery is by far the most popular Lottery bet across UK betting shops and many regular punters will be pleased when UK betting shops re-open on June 15th. Regular customers are attracted by the big odds available and the fact that they have the option to choose how many numbers to include in their bet, for example, odds of 700/1 are available with several bookies for three correct numbers on the Irish Lottery. Whilst a proportion of regular betting shop customers have switched their betting online many are reluctant or simply unable to.
The Spanish lotteries – including El Gordo de la Primitiva and Bonoloto – resumed on 18 May with the Spanish public also now able to play the EuroMillions lottery once more. The draws for EuroMillions are made in France and ticket sales have continued uninterrupted in the other eight countries that have licensed the lottery – the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The United Kingdom National Lottery has also continued to operate with draws for its products – including Lotto, Thunderball and Set For Life – largely unaffected. Camelot, the operator of the National Lottery, has actively encouraged its players to play online unless they are already in a supermarket doing an essential shop. For example, the minimum online deposit limit has been reduced from £10 to £5 to encourage online ticket purchases.
Commercial Director, Neil Brocklehurst, says “Like many businesses, we have seen some impact on National Lottery retail sales – in-store sales typically make up around 70% of our total sales….What’s clear right now is that there has been a change in the way some people are playing the National Lottery during this period. Due to the fact that we’ve been encouraging people to play and check their tickets online and on the National Lottery app, we’ve seen a significant increase in people downloading our app and traffic to our online channels.” However, he remains uncertain that this trend will continue and whether the new online customers will be retained, concluding that “the UK National Lottery has always been a primarily retail business and we don’t expect that to change any time soon”.
Yakir Firestane, Director of Digital at the Health Lottery, is also concerned about the impact of behavioural changes, and considers it likely that retail sales will not recover to previous heights and, moreover, that the rise of online sales – some 10% – will not compensate for the current 40% fall in ticket sales in shops. Firestane comments “My fear is that the behavioural treatment that people have received by being denied the ability to play in retail for six weeks, maybe longer, is just too long for them to regain old habits. They will have learned new behaviour, which is either they came to us online or they found something else to do with their £5 a week”.
In the face of the considerable challenges presented by market conditions, the Health Lottery is, like other providers, keen to innovate in order to attract and retain players. Its causes – twelve regional societies that aim to tackle the vast health inequalities across the UK – have received funding of over £100 million since the start of the lottery and the launch of a new website and scratchcard will help sustain these beneficiary organisations into the future.
In fact, investment and innovation remain key for this sector of the gambling industry. The demographics of players demonstrate that lotteries predominantly attract the older generation who may be less likely to go online. Attracting younger players remains a central longer-term aim of all the lotteries. In the short term, however, the focus will be on retaining new online custom and persuading players who have been unable or unwilling to buy tickets in the past couple of months to put their hands in their pockets once more.