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Lottery mega-jackpots generating less 'buzz'

PowerballPowerball: Lottery mega-jackpots generating less 'buzz'

Rhode Island Lottery chief predicts Powerball and Mega Millions will merge in the future 

Just a few years ago, a $240 million Powerball jackpot would have drawn long lines at gas stations and convenience stores across the state.

But last week there was little buzz. And forget about lines.

Call it jackpot fatigue.

Rhode Islanders' appetite for gambling has lowered. And we're not alone. Elsewhere in the region, sales of lottery tickets and other forms of gambling are either less than last year or flat.

"No one is experiencing those [long] lines anymore," Gerald S. Aubin, the head of the Rhode Island Lottery, said yesterday. "I don't think it's a shortage of money. They're just not as excited about a $240 million jackpot as they were 10 years ago."

"In everyone's eyes it's not the event that it was," Aubin added.

"I think people are desensitized to those large numbers, much more than they were years ago."

Aubin said sales throughout the industry "have been hurting."

"Everybody is off," he said.

There is no clear reason for the slow sales. Aubin places the blame on the usual suspects: this summer and fall's high gas prices and a generally "sluggish economy." For the most part, he said, lottery sales are still driven by how much disposable income someone has.

"When somebody goes into a convenience store or gas station," Aubin said, "we're competing with the same stuff that's on that counter."

It appears that the Slim Jims, Twizzlers, and Tic Tacs are winning.

Since July, Rhode Island lottery sales have grown by less than three-tenths of a percent compared with the same period last year. Instant scratch tickets are down 2.5 percent, Keno is down less than half a percent, and Powerball is up just 1.9 percent.

Essentially, lottery ticket sales are flat.

The situation is worse with Rhode Island's 4,700 video-slot machines.

Aubin told a group of state lawmakers yesterday that video-slot revenues are down 5.4 percent compared with the same period last year. That creates a budget shortfall of $45 million. (The state recently revised its budget estimates to account for this lagging slot play.)

At Lincoln Park, revenues have been down in seven of the last eight months. Newport Grand has been down during 16 of the last 20 months.

Lincoln Park is nearing completion of a more than $200 million expansion that general manager Craig Sculos told lottery officials yesterday should open in late March or early April. Last month the track also extended its hours, pushing back its closing time from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. The new hours and the expansion are aimed at increasing profits for the track — and the state — but some local officials fear the move signals a push for 24-hour gambling.

Newport Grand has its own expansion plans, which it showed lawmakers again yesterday, but has yet to break ground on the project and is fighting a zoning decision in court.

The situation in Massachusetts isn't much better. Lottery sales there are down 3.8 percent for the first five months of the fiscal year that started July 1.

Connecticut's two casinos are showing a mixed picture. Slot machine revenues at Foxwoods Resort Casino are down three-tenths of a percent since July. However, nearby Mohegan Sun is showing a 5.7 percent increase.

Granted, all of these changes could be nothing more than normal fluctuations.

In 2003, the Rhode Island Lottery — excluding video-slot machines — brought in $67.2 million for the state. The next year that fell to $63.6 million, then $61.8 million before climbing back up to $67.5 million last year.

There is always a group of people who will buy lottery tickets. For instance, some people play the same four numbers day after day on the daily lottery. Others will play only Powerball and only when there is a large enough jackpot. If there are more large Powerball jackpots in a given year, then more people are likely to play the lottery than normally would, driving up sales.

Aubin said those Powerball jackpots are primarily responsible for the major shifts in lottery revenues.

In August 2005, the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, decided to change the odds. Jackpots became harder to hit, which meant that larger and larger prizes are awarded when someone matches the winning numbers. So instead of having say eight jackpots of $200 million in a year, there might now be only five jackpots but each might be more than $300 million.

(The association includes Rhode Island, 28 other states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

Aubin says the real driving force behind Powerball sales is media hype.

$240 Million Powerball jackpot billboard"That's when the lines start," he said.  "That's when the frenzy starts."

But the media haven't been biting. Rhode Island did have a $1 million winner from Saturday's Powerball drawing. The winner, who bought the jackpot ticket at Lincoln Park, has yet to come forward.

"That would be, some years ago, a very major event in the media," Aubin said. This week, though, there has been minimal interest.

Sales start to skyrocket once Powerball makes front-page headlines.

"Then it becomes a situation where you want to belong," Aubin said.

"You want to take part; you want to participate in this whole discussion: if I win, what will I do?"

Aubin predicts that Powerball and Mega Millions, the other multi-state lottery game available in 12 states, including Massachusetts, will someday merge to create larger jackpots hoping to drive up sales. To that end, the United States might even participate in an international lottery.

So at risk of creating a media frenzy: the Powerball prize stands at $240 million — $114 million if the winner chooses the lump-sum payment option. The drawing is tomorrow night.

Providence Journal

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30 comments. Last comment 10 years ago by MissNYC.
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United States
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January 23, 2005
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Posted: January 27, 2007, 9:32 am - IP Logged

Guess what, I have been predicting (and hoping for) this for a long time. I would just hope that they don't have to add 50 more balls or change the structure of the game itself too much. Although I would miss the periodic trips to PA.

I think the sales got slow because triple-digit jackpots are more frequent (due to both games eating into States' regular Lotto sales) and because most people don't come close on their numbers or they win what turnes out to be a smaller than expected prize i.e. only $2 or $3. I don't see any general slowdown in sales in my neck of the woods. Remember the 6" high stack of betslips I saw on a counter?

I have a decision to make: do I want to go for tens of millions of dollars or do I want fresh breath? Hmmm.....


    United States
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    June 5, 2002
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    Posted: January 27, 2007, 10:07 am - IP Logged

    I would prefer MM and PB not merging. Then there would be no competition.

    Rhode Island still should join Hot Lotto even though it's computerized.

    A newly-elected lawmaker in RI wants to raise the minimum age for ALL gambling in RI from 18 to 21.

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      md
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      April 20, 2005
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      Posted: January 27, 2007, 10:14 am - IP Logged

      The fact that there is less excitement and sales in these lotteries are fine with me.  It means my chances are higher.

        Michael E. Port's avatar - walt
        Dallas, Texas
        United States
        Member #3275
        January 7, 2004
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        Posted: January 27, 2007, 10:53 am - IP Logged

         Texas Mega Millions

         

        Okay here I am: “There is always a group of people who will buy lottery tickets. For instance, some people play the same four numbers day after day on the daily lottery. Others will play only Powerball and only when there is a large enough jackpot. If there are more large Powerball jackpots in a given year, then more people are likely to play the lottery than normally would, driving up sales.”

         Every month I have a certain amount I spend on the Lottery.  I run three lottery Pools and I purchase them multi-drawn tickets.  It cost $10.00 to buy one share.

        I can tell you when I have a game starting in December, my total pot is down.  Christmas eats up so many people’s money.

        Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 29 had 51 members with 64 shares being sold.  That means I was able to spend $640.00 in tickets.

        My current game, Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 30 only has 46 members with 54 shares being purchased.  That means I only had $540.00 to spend.  December made a big difference!

        Game 30 is about to end, we had a drawing last night, so I need to get off this computer and check their tickets and send out a newsletter.  Their last drawing is the first Friday of February, so Game 31 will start on Tuesday February 6th, 2007.

        Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 31 already has 30 Members with 33.5 shares being sold.  That means $365 to spend right now in the Lottery.  Most of the people who play work with me, and we get paid on the 31st of the month.  I will have a slew of people pay me that day, so my pots are going back up.

        After doing this for almost three years, I can tell you the amount of the Jack Pot has nothing to do with someone deciding to play with me.  I have sold more shares in a game that was only $24 Million that I have in games that were over $100 Million.

        Now for the record, I don’t think Power Ball and Mega Millions will merge.  Both games are still making money, even though they are making less money than before.

        In America we have this mentality that tells us that if the stock doesn’t grow get rid of it.  If I company doesn’t grow by 10% each year it’s doing badly. Now they are looking a the Lottery Games and because people won’t give them their whole check, they panic thinking people have lost interest.

        It matters NOT how many tickets you have in a game, what matters is if you have 1 line in the game.  After all, only one ticket will win.

        Michael

        Michael E. Porter

                meporter@myway.com

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          md
          United States
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          April 20, 2005
          579 Posts
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          Posted: January 27, 2007, 11:01 am - IP Logged

           Texas Mega Millions

           

          Okay here I am: “There is always a group of people who will buy lottery tickets. For instance, some people play the same four numbers day after day on the daily lottery. Others will play only Powerball and only when there is a large enough jackpot. If there are more large Powerball jackpots in a given year, then more people are likely to play the lottery than normally would, driving up sales.”

           Every month I have a certain amount I spend on the Lottery.  I run three lottery Pools and I purchase them multi-drawn tickets.  It cost $10.00 to buy one share.

          I can tell you when I have a game starting in December, my total pot is down.  Christmas eats up so many people’s money.

          Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 29 had 51 members with 64 shares being sold.  That means I was able to spend $640.00 in tickets.

          My current game, Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 30 only has 46 members with 54 shares being purchased.  That means I only had $540.00 to spend.  December made a big difference!

          Game 30 is about to end, we had a drawing last night, so I need to get off this computer and check their tickets and send out a newsletter.  Their last drawing is the first Friday of February, so Game 31 will start on Tuesday February 6th, 2007.

          Mega Millions Lottery Pool – Game 31 already has 30 Members with 33.5 shares being sold.  That means $365 to spend right now in the Lottery.  Most of the people who play work with me, and we get paid on the 31st of the month.  I will have a slew of people pay me that day, so my pots are going back up.

          After doing this for almost three years, I can tell you the amount of the Jack Pot has nothing to do with someone deciding to play with me.  I have sold more shares in a game that was only $24 Million that I have in games that were over $100 Million.

          Now for the record, I don’t think Power Ball and Mega Millions will merge.  Both games are still making money, even though they are making less money than before.

          In America we have this mentality that tells us that if the stock doesn’t grow get rid of it.  If I company doesn’t grow by 10% each year it’s doing badly. Now they are looking a the Lottery Games and because people won’t give them their whole check, they panic thinking people have lost interest.

          It matters NOT how many tickets you have in a game, what matters is if you have 1 line in the game.  After all, only one ticket will win.

          Michael

          Michael

           Good insights!

            justxploring's avatar - villiarna
            Wandering Aimlessly
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            Posted: January 27, 2007, 3:07 pm - IP Logged

            I agree with many of the points you made, Michael.  If PB or MM came to FL and I bought a ticket, I doubt if I'd care if the jackpot was $25M or $250M.  Who wouldn't be happy winning $20 million?  I think it's crazy that people think they have a better shot at the prize when the amount is higher.  I know that isn't the only reason people wait to play, but I cannot possibly imagine that there is a gambler in the world who would be upset winning even a "small" jackpot like $15M. 

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              Mid-Atlantic
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              Posted: January 27, 2007, 4:41 pm - IP Logged

              I agree with many of the points you made, Michael.  If PB or MM came to FL and I bought a ticket, I doubt if I'd care if the jackpot was $25M or $250M.  Who wouldn't be happy winning $20 million?  I think it's crazy that people think they have a better shot at the prize when the amount is higher.  I know that isn't the only reason people wait to play, but I cannot possibly imagine that there is a gambler in the world who would be upset winning even a "small" jackpot like $15M. 

              We play our own numbers so I don't care how high the jackpot is.  Higher is nicer, but I don't think $12 or $15 million is too small to play for.  We have played the same numbers in both Mega Millions and Powerball for years.  $150 is the most I've ever won, but the dream of the jackpot is worth it.

              You can have your daily frapuccino, I'll take my big games.  I'm fortunate to live on the border of both Powerball & Mega Millions States, so it's easy to play.


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                Posted: January 27, 2007, 5:41 pm - IP Logged

                People are sick of losing, period. You are so much better off going to the racetrack or casino with your money.

                  MissNYC's avatar - diva
                  Westchester, New York
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                  January 27, 2007
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                  Posted: January 27, 2007, 7:56 pm - IP Logged

                  My lottery pool and I are the types who will only play the Megamillions when it's 100mil or higher, otherwise, we play NY lotto. We also live close to CT, which makes it easy to play powerball as well. I think that the problem is that there are a lot of people out there just like us who wait for the larger jackpots, but if any of you have noticed, there haven't really been many lately, especially with the Megamillions. It barely gets over 100 mil let alone reaching those huge jackpots that were more frequent a few years back. It's funny, they say playing is down, yet winning is up....go figure. I think they should add a ball or two to both powerball and megamillions pools to make the odds of winning decrease so that jackpots get larger....if there was a 450 million dollar lottery, I believe there would be lines again and someone would eventually win. 

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                    Posted: January 27, 2007, 8:28 pm - IP Logged

                    People are sick of losing, period. You are so much better off going to the racetrack or casino with your money.

                    I agree with this. There's only so much sucking up of $1 after $1 without even a decent win that people feel like doing.  It is not so much that people have jackpot fatigue, have decided the lottery is a bad investment or even that they feel financially strapped, it's that when you lose and lose again month after month for several years in a row eventually it becomes not a very fun game anymore. You get burned out. The prize could be a billion dollars but if you feel you won't win anything it doesn't really matter.  

                      konane's avatar - wallace
                      Atlanta, GA
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                      Posted: January 27, 2007, 10:33 pm - IP Logged

                      I agree with this. There's only so much sucking up of $1 after $1 without even a decent win that people feel like doing.  It is not so much that people have jackpot fatigue, have decided the lottery is a bad investment or even that they feel financially strapped, it's that when you lose and lose again month after month for several years in a row eventually it becomes not a very fun game anymore. You get burned out. The prize could be a billion dollars but if you feel you won't win anything it doesn't really matter.  

                      In the race to the top (jackpot) both MM and PB ground up the matrix way too high and now seem to be paying for having done so.  Good, now maybe they'll learn a lesson.  Call it greed, competition, good business or bad advice from pencil necked number crunchers who don't live in the real world ..... however, this is one aspect of their shortsightedness I've complained about before. 

                      There comes a time when dangling the carrot while spurring the horse doesn't work anymore.  Since they're seeing a decline in sales, perhaps scaling back the matrix where more people will realize they have a better chance to win, therefore spend more money on tickets just might be what stimulates sales again.  Go back to what worked and brought money in originally. 

                      If a matrix makes sense and I believe I can win with those odds, I will spend more $$$ per draw.  Mega Millions is lucky to see $2 per drawing from me with the current matrix .... if that much.  Some drawings I simply don't play, period.

                      Good luck to everyone!

                        Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                        Zeta Reticuli Star System
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                        Posted: January 27, 2007, 11:19 pm - IP Logged

                        Intersting thread.

                         From the OP:

                         Sales start to skyrocket once Powerball makes front-page headlines.

                        "Then it becomes a situation where you want to belong," Aubin said.

                        "You want to take part; you want to participate in this whole discussion: if I win, what will I do?"

                        No doubt, but my wife and I see that a little differently. We're not in a PB state but our state does border one. Whenever the jackpot gets up there, we have a friend who asks everybody he encounters that day if they're going "across the river", hoping to give them money to play tickets.  He actually has us praying that somebody, anybody, hits it before the next drawing so he'll simply shut up about it.

                        Bang Head

                         

                        gutgnt

                        "People are sick of losing, period. You are so much better off going to the racetrack or casino with your money."

                        Yes and no. I'll throw a few bucks at a big jackpot and that is that. I'd be furious with myself if I blew a paycheck chasing a royal flush on a vido poker machine or trying to catch a tri-fecta or anything between those two.

                        Koanne

                        Excllent post above, excellent points, especially "dangling the carrot". This is one of those threads that I really hope some lottery commissioner is reading. 

                        Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                        Lep

                        There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

                          konane's avatar - wallace
                          Atlanta, GA
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                          Posted: January 27, 2007, 11:32 pm - IP Logged

                          Intersting thread.

                           From the OP:

                           Sales start to skyrocket once Powerball makes front-page headlines.

                          "Then it becomes a situation where you want to belong," Aubin said.

                          "You want to take part; you want to participate in this whole discussion: if I win, what will I do?"

                          No doubt, but my wife and I see that a little differently. We're not in a PB state but our state does border one. Whenever the jackpot gets up there, we have a friend who asks everybody he encounters that day if they're going "across the river", hoping to give them money to play tickets.  He actually has us praying that somebody, anybody, hits it before the next drawing so he'll simply shut up about it.

                          Bang Head

                           

                          gutgnt

                          "People are sick of losing, period. You are so much better off going to the racetrack or casino with your money."

                          Yes and no. I'll throw a few bucks at a big jackpot and that is that. I'd be furious with myself if I blew a paycheck chasing a royal flush on a vido poker machine or trying to catch a tri-fecta or anything between those two.

                          Koanne

                          Excllent post above, excellent points, especially "dangling the carrot". This is one of those threads that I really hope some lottery commissioner is reading. 

                          Thank you very much!! Big Grin  They've reached the point of no return already unless they combine into an El Gordo or something equally extravagant.... and I believe that would be a slow agonizing death for both.

                          Good luck to everyone!

                            RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                            mid-Ohio
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                            Posted: January 28, 2007, 3:48 am - IP Logged

                            Use to be when PowerBall or the BigGame had a jackpot of $200M, Ohioan had to travel just over the boarder and stand in line to buy tickets.  Ohio eliminated that problem by joining MegaMillions and keeping that money in the State.  Same thing happened in Ohio when its SuperLotto game was the best game around and then the surrounding states started their own 649 games, now none of them generate large jackpots.  I don't think people are playing less, there are just more games and more places to play them so there aren't any lines any more.  Jackpot of $200M+ aren't that unique any more also because almost every state participate in a multi=state game that will have a jackpot that size at least twice a year.

                             * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                               
                                         Evil Looking