Ticket-scanning app embraced by Mass. lottery players

Since launching it about two months ago, more than 5,700 players have used the Massachusetts Lottery’s remote ticket scanning feature on its mobile app, checking more than 600,000 tickets to see if they are winners.

Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney ran the Lottery Commission through the early returns on the program that was announced in November during a meeting Tuesday in which he also said the Lottery could soon revise upwards its estimated profit for the current budget year.

The ticket scanning feature on the Lottery app has been “extremely well-received,” he said.

“This is really a revolutionary product that allows our customers to check the status of their lottery product, whether it’s a winner or not, and what exactly the amount is that has been won virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week if they want,” Sweeney said. “But I think the big part with this is they can do this not only at their leisure but in a privacy setting of their choosing if they should want to do that as opposed to doing it in a setting where there may be other individuals that they don’t know, or where they may feel uncomfortable handing over what they think is a winning ticket to a stranger to have that person checking the ticket for them.”

The ticket scanning feature was released on the Lottery’s Android app on Dec. 12 and started to gain traction once it became available for iPhones on Jan 14. As of Feb. 14, 5,738 unique players have checked the status of 607,767 Lottery tickets, Sweeney said. That works out to an average of about 106 tickets scanned per player.

Lottery players have been asking for the ability to scan their own tickets to find out what or if they’ve won for years, Sweeney said. Though the ability to check tickets remotely has been welcomed by players, he said the real impact of the Lottery’s new program will come into view when the second phase launches.

That phase, which would allow Lottery players to claim prizes between $601 and $5,000 through the app rather than going to a Lottery claims center, is on track to launch in the spring or early summer, Sweeney said. The money would be wired directly to a bank account on file after the Lottery withholds any unpaid child support or tax obligations.

Using 2019 prize claim data as a benchmark and assuming a 50-percent adoption rate for the new mobile cashing app, the Lottery calculated that the new way of claiming prizes could eliminate more than 78,000 prize claim trips to Lottery locations for a total reduction of 2.78 million miles traveled. That could save more than 110,000 gallons of gasoline and could avoid 983.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the Lottery said.

During the Lottery’s three worst months of the pandemic, the ability to sell Lottery products online would have generated between $70 million and $80 million in revenue, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg told lawmakers this summer. Despite sales that collapsed in March and April as the pandemic closed many businesses and changed consumer habits, the Massachusetts Lottery had its third-best year in terms of revenue in fiscal year 2020 and generated a net profit of $986.9 million for the state to use as local aid.

And so far this fiscal year, seven months that have been affected by the pandemic, the Lottery has seen a 4.5 percent increase in total sales and a 10.1 percent increase in net profit compared to the same seven months just before the pandemic began, Sweeney said. All the while, Keno, which is most often played by people seated inside bars and restaurants and accounts for about 20 percent of the Lottery’s overall sales, has seen an 11.3 percent decline in sales.

From July 2020 through January 2021, the Lottery sold $3.36 billion worth of scratch tickets, draw games numbers and more which helped turn an estimated profit of $672.7 million. From July 2019 through January 2020, the Lottery had sold a little more than $3.21 billion worth of its products and generated an estimated $611 million profit.

“So the Lottery has been performing very well and the team at the Lottery has performed very well,” Sweeney said, adding that the current fiscal year will likely soon look even better in comparison to the last one because March was the first month that the Lottery took a major hit last year.

“March last year was a period of significant shutdown both in the Lottery and the commonwealth in general with businesses,” he said. “And so those are the numbers that we will be going up against over the next months, which should lead to an additional boost of some of our numbers here hopefully.”

That could lead to an upgrade in the Lottery’s estimated profit figure of about $940 million for fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2020, the Lottery turned a net profit of $986.9 million.

“Over the next week, internally, we’ll be reassessing our projected profit for this fiscal year and, if warranted, we’ll make adjustments to that,” Sweeney said Tuesday.

(Copyright (c) 2020 State House News Service.