Just How Successful Is The Pennsylvania Lottery?

Martin Derbyshire June 2, 2018
measuring tape

Just how successful is the Pennsylvania Lottery? Older Pennsylvanians would probably say very.

Established by state lawmakers in 1971, the goal of the Pennsylvania Lottery has always generated funding for programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians. Since then, the Pennsylvania Lottery has contributed close to $28 billion to programs benefiting older residents. The various programs include:

  • Property tax and rent rebates
  • Free and reduced-fare transportation services including shared-ride and free-ride for seniors
  • Low-cost drug prescription programs including PACE and PACENET
  • Health care services
  • Local services provided by the 52 Area Agencies on Aging

The PA Department of Aging also receives 78 percent of its budget from the PA Lottery. Plus, the state’s Office of Long-Term Living receives four percent of its funding from the PA Lottery.

A billion dollar business

These days, the Pennsylvania Lottery is a billion-dollar business.

Even though Pennsylvania Lottery sales numbers in the 2016-17 fiscal year were down close to $135 million, the PA Lottery still achieved sales of more than $4 billion. Programs benefiting older Pennsylvanians still received more than $1 billion in support. Even after the deduction of prizes, retailer commissions, and various other PA Lottery operating expenses.

Every dollar the Pennsylvania Lottery takes in is accounted for. Sixty-five cents of every dollar goes to prize winners. Twenty-six cents goes to programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians.

Another seven cents of every dollar the Pennsylvania Lottery takes in is paid out in various retailer and vendor commissions. And finally, two cents of every dollar taken in is used to cover PA lottery operating expenses.

The Pennsylvania Lottery says it is a successful agency of state government which all Pennsylvanians can be proud of. In part because it remains the only state lottery giving all its proceeds to programs that benefit older residents.

Winners give PA Lottery the thumbs up

Several lucky players would likely call the PA Lottery a great success as well.

One won a $456.7 million Powerball jackpot in April 2018, marking the 18th time a PA Lottery player has won that multi-state lottery jackpot.

It also marked the largest prize ever awarded by the Pennsylvania Lottery.

In addition to the state’s 18 Powerball jackpot wins, Pennsylvanians have won the Mega Millions multi-state lottery jackpot twice. Which means the Pennsylvania Lottery has sold a total of 20 multi-state jackpot winning tickets to date.

The Pennsylvania Lottery began selling Powerball tickets in 2002. Mega Millions ticket sales began in PA in 2010.

PA Lottery revenues hit approximately $1.044 billion in 2016-17. Numbers that are down from the $1.120 billion netted in 2015-16, but still represent a significant sum. Plus, PA lawmakers took one look at the numbers and were determined to do something to bridge that $75 million gap as soon as possible. Just like the leaders of any successful enterprise would do.

PA Lottery monitor games

That effort started with the passing of a gambling expansion bill that authorized the sale of online lottery products in October 2017. The very next day, Gov. Tom Wolf approved the rollout of Pennsylvania Lottery monitor games at participating retailers and various local bars and restaurants where players can wager on the games and watch the outcome on monitors.

The monitor games will include the lottery-style gambling game Keno. Plus, computer simulated sporting events and wagering called virtual sports. Xpress Sports by the Pennsylvania Lottery will launch with simulated football and auto racing sometime in the summer of 2018. Keno launched May 1, 2018. The PA Lottery says it is a success already.

In fact, the Pennsylvania Lottery reported Keno ticket sales went over $2 million in the first 17 days they were available at as many as 9,400 lottery retailers and 600 bars and restaurants across the state.

The first day Keno launched saw strong ticket sales. The first draw was held just before 6 a.m. on May 1. Tickets were selling at a clip of about 8,200 per hour by noon. All indications are the numbers will continue to rise, with more than $1.3 million in Keno prizes handed out in that first 17 days as well, keeping the ticket-buying public happy.

Real-money PA iLottery games

The Pennsylvania Lottery soft-launched its online lottery website in the final few days of May 2018. The 11 PA iLottery instant win games available on the site actually represented the first legal and regulated online gambling products available in the state.

State lawmakers also authorized online gambling as a part of the comprehensive gambling expansion package passed in October 2017. However, the regulatory and licensing process for online was still ongoing in May 2018 and the first online gambling sites were not likely to launch until the fourth quarter of 2018.

The real-money PA iLottery instant win games, available on the new PAilottery.com website and the Pennsylvania Lottery mobile app, are essentially digital scratch-offs and bingo-slot-machine hybrids with bonus rounds and other user customization features.

Keeping the lottery alive

Traditional scratch-off, Fast Play, and draw game tickets remain available only at the more than 9,400 lottery retailer across PA. Which suggests that online lottery sales will have a limited impact on PA Lottery retailer sales. Particularly because the products are different.

The Pennsylvania Lottery is hoping the overwhelming majority of its sales still occur at PA Lottery retailers throughout the state.  Online sales should only add to them. It’s also hoping for the same with monitor games like Keno and Xpress Sports. Something that will only add to the success of the Pennsylvania Lottery as a whole.