Beginning next spring, Massachusetts Lottery players will be able to claim large prizes from their phones and have their winnings deposited directly into a bank account through an app that Lottery officials said will eliminate millions of miles of car travel and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The Lottery plans to roll out the new functionality of its mobile app in two phases, starting with giving Lottery players the ability to scan a ticket into the app to find out if it is a winner. The second phase, which is expected to be available by early spring, would allow Lottery players to claim prizes between $601 and $5,000 through the app rather than going to a Lottery claims center. The money would be wired directly to a bank account on file after the Lottery withholds any unpaid child support or tax obligations.
"If you live on the Cape, you have to drive to New Bedford or Dorchester or Braintree. If you live in Western Mass., in Williamstown or North Adams, you have to drive down to Springfield. These are not convenient trips for anyone," Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney said.
Sweeney plans to detail the plan for the Lottery Commission when it meets Tuesday morning. The plan does not require a vote of the commission and is fully within the Lottery's current authority, he said.
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. It will give players added privacy and will make things more convenient for them, he said. But the ability to cash tickets from a mobile device, Sweeney said, will have the greater impact.
"Besides doing all the obvious things like meeting our customers where they already are, meeting the modern-day technology expectations of people, it potentially has a huge impact on the environment," Sweeney said.
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.
"The great thing about this is that it's continuous. That benefit goes on every single year without additional costs," Sweeney said. He added, "I think our customers share a general concern about the environment too and ... if you are somebody now who is a frequent Lottery player who has in the past had to drive to one of our physical locations, this is an opportunity to both make things more convenient for you but also to do a solid for the environment at the same time."
Mobile cashing will only be available for prizes greater than $600, prizes that currently can only be claimed at Lottery headquarters or one of the agency's regional claims centers. Convenience stores that rely on foot traffic from Lottery players would continue to process claims for prizes of $600 or less and would not lose Lottery traffic to mobile scanning or cashing.
The Lottery plans to use technology built by Gambyt and Trifecta Consulting Group when it rolls out mobile ticket scanning and cashing.
The Ohio Lottery launched mobile cashing through its app on April 20, processed more than 3,500 claims in the first week and had processed 7,750 claims worth a combined $6.2 million by May 8, according to a press release. In Ohio, players can use the app to scan and cash prizes of $50 to $5,000.
Sweeney said the Ohio Lottery was a big help as he and his team began formulating a plan for mobile ticket scanning and cashing in Massachusetts.
For Massachusetts, the introduction of mobile cashing marks the latest step toward modernizing the Lottery. Though the Legislature has resisted calls from Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Sweeney to allow the Lottery to sell its products via the internet and a mobile app, the Lottery has in recent years replaced antiquated equipment, updated its data operation and bolstered its social media presence.
Goldberg and Lottery officials have argued for years that the Lottery needs the ability to sell its products online in order to compete with casinos, daily fantasy sports and, possibly soon, sports betting, and still generate north of $900 million a year for local aid.
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, 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.
But Sweeney has cautioned before that the Lottery's current financial picture doesn't tell the whole story.
"We have been doing very well, but what I like to remind people is that the night before the Titanic hit the iceberg, it was setting a new record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean," he said last year.