With the Lottery in the midst of its annual holiday scratch ticket sales push, players are beginning to put their new ability to claim and collect their winnings on their phones to use, having already collected more than $4 million without having to leave home.
Over the last year, the Lottery has developed, piloted and rolled out a way for players to cash prizes between $601 and $5,000 from their phones and have the winnings deposited directly into a bank account, eliminating the need to travel to the Lottery's Dorchester headquarters or one of its regional offices.
So far, the mobile app prize-claiming feature has allowed players to avoid nearly 3,000 trips to claims centers, save more than 5,700 gallons of gasoline and prevent an estimated 113,345 pounds of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, the Lottery said Tuesday.
"We're just getting started and this is certainly having an impact," Lottery Chief Operating Officer David Falcone, subbing in for Executive Director Michael Sweeney, said Tuesday morning as he updated the Mass. Lottery Commission on the mobile cashing program's impact.
More than 51,000 people have registered to use the Lottery's mobile scanning and cashing app and so far have used it to claim 2,834 prizes worth more than $4 million, the Lottery said.
Without the need to drive to a Lottery office to collect their winnings — prizes of less than $601 are still claimed at gas stations, convenience stores and other Lottery retailers — the Lottery estimated that app users have avoided the use of 5,783 gallons of gas, which translates to a cost savings of about $19,325.
Had those trips to a Lottery office been made, officials estimate that 113,345 pounds or 51.41 metric tons of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere, which is roughly equal to the emissions from a year's worth of electricity use for 9.3 homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If half of all eligible prizes are claimed remotely each year, the Lottery said the remote cashing policy has the potential to eliminate more than 78,000 prize claim trips to Lottery locations for a total reduction of 2.78 million miles traveled, based on 2019 prize claim data. That would save more than 110,000 gallons of gasoline and could avoid 983.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Ed Farley, the Lottery's assistant executive director and chief marketing officer, gave the Lottery Commission an update Tuesday on the agency's 11-week holiday sales period, a time of year when themed scratch tickets rule the day. As of week six, holiday sales were up 6.2 percent over last year, Farley said.
"So barring any unforeseen winter weather storms, it's looking like we're going to have a very good sales season for the holiday," he said.
The $10 holiday cash blowout ticket has proven to be especially popular, Farley said. So far this holiday sales period, the Lottery has sold almost half of the roughly 16 million available holiday cash blowout tickets that promise prizes of exclusively $50, $100 and $500, posting more than $67.75 million in sales so far.
"That ticket's very interesting because it tested OK, not great, during some of our qualitative focus group studies. But we took a risk and have found that that $50, $100 and $500 [prize], which people think is an incredible prize, has just done incredibly well for us and we made a deliberate decision to only issue that during the holiday season," Farley said. "Right now, sales have surpassed last year's and are on track to sell out quicker in the warehouse."
Though the Lottery promotes scratch ticket sales during the holiday season, the organization also partners with the Department of Public Health on a public awareness campaign designed to discourage adults from giving Lottery products as gifts to people under the age of 18.
Victor Ortiz, director of problem gambling services at DPH's Office of Problem Gambling Services, joined the Lottery Commission meeting Tuesday to detail this year's campaign, which will be active for a month this year rather than two weeks as in past years.
"We wanted to utilize both the strength and the assets of both the Lottery and DPH to expand our reach of our messaging and our programming and services," Ortiz said. "And we also want to explore other possibilities of initiatives that go beyond responsible gambling and think critically about public health and how we can be able to do that together in our collective effort to mitigate harm."
In October, the Lottery sold $431.6 million worth of its products, up $18.4 million or 4.5 percent from October 2020. But the month's adjusted estimated profit figure came in at $96.3 million, a decrease of $2.1 million from October 2020 that Falcone attributed to the payment last month of $15 million in Mega Millions and Powerball jackpot prize settlements.
Through four months of fiscal year 2022, the Lottery has sold just more than $2 billion worth of products (up $116.1 million or 6.1 percent from the same period in fiscal 2021) and has estimated its year-to-date profit to be $386 million, roughly $22.4 million ahead of the pace set during the Lottery's record-setting fiscal year 2021.