Lottery agencies are upgrading technology and making gambling more readily available to increase sales. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Online sales, interactive displays as lottery agencies vie for customers

WINNIPEG — Like many millennials, Sarah Rogalsky doesn’t go out of her way to buy lottery tickets.

The 32-year-old is part of an office pool and chips in $2 a week at her Winnipeg workplace, primarily for the social aspect of playing with others.

“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket on my own.”

She is part of a countrywide trend that lottery agencies are trying to reverse. By upgrading technology and making gambling more readily available, they are hoping to attract and retain more young adults — a generation that has grown up with seemingly infinite entertainment options available at the click of a mouse or a swipe of the finger.

There are many ways to be entertained, Rogalsky said, and the long odds of scoring big in a lottery are not enticing.

“For example, my parents would buy lottery tickets because they thought there was a chance they would win, whereas someone like me, I know how low those chances literally are.”

In 2014, the Interprovincial Lottery Corp., which represents all provincial and territorial lottery agencies, issued a request for proposals for a new lottery game that would be similar to Lotto 6-49 and appeal to adults under 35. The number of young adults buying national lottery tickets was declining at “historic” levels, the document said.

The Western Canada Lottery Corp., which represents the prairie provinces and three northern territories, reported a $150-million drop in lottery revenues in 2017 from the previous year. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. cited a “diminishing core player base” in its most recent annual report.

In recent years, lottery agencies have moved to make gambling more tech-friendly and easier for people to gain access. More provinces have opened online gambling sites, on which players can engage in casino-style games or buy lottery tickets. Lottery terminals at corner stores are going high-tech and interactive.

Last September, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. introduced a new instant lottery ticket that combines the traditional scratch requirement with an animated spinning wheel that appears on the lottery terminal display screen. The agency is also making some products available at grocery store checkout lanes.

The corporation is “improving the customer experience and ensuring it is responsive to changing customer expectations by investing in digital technology and product solutions,” spokesman Tony Bitonti wrote in an email.

It’s a tough battle to attract younger adults who have grown up with a vast array of entertainment options, said Prof. Kelley Main, head of the marketing department at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

From immersive video games at home to fast-action apps on mobile devices, millennials are used to having their senses fully engaged, she said.

“Our expectations about how quickly things happen have changed, and … our expectations about how interactive these games are have also changed,” Main said.

“The traditional paper format (of lottery tickets) doesn’t engage our sense the same way as technology could allow some of the other options.”

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