Mobile lottery: Governments and operators increasingly turning their attentions to the mobile channels

Date: 
29 October 2013

The World Lottery Organisation (WLO) reported quarterly global lottery figures in June 2013, and found that, globally, there was only a 0.5% aggregate increase, with mixed fortunes across the globe.

Europe and Africa sales declined year-on-year, but not nearly as much as the US, which took a major hit. The Asia-Pacific region was stable and Latin America rose significantly with an increase of almost 22% over the same period in 2012.

The European decline is attributed to the economic crisis, particularly in countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, which typically had prosperous lotteries in the past. The American dip is due to a single event rather than systemic reasons according to the WLO.

In March 2012 there had been a record breaking US$656m Mega Millions jackpot, which distorted the figures for that quarter – that being said, caution is being advised with relation to the federal budget sequester, which came into effect on March 1, 2013 and which now may be beginning to affect the wider American economy, with consumers taking more care in making discretionary purchases as a result.

The four product verticals of interactive gambling have always been considered to be sports betting, poker, casino and bingo. Lotteries never really caught the attention of the gambling operators, primarily because they were government-run and until recently, for the most part, were retail-based.

A few companies, such as Scientific Games, created solid businesses working with the national and state lotteries with regard to the land-based technology and terminals. This is changing now, however, as lottery operators have realised that adding an interactive element – in particular mobile – will either add incremental value or stall a decline in retail sales.

The UK National Lottery was the first global lottery to move online, in 2003, and its first move to mobile was through a companion app for checking results and other novelty features. It wasn’t until March 2012 that players were able to use their mobile devices to access its website at National-Lottery.co.uk in order to buy tickets and manage their account. Instant games were later added as well.

This process of (1) companion site/app, (2) ticket sales, (3) side/instant games is not uncommon, although most global lotteries are still in the first or second of these stages. North America is an interesting market, with Canadian lotteries having moved en masse to mobilise their lotteries. 

  • Ontario uses Spielo G2 to power its site and is currently planning to convert from an info-only site to a real-money gambling offering, with the conversion coming in stages, beginning with lottery products and slots, followed by table games and ultimately other products, such as poker and bingo.
  • IGT has a deal to give provincial lottery operator Loto-Quebec access to its entire online and mobile games library.
  • The British Columbia Lottery Corporation in Canada is the latest lottery body that wants to give players the ability to gamble from their smartphones or computer tablets. The corporation said its PlayNow.com website wasn't designed for mobile devices, and a growing number of Canadians own smartphones and tablets. It said about 3,000 people already use devices such as the iPad to access PlayNow.com, and many more use mobile apps to gamble through unregulated online casinos. BCLC is now in the RFP stage for mobile application development with an anticipated product launch in spring 2012
  • Mobile provider mkodo is working with the Atlantic Lottery mobile application, having launched an app in mid-2013 in the Canadian App Store in Canada that is available to players in the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. The app initially includes push notifications or ‘alerts’ when new draw results are available and when a local player has won a significant prize.

The US market is covered in a separately, but, in summary, the opening of the US market is being led by lotteries, and although Illinois is the only state to date to sell tickets on mobiles others are quickly following suit, including Michigan, whose Governor, Rick Snyder, has requested £3m in funding from the next budget for the purposes of establishing an ‘iLottery’ by early 2014.

European lotteries are also beginning to embrace the mobile platform. Australian company Jumbo Interactive has recently secured 16 state licences in Germany to operate desktop and mobile sites; in July 2013 Icelandic software provider Betware won a public tender in conjunction with Microgaming’s Prima Networks to provide bingo and instant games via smartphone, tablet and desktop to the Danish national lottery, Danske Spil.

Svenska Spel has offered ticket sales via mobile since October 2011, and Francaise des jeux (FDJ), the French lottery, recently started to use Lotsys Gaming Lab’s new Loto game application to offer a sales product via native apps for iPhone, Android, iPad and also HTML5 web apps. The app offers six different ways to play the Loto, including simple and combined games with the same grid. Players can save their favourite grids, check the results and even change their numbers simply by shaking their mobile device. The handheld sector is a growing market for FDJ, with 15% of the company’s digital revenue now coming from mobiles and tablets.

Elsewhere, globally countries as diverse as Vietnam and New Zealand have extended their retail lottery to allow sales on desktop and mobile, and China’s VODone mobile lottery now has almost ten million registered users and is of such a magnitude that, along with the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Japanese Racing Association (JRA), it is dominating mobile market revenues.

There is also growing mobile lottery movement within Africa, a continent in which Amaya Gaming has quite a stronghold, having launched a lottery in Kenya back in 2010 that exceeded 100,000 players per day within the first 45 days. African lotteries are slightly different in that they are primarily SMS based, in line with the fact that smartphones and tablets have very limited penetration, yet feature phones are pervasive.