I’ve been busy catching up on some work with NASPL – there’s a lot going on in the lottery industry these days. Sales reports are coming in – most U.S. lotteries end their fiscal years on June 30 – and new records are being set all over the place. I will be working on a detailed analysis soon, but certainly contributing factors are the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot last March, the ticket price increase in Powerball from $1 to $2, and continued strength in the instant game market.
So it’s a banner year for lotteries, but other forms of gaming are still all over the map. There is strength in a few casino jurisdictions, continued weakness in others. A new casino south of Baltimore has hurt its counterpart north of the city so much that it wants to Maryland Lottery to remove one-third of its slot machines, as many as 500. And yet Maryland is still considering another casino over and above the number approved in the original legislation, which includes a Baltimore location, for which Caesars Entertainment received a license last week.
Horse racing is also going back and forth. Pari-mutuel handle on Thoroughbred racing is up marginally for the year, actually a remarkable achievement given recent history, but there are good months and not-so-good months. July handle was one of the down months. One of the premium race meets is going on right now, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; on-track handle is up a bit and all-sources handle is up more than seven percent after three weeks.
Back to lotteries. Everyone in the industry is looking forward to the World Lottery Summit next month in Montreal, which takes on special meaning this year. NASPL and the World Lottery Association have run combined events before, but September’s event will be the first one where United States participants can seriously discuss Internet sales. After all, the Illinois Lottery has already begun ticket sales on the Web and the Georgia Lottery will do so in a much more comprehensive manner later this fall. But the most ambitious plans are being made by the Delaware Lottery, which will probably be the first to offer casino games on the Internet, along with regular lottery products and electronic scratch tickets, sometime early next year.
Not every state is looking for Internet lottery sales – it is illegal in some – but there will be more to follow. These developments with lotteries have other gaming segments hustling to join the party for fear of being left behind, but face legislative hurdles. Still, commercial casino operators and tribal interests are making noise in many jurisdictions. A major deal has been struck in California between Horse Racing United, a consortium of most Thoroughbred racing interests in the state, and Cantor Gaming to develop an online poker platform. That is, should legislators pass a bill legalizing the activity later this month, currently facing long odds by some reports.
The next few months should be interesting.