The California Lottery scratchers typically raise $1.7 billion in yearly revenue for the state, but they are unlikely to sniff that figure in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The coronavirus is to blame for a shortage of tickets. In order to safely manufacture the supplies workers must socially distance, which delays the distribution process.
“We continue to ship Scratchers products from our two distribution centers in West Sacramento and Rancho Cucamonga, but there is an approximate three-to four-week delay in fulfilling orders,” CA Lottery spokesman Jorge De La Cruz told the San Francisco Chronicle.
CA Lottery retailers hurting
That could result in millions of dollars of lost revenue, according to the Chronicle. It’s also a hit for merchants such as gas stations and convenience stores, among the most common lottery vendors.
Ticket prices range from $1 to $30, with the prize payouts varying greatly. The biggest prize is $10 million, but typical wins are much lower.
Anecdotally, the lower-priced tickets appear to be going first. Albany 7-Eleven store manager Renu Sikand told the Chronicle her location only has five of the 32 types of tickets left. Their prices? $10, $20 or $30. So, players looking to get in on the action at a low price are increasingly left out.
Various retailers have been trying to obtain more supplies with no luck.
“I’ve been asking for an order to come for the last couple of weeks,” Sikand said. “They keep saying, ‘We’ll do it, we’ll do it,’ but they never come.”
While manufacturing delays seem to be the main reason for lost revenue, COVID-19 also presents other challenges. Lottery tickets are usually popular for after-work commute pickups, for instance, but most people are working from home. In general, less foot traffic is bad news for the industry.
It’s also more difficult for players to find lottery scratchers if they’re seeking them. Certain lottery retailers are closed, though players can find open retailers on the CA Lottery mobile app. The CA Lottery official website recommends that players contact their preferred retailer directly to verify they are open as “conditions can change rapidly,” perhaps another step in the process. Players can also claim prizes by mail, though the website warns of delays due to safety protocols.
Powerball, Mega Millions updates
Sales are down for both of the country’s biggest draw games, as expected. Mega Millions and Powerball experienced a 35% sales drop in April.
The Powerball has changed some of its rules to accommodate for the pandemic. “Minimum starting jackpot amounts and minimum jackpot increases have been eliminated,” the game’s website says. “Future jackpots will instead be determined by sales and the estimated amount for each draw will be advertised as usual.”
It’s a similar deal for Mega Millions. The starting jackpot and the rate of jackpot increase will be directly tied to game sales and interest rates.
How will lotto changes impact California?
Less revenue will mean less funding for California public education, which is already facing budget struggles. While the lottery only accounts for 1% of the state’s $92.7 billion education budget, that comes out to millions considering the sheer size.
“We do not have an estimate on the losses in the lottery revenues and the amount that’s directed to schools at this time,” De La Cruz said, “but the California State Lottery will continue to do everything possible to follow our mission to maximize supplemental funding for education.”
This isn’t a problem that figures to be going away any time soon. California COVID-19 cases are on the rise. And even if the state sees improvement in the coming months, it would seem that social distancing practices are here to stay for the near future.
The lottery is working to speed up the distribution process, but it remains to be seen how successful those efforts will be. Count the lottery as another industry feeling the wrath of the pandemic.