Arizona Lottery set to pass $1 billion sales goal, giving millions to beneficiaries

The Arizona Lottery is now the second fastest growing lottery in the United States, according to La Fleur’s, a lottery trade publication.

“I think Arizona, more so than a lot of other places, has a lot of very public-spirited, public-minded people,” said John Gilliland, public information officer for the Arizona Lottery. “While the main motivator for folks to play lottery is the excitement and chance to win amazing cash prizes, I think that secondarily they do realize that the money that they’re spending to play these games is going to make Arizona a better place for everyone.”

In 2019, the Arizona Lottery expects to reach — and likely exceed — its annual sales goal of $1 billion. In fiscal year 2018, the lottery earned $981 million in sales revenue — up from $852 million in FY 2017 — paying out $503 million to players. Player payouts make up a majority of the money from ticket sales, but about $219 million of the lottery’s revenue will go back to state agencies and non-profit organizations in FY 2019.

“Lottery proceeds from sales go to support organizations like Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA — volunteers that help children in state care navigate the foster care system,” said Chris Rogers, deputy director of marketing and products for the Arizona Lottery. “In many cases, these individuals may be the only constant in a foster child’s life. CASA’s work really does make a difference, and we are proud to support them.”

CASA is just one of 18 programs from 13 state agencies which receives revenue from the lottery.

“These volunteers are specially and intensively trained to be advocates for these children who were abused and neglected that wind up in the court system,” Gilliland said.

Another beneficiary of lottery money is the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Fund.

“We give money to them to purchase habitat, to run programs that, for instance, have restored bald eagle populations, that educate adults and children about conservation and about Arizona’s unique wildlife,” Gilliland said.

In addition to the state programs, Arizona Lottery hands out about half a million dollars each year in community sponsorships to support programs and nonprofits that give back to the community, Gilliland said. There are about 50 such sponsorships this year, he said.

“Things like the Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council in Mohave County; we bought a big shuttle bus for them,” Gilliland said. “Now, they are able to bring dozens of veterans back and forth between Mohave County and Phoenix to the VA Hospital for their medical treatment. And they can do that free of charge for these veterans… it’s quite a challenge for somebody to get all the way from Kingman down to Phoenix.”

Gilliland said there were several factors contributing to the lottery’s continued growth, such as higher-priced tickets that increase the amount customers spend per sale and increased jackpot awareness through roadside signs and record jackpot numbers. Furthermore, scratcher tickets are now available at more locations, namely Walmart and Costco.

“We’ve rapidly expanded our retail vending opportunities,” Gilliland said. “We’re putting these vending machines in more locations, and the vending machines can accommodate more customers than a person at a counter can.”

Specialty scratcher tickets are also contributing to increased sales, if indirectly, Gilliland said. Alice Cooper scratcher tickets have attracted significant attention, and the Mexican wrestler-themed Lucha Libre Loot tickets — complete with luchador imagery and artwork — has appealed to Hispanic customers, he said.

“Coming up, we’re going to be focusing on our holiday scratcher tickets,” he said. “We have a wide range of tickets that are specifically targeted for the holidays that range anywhere from $1 all the way up to $20, featuring things like Santa’s reindeer… we have one ticket that’s set up like a giant Advent calendar.”

The lottery recently aired a QVC-style “infomercial” ad during NBC’s Saturday Night Live that contained an “Easter egg” — a hidden message — about the latest holiday scratcher tickets.

Next, Arizona Lottery will be live-streaming a variety show on its Facebook channel called “Willie’s Virtual Holiday Party Giveaway” that will feature local celebrities, contests and prizes. The event is tentatively planned for December 20.

Additionally, Arizona Lottery will host a comedy show featuring local comedians and actors at Rebel Lounge in Phoenix on December 22.

“We continue to develop innovative approaches to reach our players with new experiences by leveraging the unique talents of the improv actors who appear in our traditional advertising spots,” Rogers said.

All profits from the live stream will benefit Voices for CASA Children, a nonprofit organization that seeks to give a voice to children in the Arizona foster care system by recruiting and supporting CASA volunteers and engaging the community to raise awareness about mistreated children. Profits from the Rebel Lounge show will go to a different beneficiary that is yet to be determined.

“When you spend that dollar on a lottery ticket, you’re doing more than just buying a chance at an amazing prize,” Gilliland said. “You’re doing a lot of real good for Arizonans, and I think that Arizonans understand that when they buy those tickets.”

Graham Bosch

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