After 29 draws without a winner, the US Mega Millions jackpot was finally won by a single ticket in Illinois – with the lucky recipient now facing a choice between having the full amount of $1.3bn paid over a period of 30 years, or taking a reduced lump sum immediately. Tough problem to have, eh?
However – the winner aside - with the cost of living soaring, Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine, Covid remaining a silent enemy and no sign of the surging inflation abating soon, the real question remains: what happens now the Mega Millions jackpot has finally been claimed?
In other countries, national lotteries have witnessed a rapid decline in recent months, owing to people becoming less willing to spend excess cash during times of rapid inflation. After reporting a drop in sales in the UK, national lottery operator Camelot said players had “tightened their belts” when it came to buying the various products the lottery offers.
However, the UK’s lottery has seen dwindling numbers of people spending money on it for the last few years, which has led to concerns over the good causes the public fund sponsors.
In a 2018 UK Parliamentary Report into the decline of the national lottery, former Permanent Secretary and economist, Dame Sue Owen, stated her concern over the funding for the UK’s good causes, saying: “Participation in the main Lotto game itself has been declining significantly. There is increased popularity of scratchcards and instant wins, which need higher prizes and therefore return less to good causes.”
Much the same as the UK, the US Mega Millions Lottery exists in the US to help good causes across the 46 participant states – such as the preservation of wildlife – with the jackpot comprising 50% of the fund. So, it should go without saying those aforementioned good causes can’t afford for the lottery market to lose customers, as it may see several knock-on effects from the monetary loss.
Statistically, the popularity of playing the US Mega Millions has actually grown in the last few years – but, with the dramatic rise in the cost of living globally, these predictions may be about to change.
Yes, the cost of playing the Mega Millions is $2, yet for much of the population that is now $2 which could be better spent elsewhere. Of course, owing to the sheer scale of the $1.3bn jackpot on offer, players across the US in the prior two months has increased – as many dreamed of becoming financially secure – but now the lottery fever is over and the jackpot claimed, the future is uncertain.
This also places the onus on lottery suppliers like IGT and Scientific Games, to try and encourage players with innovation. Smaller, different games must attract more business – but ensuring they are within lottery players’ means, given their increased costs elsewhere in life.
The causes the lottery funds are already suffering because of inflation affecting everything from gas prices to grocery shopping. So, should participation drop in the coming months (or even if it doesn’t move), the financial loss afforded to the dependent good causes only tightens screws even further, leaving arguably the most important element of a lottery vulnerable.
Then again, the lower one’s income, the more a player could turn to the lottery as a potential source of life-changing income, however unlikely that is to reach fruition. The odds of winning the Mega Millions are 1 in 302.6 million, for example.
So, while the UK and other countries may be showing signs of stagnation in regard to players betting on the national lottery, the US could buck the trend. What is clear now is the causes sponsored by the Mega Millions are looking to the public fund more than ever for help.
For more on lottery, check out Gambling Insider magazine’s recent article on the vertical’s future.
We also recently interviewed Richard Williams of Keystone Law for a legal update on the UK National Lottery.