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The only thing longer than your odds of winning the lottery is the lineup to buy tickets. Just how many people are playing? And with a big win so unlikely, what keeps them in the game?

Whether you’re in the gaming industry itself, or simply trying to harness contesting and gamification as marketing tools, understanding the dynamics of today’s booming lottery phenomenon provides key insights on how to engage your audience.

We got a fresh perspective on lottery players through a recent Vision Critical study involving 958 adult lottery players in the United States. As the infographic below shows, we found that almost 50% of Americans actively play the lottery. We also uncovered some of the top factors that motivate regular lottery players.

Here are a few findings about lottery players that might surprise you—and inspire your own use of contests and prizing in your own campaigns and market research.

  1. Money isn’t everything.

Marketers often emphasize cash prizes when promoting lottery games, but our research indicates that this isn’t always the best approach. As it turns out, enjoyment is a huge factor for consumers. Overall, 40% of consumers enjoy playing lottery games that are for fun instead of cash-based. The importance of enjoyment is especially true for younger lottery players: 62 percent of 18 to 24 year olds we talked to enjoy playing non-cash lottery games.

While Mega Millions and the Powerball will likely remain very popular in the US, non-cash play is an emerging trend that organizations need to also keep an eye on.

When you’re running a contest or lottery, don’t just emphasize cash: intrinsic things like fun and excitement are also important to this group of consumers.

  1. Consumers still prefer to purchase lottery games in person.

Although many companies now allow consumers to buy lottery games online, our research suggests that perhaps they don’t mind the long line-ups to buy their tickets. 78 percent of the lottery players we talked to said they would rather purchase in-store than buy tickets online.

Online play isn’t quite trusted yet, and this contributes to why only 22 percent of lottery players would purchase online. 23 percent of the consumers we surveyed think that lottery odds are different online and in-store, indicating the need to educate consumers about the mechanics of playing lottery online.

Many consumer experiences are already moving online though, so organizations trying to reach lottery players still need to keep an eye out for this trend. In fact, because of its relatively low adoption, online play is probably the next big opportunity for lottery games. If organizations can figure out how to make online play more appealing, they’ll have an opportunity to expand their market and attract more customers.

To get people to play lottery games online or enter online contests, organizations need to learn about consumer attitudes about online gaming and get to the bottom of why they are hesitant to adopt it.

  1. Men are more likely to play lottery online.

In general, men are more likely to play the lottery (55 percent vs 42 percent of women), but we also found that men are more receptive to lottery online gaming. 18 percent of the lottery players we surveyed indicated that they are likely to purchase lottery tickets online, whereas only 12 percent of women are likely to do so.

The higher percentage of men playing lottery games online provides a couple of opportunities for brands. First, attracting men to online lottery games is the low-hanging fruit for organizations in the short term. Secondly, organizations have an opportunity to do a better job of making online lottery games more attractive to women.

Examine the demographics of your contest participants, and think about whether emphasizing online tactics makes more sense if your target audience includes a significant number of women.

  1. Not everyone expects to win.

Our research shows that only 75% of players believe that they will eventually win the lottery. That’s a great majority—but it also means that one in four people play without the expectation of winning.

To win the last Powerball, the winner had to beat odds of about 175 million-to-one, so perhaps our finding isn’t too surprising. But what this finding reiterates is the need to communicate more than just about cash prizes to lottery players. Many consumers are realistic about their chances and may have other motivations for playing.

When crafting communications to players or contest participants, consider that winning the lottery is not necessarily their only motivation. Speak to the other aspects of the lottery game that might attract them to play.

The bottom line for organizations trying to use contests and gamification is that this market is dynamic and it continues to change. It is important to engage players regularly to get a clearer picture of who is using your product and why. Ongoing player engagement offers many benefits, including the following:

  • Keep up with player and trends by learning what drives satisfaction of games as well as what consumers are looking for next
  • Develop and test new products and concepts by understanding what draws consumers’ interest
  • Optimize marketing and communications investments to match consumer tastes and motivation

How is your organization reaching consumers who play games or ? Did any of our findings surprise you? 

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