Michigan Lottery Sales Dropping As Calls For Suspension Continue

Written By Matt Schoch on April 22, 2020

With the state hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, April will come and go without a single bet being placed at a Michigan casino.

And because of a stay-at-home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer barring non-essential travel, the Michigan Lottery is also being impacted, despite its status as an “essential” entity.

After record-setting numbers last year, the state’s lottery has withstood a 31% downturn in revenue lately amid calls to suspend contests during the shutdown.

Calls continue for Michigan Lottery to be suspended

Calls were put out to suspend the lottery earlier this month by state Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) and the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, citing the violation of social distancing guidelines in retailers with lottery sales.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also expressed concern about lottery sales at a press conference earlier this month.

“Probably the one thing that bothers me are the lines with the lotto tickets,” Duggan said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “And we got to find a way for people not to be so clustered together.”

Since 2014, the state also has online lottery sales, though those sales are a small percentage of revenue.

Games such as Michigan Lottery Club Keno, Daily 3, Daily 4, $250,000 Keno, Lucky for Life and Poker Lotto are only available through retailers.

Michigan Lottery shuts down sales by some retailers

Whitmer said in early April that she would look seriously at restricting lottery sales, but so far hasn’t.

The Michigan Lottery is allowing retailers to voluntarily deactivate their equipment during this time with no penalty.

Spokesman Jake Harris said in an email to PlayMichigan on Wednesday that more than 950 retailers have suspended sales.

He added that about 2,500 of the state’s more than 10,000 lottery retailers are bars and restaurants and half of those have had no sales since March 17. In this group, lottery revenue is down 96% in this period, Harris said.

Manoogian wrote PlayMichigan in an email on Monday that she was pleased about the lottery suspension in some retailers but still believes in a temporary outright ban.

“I worry that, with some stores still selling lottery tickets in person, that people will simply congregate at those stores,” Manoogian wrote. “This is precisely what we don’t want, and so I implore Commissioner (Brian) Neill to comprehensively suspend in-person sales until we rid Michigan of the coronavirus successfully.”

Lottery numbers hurting during economic slowdown

Michigan’s lottery saw a downtick in March revenue as the state was largely shut down midway through the month to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Under state law, all profits from the lottery go to the state’s school aid fund. In March, the lottery contributed $75.3 million to the fund, down 31.5% from March 2019.

Now six months through the 2019-20 fiscal year, lottery revenues were down 7.5% from 2018-19 with more pain expected going forward.

From March 24 through Wednesday, overall lottery sales were down about 31% compared to the same period a year ago, Harris said.

Michigan Lottery was posting record revenues

The slowdown comes at a time when the state’s lottery had been humming along at record levels.

The lottery contributed more than $1 billion to the state’s school fund for the first time in the fiscal year 2019, a record for the fifth straight year. Total lottery sales in the year also set a record at nearly $3.9 billion.

Lottery retailers were paid out a record $287.6 million in commissions and prizes of more than $2.3 billion were awarded to players, another record.

The lottery had injected more than $23.4 billion in the school aid fund since its inception in 1972, right up to the end of September last year.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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