Amid all the hype about the second-biggest Mega Millions jackpot in history, Ohioans had to revisit a peculiar truth: They can’t buy tickets online directly from the Ohio Lottery.
PlayOhio reached out to the Ohio Lottery to ask whether that may change in the future.
“At this time the Ohio Lottery doesn’t offer online sales of lottery games, but we look forward to being able to offer online sales in the future,” said Danielle Frizzi-Babb, Ohio Lottery’s deputy director of communications.
So why can’t Ohioans buy Ohio Lottery tickets online? The answer has several parts.
Ohio among states with third-party option for online tickets
Of the 45 states that participate in Mega Millions, 20 offer players online tickets, as do Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those 20 states fall into two groups: online purchases through the lottery or Jackpocket, a third-party ticket seller.
Jackpocket provides lottery tickets in 11 states, including Ohio via a partnership with Circle K. With this option available, the Ohio Lottery doesn’t necessarily need to sell tickets online because Jackpocket already does.
Jackpocket’s availability may draw new business that lottery is missing
Jackpot’s presence in Ohio may be new and unfamiliar to longtime players, but it might bring new customers to the lottery.
For example, in June, a Cleveland resident named won a $1 million Powerball prize via a ticket she purchased in the Jackpocket app.
She said it was a little weird to get an email that said she won $1 million — she didn’t think it was real. But, having hit some winners in the past through Jackpocket, she realized it was a real win.
“I don’t play the lottery, but somebody was telling me that you can play on your phone,” she said. “So I downloaded Jackpocket and played a dollar here and a dollar there. … I didn’t even know what the jackpot was! I just thought, ‘I’m just going to put $6 down on Powerball and let it go.'”
Jackpocket notes that players in the Buckeye State have won more than $4 million. Nationwide, 14 individual players have won prizes of $1 million or more.
With big sales numbers, Ohio Lottery may not need mobile tickets
In 2021, the Ohio Lottery raised $1.359 billion in revenue for the Ohio Lottery Profits Education Fund. Players won nearly $3 billion in prizes, and retailers took home nearly $300 million in commissions.
Over the past 10 years, lottery sales have increased every year except 2017 and 2020.
In that context, it’s easy to see why the Ohio Lottery hasn’t launched online ticket sales: It doesn’t really need to, at this point. Its 2021 sales were a smashing success, topping $2 billion for the first time in the lottery’s history.
And, considering that the Ohio Lottery is part of the state’s sports betting launch, mobile lottery sales may not be high on its list of priorities.
Lawmakers pushed for iLottery sales in June but bill stalled
Ohio Lottery online ticket sales gained steam in June when the Ohio Senate passed a bill 30-2 to allow iLottery sales. However, the bill didn’t have time to make it through the house. Therefore, Ohioans have to wait until the legislative session Nov. 16 to get updates on the bill’s progress.
One of the bill’s main roadblocks? Retailers. The stores that sell lottery tickets get a commission on certain winning tickets. Nearly 10,000 retailers won $296.3 million from commission payments in 2021. Those win commissions can provide a financial boost for businesses.
Therefore, business owners are afraid that offering online tickets will cut into their ticket sales and possibly cause them to lose out on commission payments.
Ohio’s $1.28 billion Mega Millions jackpot hit
Ohio’s Mega Millions jackpot drew national interest as it swelled to over $1 billion in July.
Someone finally won the jackpot on July 29, the lottery announced, taking home the $1.28 billion Mega Millions jackpot — the second-largest in U.S. history.
The winning ticket was reportedly sold in Illinois. The winner will have a choice between a lump-sum payout or an annual payout over 30 years.