BOSTON (State House News Service) — After winning $1,000 on a scratch ticket recently, a Blackstone woman did something that no other Massachusetts Lottery player had done before — she scanned the winning ticket with her smartphone, submitted a claim through the Lottery's app and got her winnings deposited directly into her account, all without having to leave her home.
"It was just so simple," Elaine Tellstone said. "It took less than five minutes to scan my ticket and submit my claim. Depending on traffic and how many people were in line, it would've taken about two hours out of my day to claim my prize in person in Worcester."
Last fall, the Massachusetts Lottery announced that it was developing a way for players to cash large prizes from their phones and have their winnings deposited directly into a bank account. Around the beginning of the year, the Lottery began to give players the ability to scan a ticket into the app to find out if it is a winner. Lottery officials recently reached out to Tellstone, who had used the ticket-checking feature, to try out the prize-claiming functionality as they prepare to make it more widely available.
"Making remote ticket cashing transactions available is a terrific advancement for the Lottery in accommodating our customers," Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who chairs the State Lottery Commission and has been pressing the Legislature for years to allow the Lottery to add an online component, said. "It has the added benefit of positive environmental impacts as it helps reduce carbon emissions by eliminating a lot of driving and production of paper checks."
Mobile cashing will only be available for prizes between $601 and $5,000 — the kind of prizes that currently can only be claimed at Lottery headquarters in Dorchester or one of the agency's regional claims centers. Convenience stores that rely on foot traffic from Lottery players will continue to process claims for prizes of $600 or less and are not expected to lose Lottery traffic to mobile scanning or cashing.
When Tellstone went through the process of making the first remote prize claim, Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney said it felt to him "like watching Apollo land on the moon ... holding my breath and waiting for disaster while hoping for the best."
"We were all appropriately confident, but until it actually happens the proof is in the pudding," he said. "We had done an abundance of internal testing and that's why we felt we were ready to move on to this next phase. Once the process began and everything worked out, I think a lot of people involved on this team were extremely happy."
Since the Lottery made the ticket-scanning feature available on its app, more than 16,000 players have registered and scanned more than 2.8 million tickets, the Lottery said. The prize-claiming feature will slowly be expanded to a larger pool of players in the coming weeks and Lottery officials expect it will be broadly available early this summer.
Lottery players have been asking for the ability to scan their own tickets to find out what or if they've won for years, Sweeney said. Though the ability to check tickets remotely was "extremely well-received" by players, the ability to claim prizes remotely is expected to reveal the true impact of the Lottery's new program.
"It's a real gamechanger for the Lottery and our customers," Sweeney said. He added, "We have to be where customers are, and where the consumer is across the economy is mobile and utilizing modern technology. Any business or any governmental agency that is not working to meet consumers where they are is going to lose consumer confidence and, obviously, we cannot afford that at the Lottery."
Sweeney has also pitched the remote ticket scanning and prize claim features as environmentally-friendly policies. Using 2019 prize claim data as a benchmark and assuming a 50-percent adoption rate for the new mobile cashing app, the Lottery calculated that the new way of claiming prizes could eliminate more than 78,000 prize claim trips to Lottery locations for a total reduction of 2.78 million miles traveled.
That could save more than 110,000 gallons of gasoline and could avoid 983.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the Lottery.
"Once fully engaged and once widely adopted by consumers, this is really going to make one of the more measurable and tangible positive environmental impacts on the commonwealth by a governmental agency," Sweeney said.
The Massachusetts Lottery had its third-best year in terms of revenue in fiscal year 2020 and generated a net profit of $986.9 million for the state to use as local aid. So far this fiscal year, the Lottery has generated an estimated profit of $836.3 million, $77.8 million more than what it had counted as profit at this point in fiscal 2020.
In March, the Lottery upgraded its fiscal year 2021 profit projection by $45 million and now expects it will provide the Legislature with $985 million to distribute to cities and towns as local aid.
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service