Want to Increase State Revenue? Offer Lotto Play at the Gas Pump

Over the last year, three states have looked into and tested selling lottery tickets to consumers while they fill up their gas tank -- and so far, results are positive.

by / April 2, 2014

A trip to the gas pump for California residents could one day make them a millionaire -- and Golden State citizens aren't the only ones presented with such an opportunity. 

The state’s Lottery Commission is now considering a “play at the pump” pilot program at more than 100 gas stations in the Los Angeles and Sacramento regions that would allow customers to purchase lotto tickets while gassing up their vehicles.

If approved by the Commission, drivers — who would be required to purchase gas prior to buying lotto tickets — would have the option to buy quick-pick tickets for Mega Millions, Powerball and Super Lotto Plus.

While officials in California consider the program, a few other states including Missouri and Minnesota have also tested the idea.

In California, payment for lotto tickets bought at the pump would be made with debit cards and credit cards only. Players would be required to swipe their identification as part of the age verification process, and those who win less than $600 would have that amount credited directly on to the card used for purchase, according to a report by ABC News 10 in Sacramento. Requests to speak with the California Lottery Commission were not returned by press time.

While the number of actual pumps in California was not available, 2012 figures from the state’s Energy Commission reported that there were approximately 10,000 retail fueling stations across the Golden State.

The idea was first presented to California’s Lottery Commission on March 27. It was not immediately known when a final decision on the program would be announced.

Back east, the final live testing of Missouri’s pump program was completed in February with the state selling lotto tickets at 19 locations (182 total pumps). Similar to California, lottery officials in the Show Me State have limited sales at the pump to quick-picks for Powerball and Mega Millions.

“We are always looking for alternative locations to sell products,” said Susan Goedde, communications manager with the Missouri Lottery. “We want to attract new customers, better educate existing customers and hopefully drive players back into the stores.”

In Missouri, the desire to attract new lottery players stems largely from the state’s need to raise revenue without increasing taxes. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in May of 2013 that with the state’s lottery hitting record sales numbers, legislators on both sides of the aisle have been looking toward the lottery for additional revenues. As a result, Missouri’s lotto officials began looking for new ways to generate additional sales.

Players in the state are permitted to use a debit card only to pay for lotto tickets purchased at the pump and at ATMs. Goedde said players at the pump select “lottery” or “fuel,” and then enter a PIN. Quantity of tickets is then selected up to a maximum of 10 for Powerball and 20 for Mega Millions, and there is a $1 convenience fee. Age verification is completed by entering the last four digits of the player’s Social Security number.

Winnings of $600 or less are automatically credited to the card used in the purchase of lotto tickets. Those who win more than $600 are required to redeem the prize at lottery headquarters.

Goedde said Missouri does not have final figures to show the impact on lotto sales at the test sites, and it's not yet known whether the state will look to expand the program.

One state that is expanding its original pilot is Minnesota, which also began offering lotto tickets at the pump to boost revenue, Time reported in June 2013. And reports thus far show success with the test, according to Ed Van Petten, executive director with the Minnesota State Lottery. 

“We have heard from station owners that they are pleased with the early results of the program,” he said.

The original Minnesota pilot started at only nine retailers covering about 70 gas pumps, and a second pilot program covered some 22 retail outlets. The state’s lotto at the pump test allows for the sale of only Mega Millions and Powerball quick-picks at the pump, and purchase is permitted only with a debit card. Similar to the happenings in California and Missouri, winnings of $600 or less are credited directly to the account connected to the debit card used in the purchase of the tickets.

Van Petten said that nearly three-quarters of Minnesota residents who purchase gas do not visit the convenience stores located at the gas stations, and as a result do not purchase lotto tickets. And while the state does not have hard sales numbers regarding its early pilot programs, he did say that participating retailers have reported higher sales of other types of lottery tickets.

“Promoting the at the pump feature is creating brand awareness," he said, "and reminding people to purchase [various] lottery tickets."
Greg Sleter Contributing Writer

For more than 20 years, Greg Sleter has worked as a professional journalist holding positions in several editorial leadership roles on the print and digital sides of the business. He most recently was a Regional Editor with AOL’s Patch.com. Prior to his time at Patch, he spent a decade with ICD Publications in New York serving in lead editorial roles on HomeWorld Business and Hotel Business Design. Sleter also has expertise in digital journalism, social media, public relations and marketing.