Sense of constancy. Direct contact. Constant information. Staying in touch. These are just a few of the answers that U.S. lottery marketers provided to the question of how a lottery players club helped their lottery organization to engage with its customers during COVID-19.
“Our MVP Club allows us to maintain a sense of constancy with our customers, through regular email and coupon offerings,” said Nebraska Lottery Director Brian Rockey.
“Direct contact with our players is an essential part of how we do business during ordinary times. However, during these extra-ordinary times of the past two months the ability to communicate with our VIP Club has proved indispensable and beyond value,” explained Sherie Moody-St. Clair, Marketing Director, Idaho Lottery. “During the time of our Stay-Home order, we were able to stay in contact with our players, continue providing entertainment, and help those with large winning tickets to successfully claim their winnings.”
“Our Players’ Club has been vital to getting needed information out to our player base,” observed Josh Whiteside, Director, Marketing & Product Development, South Carolina Education Lottery (SCEL). “We have a very remarkable Players Club when it comes to interaction and open rate on our emails. We use our club to send multiple emails a month to inform players on any COVID-19 news that relates to our business.”
Critical Player Information
At no time perhaps in the history of the lottery industry was it more important for lotteries to provide clear communication on the closing of lottery offices, changes in Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot values and how players could get paid.
“Our Loyalty Club gave us the ability to send important messages directly to our members notifying them of operational changes, jackpot game changes and tips for playing safely during COVID-19,” said Wendy Ahlm, Director, Advertising & Marketing, New Mexico Lottery Authority.
“The Maine Lottery’s players club has been an essential tool in communicating with our most loyal players,” explained Mickey Boardman, Deputy Director, Maine Lottery. “The club provides a direct line of communication allowing us to provide timely information regarding claims processing, office closures and game information.”
“Through our VIP Club, we’ve been able to continue regular communications with our players during the current COVID-19 public health emergency, and help direct them to state resources about the virus, its impact in Iowa, and the help available for individuals and businesses. We believe that the details we’ve provided have been well received, as many players told us they appreciated seeing information from us that could help lift their spirits during this trying time,” said Mary Neubauer, VP, External Relations, Iowa Lottery.
“We have kept our players informed of our COVID-19 response and new prize payment options, but most of our engagement has happened via social media. It provides more opportunity to discuss issues and answer questions in near real-time. We have also employed telephonic and email customer service as a way to help players, since our offices were closed,” said Kimberly Chopin, Director, Communications, Louisiana Lottery Corporation.
“We have limited our interaction with players through the club during the pandemic. However, it did allow us to communicate changes in OAL hours of operation during the crisis,” said Bishop Woosley, Director, Arkansas Lottery.
In some cases, these lottery players clubs also provided second-chance promotions, drawings and games.
“The DC Lottery has offered its Players Club members a variety of incentives and rewards including exclusive winning opportunities, advance notice regarding games and activities, targeted winning ticket alerts, VIP status and DC Lottery events, and birthday coupons,” said Nicole Jordan, Director of Marketing, Office of Lottery & Gaming (DC).
“Maryland’s My Lottery Rewards program has engaged with players by offering several second-chance promotions and drawings,” said Julie Pettit, Marketing Manager, Maryland Lottery & Gaming. “We’ve also kept the Rewards Points for Prizes Store well stocked with merchandise and digital gift cards that players can order using the Rewards points they’ve earned. All signs point to increased engagement with My Lottery Rewards while Maryland has been under a stay-at-home directive.”
“Washington’s Lottery is proud of the response our players have to our new mobile app and loyalty program,” said Joshua Johnston, Deputy Director, Washington’s Lottery. “When we launched the new mobile app, we allowed players to accumulate loyalty points prior to the launch of the loyalty store to help build excitement. We’ve also created promotions to engage our players in fun and interesting new ways. We are always looking for new opportunities to create a positive experience for our players.”
Loyalty programs also offered a laboratory to experiment with new concepts during difficult times.
“The platform has allowed us to test new ideas and approaches, including free play promotions, interactive game based promotions, and mid-promotion prize enhancements. We’ve also used the platform to communicate and alert players of new promotional activity via email and push notifications through the app,” said Chris Rogers, Deputy Director, Products & Marketing, Arizona Lottery.
Club members could also be surveyed during the pandemic. “Having a Fun Club has allowed us to send important communication about how the KY Lottery is putting safety first. Targeting our core Fun Club members, we were able to conduct a survey to determine the effects of the pandemic on their lottery purchasing behavior. While we have paused our traditional second-chance promotions, we have continued to promote our online (iLottery) deposit promotions, online game promotions, social giveaways and soon (fingers crossed) jackpot promotions,” said Edie Frakes, VP, Marketing, Kentucky Lottery Corp.
Lottery marketers were careful not to deluge club members with too much information. “We have not sent any offers for purchases or points to our players during COVID-19. Members of the club receive bi-weekly emails with information about the latest games and MyLotto Rewards® drawings,” said Danielle Frizzi-Babb, Deputy Director, Communications, Ohio Lottery.
Some lotteries created customized special programs to stay (virtually) close to their customers as well as put the spotlight on beneficiaries and essential workers.
DC: We Are One LIVE
The DC Lottery created an Instagram program. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has hard hit the DC Lottery, the northern hemisphere’s sole city-run lottery,” said Jordan. “Maximizing on this singularity, during these times of unprecedented dips in retail sales, the DC Lottery executed ‘We Are One LIVE’ on our Instagram platform. ‘We Are One LIVE’ to bring its players closer together. A virtual player engagement experience that rewarded player participation, reminded audiences that winning with the DC Lottery continues, and kept our brand top of mind—We Are One LIVE built upon the popularity of celebrity-hosted virtual parties,” explained Jordan, “To achieve this goal, the DC Lottery expanded its partnership with a local media partner to secure DJ Rico, a well-known deejay who in addition to our Players Club and social media audiences introduced his following the DC Lottery brand. Promoted throughout this activity, our Players Club data base was an entry point to introduce this six-week, first-of-its-kind activity for the DC Lottery. This activity transitioned our showcase player engagement activities from our flagship Union Station location where we have had hundreds of participants to the virtual space of our Instagram platform where we were able to engage numbers of participants exceeding our capacity at that iconic location.
Jordan reported that the We Are One LIVE program attracted winners from as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Georgia. “As a result of this initiative, the DC Lottery’s following on Instagram grew by 1,363 followers, a 3,686% increase on the Lottery’s average growth, and a 43% increase in followers overall. Additionally, DC Lottery reached more people over this time period than it ever has on the Instagram platform, with over 1.28 million impressions on its posts during the period. DC Lottery saw a 250% increase in impressions on Instagram the final week of We Are One Live,” said Jordan.
Idaho: Classroom Wishlist
The Idaho Lottery expanded a popular program to provide more support for Idaho’s teachers. “In mid-April, the Idaho Lottery had an opportunity to provide additional support to education and teachers (our beneficiaries) in a time when they were in need of additional support due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” reported Moody-St. Clair.
The lottery utilized one of its year-round, doing-good campaigns: Classroom Wishlist. “Each month, this program receives project requests from our public school educators and selects one to fund. VIP Club players donate their points (received for their purchases of tickets) toward these projects to ‘fund’ them. This is in lieu of using their points to enter for sweepstakes cash or prizes. Beginning in mid-April, instead of one project per month, we began funding two to three projects per week. This kept the engagement level with core players high while reinforcing who the lottery benefits and giving much needed support to schools. By mid-May, the Lottery has funded 14 projects with players contributing over 150,000 VIP points. It has been an overwhelming success,” concluded Moody-St. Clair.
Louisiana: Essential Workers
The Louisiana Lottery Corp. will reward essential workers with a Facebook promotion. “Our player messaging focus shifted from sell to serve during the pandemic,” explained Chopin. “Our plans for player engagement at the end of May include a Facebook timeline promotion that recognizes and thanks our fans who are essential workers—whether that be a nurse, delivery truck driver or a convenience store clerk. When they post a photo of themselves getting ready for work on the job to our page, they are entered into a drawing for a prize package.”
Two U.S. lotteries used their players clubs as a vehicle to pay prizes.
The Ohio Lottery’s new mobile cashing feature allows players to cash eligible winning tickets and have the winnings directly deposited to a bank account. The app feature offers a fast, secure and convenient way to get paid for prizes and eliminates the need to travel, wait in line, and fill out paperwork.
“We launched a mobile cashing program which allows customers to cash winning tickets from $50 to $5,000 via the Ohio Lottery mobile app,” said Frizzi-Babb.
The Arizona Lottery’s Players Club allowed the rapid award of prize money to players, “many who are in need, at this time. To avoid having to physically give out prizes, the Arizona Lottery has partnered with InComm to administer an eGift card program. This approach allows us to batch award prizing to players using virtual VISA gift cards, saving valuable staff time. Players can redeem those cards online, or, transfer prize money from the cards to payment platforms like Paypal or Venmo,” said Rogers.
The Kansas Lottery worked with its partners (Scientific Games and Pollard Banknote) for several months to enhance the PlayOn app to provide “win check” functionality. “Fortunately, we were able to deploy this at the beginning of March prior implementation of social distancing measures,” said Stephen Ortiz, Director, Marketing & Sales, Kansas Lottery.
“Players have continued to express how much they enjoy this added feature, and that shows in a few ways. Notably, the program saw a 30% increase in tickets checked in the app from March to April. The program also saw a 14.87% year-over-year increase in new member acquisitions and a 10.73% year-over-year increase in program engagement throughout April.”
Guide to Loyalty Programs
La Fleur’s Magazine contacted multiple U.S. lotteries which operate loyalty programs. A roundup follows below:
Arizona: Players Club started as a second chance mobile application in June 2016 hosting a single promotion. “The platform has evolved over the years to its current format which includes a mobile ticket checker and entry application that offers multiple second chance, ticketless entry and experiential prize promotions. The Players Club will move to a points-based entry system in September 2020,” said Rogers. Total members: 19,922
Arkansas: The Club launched September 2009. Total members: 227,000
DC: The agency initiated its Players Club program in 2003. “In 2013, the lottery graduated from a virtual database to an actualized program with member benefits that continues to evolve responding to player needs and industry trends,” said Jordan. Total membership: 75,000
Idaho: The Club began online in December 1999, and first offered points for purchases (at the time of purchase at the counter) in February 2007. Total members: 211,347
Indiana: The MyLottery launched in April 2010. “Total current myLOTTERY membership is approximately 680,000. Of those, about 245,000 players have more actively engaged with us,” said Melissa Pursley, COO & General Manager, IGT Indiana.
Iowa: The current version of the program is called the Iowa Lottery’s VIP Club; it has been in place since April 2013. “We have had different iterations of a player loyalty program since January 1994, and have used different names for it during those 26 years,” said Neubauer. “Current membership in the VIP Club is 99,352. To do our best to ensure we are providing information to those who truly want to interact with the Iowa Lottery, we regularly ‘clean out’ our VIP Club list to eliminate duplicate accounts and de-activate those accounts that have seen no activity for more than a year.”
Kansas: The lottery’s loyalty program is called PlayOn. Total members: 239,137
Kentucky: The Fun Club (formally Fun Club Rewards) has been in existence for well over 10 years. “However, it has been in its current format since approximately February 2016 when we were transitioning to become an iLottery state and utilizing it as our landing spot for players to purchase from this platform,” said Frakes. Total members: 269,000
Louisiana: Club Lotteaux launched in January 2005. “Currently our player club functions as an email news distribution list(s) but we hope to expand into online second-chance draw entry, etc. in the future after launching our mobile application,” said Chopin. Total members: 13,493
Maine: RewardME launched in November 2015. Total members: 91,000
Maryland: My Lottery Rewards launched in June 2013. “The program was revamped in November 2018 to offer players more ways to earn rewards,” said Pettit. Total members: 274,049
Missouri: My Lottery® Players Club started as a “points-based” program in August of 2012. “We have upgraded our program a couple of times since 2012, but have remained a ‘points-based’ program,” said Rhonda Fehr, Advertising Manager, Missouri Lottery. Total members: 325,075 age-verified members
Montana: The initial launch of the Player’s Club was in March 2006. Total members: 174,648
Nebraska: The loyalty program is the MVP Club, with roots dating back more than 20 years. Total members: 187,000
New Jersey: The VIP Club was launched by the NJ Lottery in January 2002. Current members: 537,192
New Mexico: The current loyalty program is called My Rewards. It launched in July 2018. Total members: 35,000
North Carolina: The Lucke-Rewards platform was launched in 2012. Total membership: 1.2 million
North Dakota: The Lottery Players Club® launched July 6, 2014. Total members: 40,652
Ohio: MyLotto Rewards® launched in August of 2014. Total members: More than 1 million active users
Pennsylvania: VIP Players Club launched on July 1, 2009. Total members: 1.1 million
South Carolina: The Players Club launched in 2002. Total members: 85,000
South Dakota: Players Club launched in the spring of 2009. Total members: 19,353
Tennessee: Play It Again! is a program in which non-winning instant tickets are eligible for cash prizes won through a series of second-chance drawings.
Vermont: The lottery operates the Second Chance Club.
Washington: My Lottery 360° was launched on November 7, 2019. Total members: 2163,000
The following lotteries provided information on their non-loyalty programs.
The Minnesota Lottery does not have a players club/loyalty program. “We have a database of 200,000+ that we market to based on their individual player profiles,” reported Jason LaFrenz, Director, Marketing, Minnesota Lottery.
The Michigan Lottery ended its officially branded Player’s Club in 2018, but it offers several programs and incentives to reward player loyalty. The Michigan Lottery currently has 1.3 million account holders. “The Lottery offers players a daily Spin to Win game where they can earn entries into a monthly drawing for $5,000 as well as free play offers for retail and online purchases,” said Jacob Harris, Michigan Lottery Public Relations. “The Lottery’s monthly Let’s Play Giveaway gives players who play featured games in retail or online a chance to win $5,000. Retail players can enter entry codes from non-winning Bingo, Cashword, and Wild Time instant tickets for a chance to win free play coupons valid at retail or entries into a weekly drawing where nine winners are selected to received $100 in instant game tickets.”
The West Virginia Lottery launched its Player’s Circle program in 2010. It has 13,223 registered users. It is not a loyalty program. “Our Player’s Circle gives player’s quick access to instant ticket promotions/second chance promotions, information and logging their favorite winning numbers,” said Ronnie Lawson, Lottery Marketing Specialist, West Virginia Lottery. “We did not offer any incentives during quarantine to comply with the Governor’s stay at home orders.”
Wisconsin Lottery launched its Player’s Club in February 2004. There are 54,797 subscribers. “The program is only an email subscription and not a loyalty program. Those signed up, get emails every weekday with news, information, winning numbers, jackpots, participation questions, and occasionally online giveaways,” said Kami Blatter, Winner Awareness, Wisconsin Lottery.
U.S. lotteries can provide countless examples of how their players relied on receiving necessary information as well as the occasional diversion through their membership in their loyalty program.
“The Arizona Lottery Players Club platform has allowed us to easily spin up new promotions as well as enhance existing promotions throughout the pandemic. In doing so, Players Club has served as an additional touchpoint with players at a time when in-person experiential promotions are not possible,” said Arizona’s Rogers.
Lotteries are adding surveys and other player engagement activities to attract lapsed members. “We are constantly looking for new ways to keep our loyalty program fresh and exciting. We offer new activities for players as part of the program that are meant to drive engagement beyond the enter tickets, accumulate points model. In addition to wanting to win cash prizes, players look to the lottery for entertainment, and we strive to provide a program that does as much of both of those as possible,” NCEL’s Spielman.
There is great opportunities for lotteries to expand their programs. “The DC Lottery will continue to grow awareness and advantages associated with our Players Club membership. Further enhancement of this player-centered rewards program has been on the forefront of the DC Lottery’s upcoming initiatives. The challenges presented by the current health pandemic have served to highlight the importance of cultivating an informed audience,” said Jordan.