BUSINESS

Japan’s lotteries hope online expansion can reverse slide

TAGs: Japan, Lottery

japan-lottery-salesJapan plans to expand online lottery options this October in order to attract a younger generation of customers and hopefully avoid a third straight year of declining sales.

On Monday, the Japan Times reported that official internal affairs ministry data showed lottery ticket sales totaled ¥786.6b (US$7.1b) in fiscal 2017, a 6.9% decline from fiscal 2016’s total. This marks the second year in a row of falling sales and the first time since fiscal 1997 that the total has slipped below ¥800b.

Jumbo Takarakuji sales suffered an even greater decline, falling 13.1% to ¥325.6b. Number-selection lotteries provided the lone positive note, rising 2.6% to ¥380b after the maximum Loto 6 jackpot was doubled to ¥200m.

Lottery sales have been on a downward spiral since 2005, when sales peaked at ¥1.1t. Lottery profits – which are split between local and prefectural governments – have fallen from nearly ¥440b in 2005 to just under ¥300b in fiscal 2017.

To reverse this negative trend, Japan’s government announced in January a plan to allow online sales of Jumbo Takarakuji products starting this October. At present, less than half of Japan’s lottery products are accessible online, and these are all numeric-based products.

The hope is that expanded online options – and allowing the use of credit cards for lottery purchases – will lower the median age of lottery customers, who are generally 50 years or older. (Just check out the prevalence of grey hair in the photo above.)

The government has examined other avenues of expanding the appeal of lotteries, including a proposal to launch a baseball version of the existing football pool-styled Sports Promotion Lottery.

Gambling of any kind is a thorny issue for Japan’s citizens, who remain largely skeptical of the positive aspects of the country’s recent approval of casino gambling. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw his personal approval ratings slump in the immediate aftermath of the legislature’s pro-casino vote.

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