What is it about the chance of winning over half of a billion dollars that had celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Joe Flacco driving to stores to stand in line with the rest of the country to buy Lottery tickets? Between the historical Megamillions and Powerball drawings in 2013, the landscaper who redeemed an unclaimed multi-Million winning scratcher, and the Canadian man who gave his winnings to charity, everyone suddenly seems to be talking about and playing the Lottery.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of Proposition 37, by which California voters approved a State Lottery. To put that into perspective, that same year marked the first Run through Redlands event and the incorporation of Moreno Valley. On a larger scale, 1984 was the year that the first Macintosh computers were sold, the median price for a home cost $72,400 and the Internet was the ARPANet. (You can look that one up.) While a lot has seemingly changed since California ushered in the Lottery 30 years ago, what has not changed is the way consumers buy lottery tickets.
In 2012, e-commerce sales reached a Trillion dollars. And, early estimates suggest that sales figures for 2013 may be even higher. Why lottery tickets remained the one item people had to obtain at a store and pay for in cash, made little sense to one serial entrepreneur. And in 2012, Lottogopher.com went into beta.
The brainchild of Southern California resident, James Morel, Lottogopher.com is the first website in the country through which consumers can legally order Megamillions, Powerball, and Super Lotto Plus tickets online. Morel came up with idea for Lottogopher based on a memorable childhood incident. “My parents bought a Quickpick ticket every week at the same store around the same time of day. One evening they were too tired to get in the car to drive to the store. So they skipped their weekly ticket. That night, a woman purchased a Quickpick at the time they normally did, and it was a winner. Who knows if they would have actually won, but that stayed with me. It probably stayed more with them,” he says with a laugh, “but I never forgot that.”
Morel who has founded a number of start-ups like 1-800 Postcards and tattoo removal chain Dr. TATTOFF kept recalling that memory as he started to build the idea for Lottogopher. “I just kept thinking that with everything for sale on the Internet, there has to be a virtual alternative to driving to the store.”
Pricing and membership is tiered and works akin to a Netflix model. Casual players or those who only wish to purchase a single ticket per game pay only the face value of the ticket and can utilize Lottogopher’s services for free. More serious players pay a monthly fee of $12.00 which enables users to buy as many tickets as they want for any game (again at face value) and gives them the option of pooling tickets with other Lottogopher members – whether they know them or not. (Think of it like an intra or inter office pools without having to deal with collecting money, making and distributing copies of tickets, or dealing with nosy Nancy in accounting who insists that her lucky number 17 be selected). Virtual pools may contain up to 100 tickets. As such, for the price of a single lottery ticket, members can play with up to 100 tickets. If any member of the pool wins, the entire group splits the winnings.
After every drawing, Lottogopher notifies winners of their winnings, keeps no portion of any prize money, automatically credits users’ accounts, and oversees the pools thus avoiding the kind of litigation which has become all too prevalent with group owned tickets.
Morel hopes that through making the ordering of tickets available online, he will be able to make playing the Lottery more convenient and accessible while also attracting a new generation of Lottery players, used to doing everything online. “The old model of driving to the store, standing in line, and paying with cash, is not feasible for everyone. Of course we realize that some people will still order tickets the traditional way. We are just hoping to provide consumers with another option.”
Morel’s goals are being achieved. Though the company just came out of beta, they already have members throughout the State and the Inland Empire. “We’ve got customers from Highland, Big Bear, Palm Springs, Riverside, Yucaipa, Hesperia, and more,” says Morel. “We’re only just now starting marketing efforts. Our analytics to date reveal that many of our users are finding us by doing Google searches for online tickets. This is clearly a service people need and want.”
Lottogopher is currently only available to California residents. But, Morel hopes to expand to other States within the next 12 months.