India's online lottery is growing, but are governments ready to make the digital transition

Lottery remains to be India’s favorite game, and that is even more evident during the coronavirus pandemic. In times of crisis, people are grasping onto things that provide hope and will make them feel in control—so it’s no surprise that online lottery in India have become more relevant than ever in fueling optimism among players.

‘True’ online lottery only a fraction of entire India market

Despite being the most popular form of gambling in the country, there is scarce government data on the sector although the available studies and surveys paint a thriving industry, especially when it comes to state lotteries. A recent analysis of the lottery industry in India highlighted the actual state and huge prospects of the vertical across the country.

The ENV Media research, which segmented the market by demographics, legal and technological demands, showed over 30 percent of all organic search was related to “lottery” terms—with the top 30 keyword combinations surpassing 8 million monthly searches.

Up to two-thirds of gamers prefer paper and online lottery over casino or other betting, with male players dominating the scene with 79.24 percent of all registered users, according to the report which supplemented industry research with organic search aggregated data of users that accessed the online lottery page during the period of January 1-July 12, 2021.

In terms of age, 18-24 years old make up a quarter of all registered users with 24.96 percent, while players within the 25-34 age bracket make up 31.44 percent of all users. The study also showed how players are more “loyal” to lottery as they get older.

 “Together, under 34-year-olds account for 56.40% of the registered user base. While this is valid for online lottery players only, not regular paper lottery, the above references to typical players slightly under 30 are not far off the mark, statistically speaking,” the analysts said.

Online lottery an untapped market for India operators

There is no better time for the lottery sector to make the digital move. India, after all, is already the second largest mobile gaming market with an estimated 760 million internet users—more than half of whom play their games via mobile devices.

To put things in perspective, government-run lotteries in India was estimated to be worth around Rs 50,000 crore per year, although the estimates have shrunk to about Rs 15,000 crore amid sales drops and illegal competition. The so-called “true” online lottery, however, only accounts for a fraction of the total market, ENV Media researchers noted.

Currently, online lottery operations in India still involve ticket sales via retailers, with the entire operation controlled by a central server managed by the state government. Paper-based lotteries cater to players with limited access to technology, while online lotteries are seen to be more appealing to tech-savvy consumers. But the times are changing, and there are other factors—including ticket prices and availability, technology use, and jackpot size—that now determine “the sub-groups of users that find one type of lottery appealing over another.”

“An efficient online lottery distribution would speed up sales and payouts, even if it leads to somewhat more expensive tickets and a relative tech barrier for some users,” according to the ENV Media research. “However, provided that the average desi consumer feels comfortable using a mobile phone in this day and age – and that the demand for lottery games should be a constant in the long run – many States need to reconsider their stance on an online and mobile lottery if they are to make up their losses and prepare for the future of legal lotteries in India.”


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