The Ohio Lottery offers a variety of holiday- and winter-themed scratch-off games. Lottery sales increase in Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties during the holiday season. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Ohio Lottery sales spike with arrival of holidays

Don’t give lottery tickets as presents to kids, experts warn.

The flu isn’t the only thing going around this holiday season. Some Ohioans are coming down with lottery fever.

Lottery sales have risen in Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties since the release of holiday scratch-off tickets, and in the past, lottery sales in local counties have increased during the holidays.

Across the state, the holiday period is about the most popular time of year for lottery game sales, said Marie Kilbane, spokesperson for the Ohio Lottery Commission. Around the state, sales are up nearly 40 percent since the holiday games arrived.

Statewide, the week of Dec. 15 to 21 had the highest volume of lottery sales of any week so far in 2019. In 2018, the week before Christmas also had more lottery sales than any prior week.

Many tickets are purchased as stocking-stuffers or add-on presents, and the lottery offers many holiday-themed games.

“Instant scratch-offs make great gifts,” Kilbane said. “People are in a festive mood and are out in stores anyway shopping.”

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But some people say that lottery tickets are not appropriate gifts for everyone, especially youths whose exposure to gambling early in life can have long-term consequences.

“Be mindful of who you are gifting them to,” said Derek Longmeier, executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.

Holiday sales account for a huge portion of annual scratcher sales, and U.S. lotteries have all kinds of “consumer-pleasing” holiday offerings, including peppermint-scented tickets, tickets shaped like wreathes, games featuring pets in holiday costumes and tickets with sparkly designs, says La Fleur’s Magazine, a publication focused on lotteries.

The first batch of holiday scratch-off tickets were released by the Ohio Lottery on Oct. 15, and a second set of holiday and winter-themed games were released about six weeks later, Kilbane said.

The Ohio Lottery in October released a $20 “Merry Millions” scratch-off, which is the first $20 holiday scratch-off since 2005, Kilbane said. The Ohio Lottery also released its first oversized, or “gigantix,” holiday scratch-off — a $10 “Happy Holidays” game.

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In the first eight weeks on the market, holiday games accounted for about one-quarter of all scratch-off purchases, Kilbane said, and holiday scratch-off sales are up 38% percent this year compared to 2018.

“It’s early, but we’re really pleased with sales,” Kilbane said.

Locally, people are buying more lottery tickets heading into the holidays.

Between Oct. 13 and Dec. 10, consumers in Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties purchased about $34.2 million worth of lottery tickets, including draw games and instant games, according to lottery data obtained by the Dayton Daily News. The state only provided data from those three counties to the Daily News.

Ticket sales were up nearly 6% from the preceding eight-week period.

Last year, sales of tickets increased by 15% in mid-October to early December, leading up to the holidays, compared to the previous two-month period.

Holiday lottery tickets are colorful and festive, but they aren’t good gift ideas for everyone.

The Ohio Lottery says that lottery products should not be given or gifted to minors because research shows that youth gambling can lead to more severe gambling disorders later in life and has been linked to other addictive behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and drug use.

Most lottery tickets are losers and have no value, and people instead could have gifted money, gift cards or other items benefiting recipients, opponents note.

But it’s actually worse if young people get winning tickets, because often they will chase that experience into adulthood, even though the odds are not in their favor and they are unlikely to come out on top, said Longmeier, with the Problem Gambling Network.

“We know that a big first win is a prime risk factor for folks who will develop gambling problems later down the road,” he said.

Lottery tickets are eye-catching and convenient purchases, but they only belong in the right hands, Longmeier said.

About 90 percent of the population can gamble without developing problems, but too many parents and adults let children scratch off their tickets, which can contribute to addictive behaviors, he said.

“To a young person, they can’t understand you are paying money to win money,” he said. “They think this is just free money.”

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