On August 24th of this year, Mavis J. Wanczyk claimed the largest undivided Powerball lottery winnings in history. The prize was $759 million, which she chose to claim in a single payment of $480 million. She promptly quit her job in a Massachusetts hospital.
While claiming her prize and meeting with reporters, she indicated that a few days before she had stood in line with about a dozen other hopeful ticket purchasers in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
One of those who did not win the Powerball in late August is the analyst writing this report. I am not a regular player of lotteries, but the huge August prize was too tempting to pass up. I purchased my tickets (six tickets for US$12) at a local convenience store, standing in line with about six or seven other individuals hoping to win the big prize. I had also played the lottery the week before purchasing the tickets at the same local store — standing in line to do so.
Unfortunately, it was back to work for me on Monday morning after Mrs. Wanczyk won the huge prize. While playing the lottery certainly doesn’t make economic sense to me, as the odds of winning are extraordinarily small, nevertheless it’s mindless entertainment and something that I can do with family and friends. It’s fun.
Of course, I’m not alone in my desire to occasionally play the numbers, as tens of millions throughout the world also share this passion. In fact, it’s a growing passion. As is outlined in Exhibit 1 below, during 2016, lottery ticket sales globally grew by more than 4%, doubling the growth rate of 2015. Over the past five years the annual compound growth rate was 5.7%, of course, well above GDP growth for nearly every major country in the world.
As is outlined below, the worldwide growth in lotteries dwarfs the growth of most business segments in the economy. It’s a successful “business” that generates billions of dollars per year and it continues to grow at an amazing rate.
LottoGopher, began trading as a public company in early 2017, so this is a new operation without much history. The shares trade on the U.S. OTCQB market with the symbol LTTGF, in Canada on the CSE under the symbol LOTO, and in Germany under the symbol 2LG.
The Company is approaching a market that has seen little innovation, and they have already been very successful in the very important California market. They now seek to leverage this experience to 22 other U.S. states. We will be watching its process toward this goal.
As is outlined in Exhibit One, while global growth in lottery ticket sales have slowed a bit over the past two years, overall growth is still very significant. The period between 2012 ̶ 2014 showed extraordinarily high growth ranging from 4.9% during 2013 up to nearly 10% during 2014. There really are not many businesses worldwide that can claim such fantastic growth of many years. Lotteries are a big business and the market is growing at a fantastic rate.
One of the fast-growing segments of the worldwide lottery market is the North American segment, especially within the United States. As is outlined in Exhibit Two, lottery fever is approaching staggering proportions in the United States. Last year Americans spent nearly $70 billion on various lotteries. This amount is especially noteworthy considering there are approximately 320 million people living in the United States – meaning there was about $206 spent on lotteries by each person.
As is outlined in Exhibit Two, the market for lotteries within the United States exceeds the size of many other markets related to leisure activities of Americans easily eclipsing sports tickets, books, video games, movies, and music sales, combined.
Source: U.S. Lottery Association
Exhibit Two – The facts relative to the size of the U.S. lottery market are staggering. While sporting tickets and movie sales U.S.-wide equaled nearly $30 billion, lottery ticket sales totaled over twice that amount. In fact, American lottery sales easily eclipsed sports tickets, book sales, videogame sales, movie box office receipts and online music sales combined. While the initial hope that lottery legalization in the United States would provide substantial money to serve the public good, this has only partially come true. For example, of the $70 billion spent on lotteries for full year 2015, $43 billion was allocated toward prizes, just over $3 billion for administration and less than $15 billion going toward stated lottery purposes to serve the public good.
In many cases, the lottery goes well past simple entertainment for many people. For example, the residents of several U.S. states spend a disproportionate amount on lotteries. Residents of Massachusetts and Rhode Island spend nearly $735 and $514, respectively, each year on the lottery. In many cases these amounts account for a very significant portion of disposable incomes. Other states are far less excited about lotteries. In North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma, playing the lottery is not culturally acceptable with residents in these states, averaging only 5% of the spending in Massachusetts on a per capita basis.
While there are clearly geographic areas within the United States where consumers spend too much on the lottery, the vast majority of Americans are responsible lottery players who play the numbers for fun and entertainment.
While many opponents of the lottery industry espouse that lotteries take advantage of those in lower income brackets, the facts speak otherwise. In many of the U.S. states, those earning below $30,000 per year are significantly underrepresented in the total pool of lottery ticket purchasers. In fact, those who earn over $75,000 are over three times more likely to purchase tickets compared to those in the lower income brackets.
While there is clearly a large and growing market for lottery tickets, purchasing a chance at becoming a multimillionaire is hardly convenient. The vast majority of lottery tickets are purchased at convenience stores. During certain periods, such as August of 2017, when lottery prizes balloon, there are often long lines at ticket purchase locations. While convenience and liquor store retailers certainly relish the fact that lottery players must come into their venue in order to purchase tickets, it’s not especially convenient for the lottery player.
And, of course, many who want to purchase tickets need to stop by retail establishments where they normally do not shop, which is very inconvenient.
Of course, retailers like this situation as they not only make considerable money on ticket sales, but those who come in to purchase tickets often purchase other items at the same time. Thus, the retail purchase of lottery tickets has become an important component for thousands of small retailers in the United States. Many simply won’t survive without these important direct and indirect revenue streams.
An extremely common way for Americans to play the lottery is to pool cash among friends and coworkers with one person purchasing the tickets for the group. The group members can bond through this experience hoping to win the big prize that can be shared among the group members. This pooling oftentimes presents challenges for the group. One person must be in charge of holding the tickets, and considering most winning lottery tickets are “bearer instruments” (meaning whoever holds the ticket gets to claim the prize), there could be a temptation by the holder of the ticket to defraud the others.
An additional significant problem relative to purchasing lottery tickets is the requirement to pay in cash. The vast majority of states prohibit lottery players from using credit cards to purchase tickets at retail locations. While more and more people prefer to use electronic commerce, such as credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, etc., the purchase of lottery tickets has not followed the trend.
The issue of not being able to purchase lottery tickets via electronic means is becoming a growing problem aside from the lack of convenience issue. Millennials, (consumers born between 1982 and 2004), which of course represent one of the most significant buying groups in American society, are increasingly shying away from lottery purchases. This is a major concern for lottery officials. While there are many issues relative to why Millennials shy away from lotteries that cannot be solved by lottery officials, certainly one of the issues that can be solved is making purchases more convenient for members of this demographic group and more in line with their normal purchasing patterns – paying in cash is certainly not consistent with the normal purchasing patterns for Millennials.
In summary, there are clearly many issues relative to the marketing of American lotteries. It’s well behind the times of the new economic realities of how American consumers are increasingly purchasing goods and services. The purchase process is antiquated, and this likely reduces the amount that older people are able to spend on lottery tickets.
The situation is even worse relative to the important millennial demographic who is already somewhat turned off by lottery participation, but are further alienated due to the antiquated cash-based, brick and mortar purchasing requirement.
While North American lotteries are clearly popular and growing, lottery officials also recognize there are fundamental issues that have to be solved if their “cash cow” is going to continue to grow and thrive. Actually, considering how antiquated the marketing of lotteries has become, we find it quite amazing the industry has been able to sustain current growth rates.
In order to address the difficulty in purchasing, many state lotteries have now implemented ticket purchase kiosks in retail locations. While these kiosks function in a very similar manner to automatic teller machines, lottery officials have been surprised about the lack of popularity of these new devices.
In our opinion, no industry, including the North American lottery industry, is immune to the fundamental changes occurring in the worldwide economy.
Lotteries in the U.S. need to change or they run the risk of becoming casualties of a changing marketplace.
While there are some states that have very limited online purchase capabilities, there has been no national company that has implemented an e-commerce-oriented online purchase solution.
This situation is beginning to change via a relatively new public company called LottoGopher.
LottoGopher allows for online purchasing of lottery tickets with the simplicity of credit card or debit card transactions. While the Company is currently only operational in California, it is in process of expanding to an additional 22 states. This 23-state market penetration will easily give LottoGopher access to well more than 75% of the total lottery market, based on both the number of tickets purchased and the value of these tickets.
LottoGopher provides some unique capabilities that address many of the problems we outlined above.
Any discussion concerning moving lottery participation to the online world must consider the self-interests and capabilities of the major parties involved. For example, state lottery officials have much to gain by moving to an online purchasing environment, but they also have a lot to lose if it is done incorrectly. The lottery agencies lack the technological and personnel resources that would be required for such an implementation.
State lottery procedures have developed over an extended period of time and for the most part these procedures are robust and there are relatively few errors that develop. State lottery officials are often hesitant to move to an online venue due to the risk of poor implementation that would alienate many constituents.
Of course, there’s a lot of money involved in the lottery business and people get rather angry when there are mistakes relative to money. We can only imagine the uproar in the press and among lottery players if the movement to an online lottery purchase solution is mishandled by these quasi-governmental agencies!
Certainly, the risk is simply too high for any lottery official.
There is also an additional major issue relative to state lottery officials openly advocating movement to on an online environment. That issue has to do with the main distributors of the product – the retailers. Convenience stores, liquor stores and other convenience-oriented retail establishments account for a significant portion of lottery sales. Many of these retailers depend on lottery revenues in order to make ends meet. State lottery officials are always hesitant to openly advocate online sales at the risk of alienating this important constituency group.
LottoGopher has a tried and true online lottery purchase solution that state lottery officials can accept and even tacitly promote, while not openly advocating movement away from the retail base for ticket purchases.
We think the management team at LottoGopher should be commended on its foresight in its strategic market planning in that it allows the state lottery official to begin to accept online sales – It’s not going to be a mass adoption in our opinion – but rather a slow creep toward the online world, and LottoGopher is on the ground floor to manage this migration.
One of the issues that limits the migration of lotteries and the purchase of lottery tickets from the world of brick-and-mortar to the world of online is government compliance.
State and federal government regulators and legislatures have enacted a multitude of restrictions relating to online gaming and online lottery sales. Navigating these compliance waters is extremely complex and requires significant know-how. As is outlined in Exhibit Three below, LottoGopher has spent a significant amount of time and money on these regulatory and compliance issues.
Nowhere has this regulatory compliance issue been more important than in the state of California. As many know, California is the sixth or seventh largest economy in the world, but it’s also one of the most regulated. We believe it is significant that LottoGopher has navigated the California environment successfully dating all the way back to 2010. The Company is now fully compliant with California state lottery laws and regulations. We think this is quite an accomplishment.
LottoGopher’s website is also a data-collection tool that can be monetized by the Company. As the site grows in popularity, more and more lottery player and statistical data will be accumulated. This data will allow LottoGopher to produce important demographic-related statistics that can be used by LottoGopher to improve uptake and marketing of its service. This data can also be sold to third parties, or even lottery officials, who were seeking insight and information about the lottery marketplace and its players.
The site can also be an important advertising venue for third party marketers. There will be specific demographic and consumer behavior information on individuals that will visit and/or subscribe to the LottoGopher site. The Company can monetize this information.
The Company has already begun to implement important advertising related features that will assist marketers in their efforts. While we are certainly excited about the fees LottoGopher will charge consumers who wish to purchase tickets, we believe that perhaps the advertising revenues that can be gained from the demographic could possibly eclipse those revenues in the future.
We are also very interested in the subscription service the Company has implemented. This service holds the promise to turn irregular players into regular players. Thus, creating additional revenue opportunities for the Company while boosting overall play.
Likely it’s too early to tell, but we believe the prospects are exciting relative to further monetization of the LottoGopher business. We think there are many additional ways the management team can sell the data that it accumulates on this important segment of the marketplace.
Any analysis of the LottoGopher team needs to address its most important strategic partner – European-based, Lottoland.
In some ways the LottoGopher service is modeled after the very successful European-based services provided by Lottoland. Formed in 2013, Lottoland provides access to online digital scratch cards, online table and card games, and slot games, in addition to allowing online purchasing for many U.S. and European lotteries. The Company has gained licenses in Great Britain, Australia, Ireland, and Gibraltar, where Lottoland is based. Sales of over €300 million are claimed for 2016 with a customer base of more than six million people. Growth of the Company has been huge and in many ways can be used as a model on how to possibly significantly expand LottoGopher’s operations within the United States.
Additionally, we think it is noteworthy that Lottoland has been so very successful in navigating the European regulatory waters. While the regulations in Europe are not nearly as stringent as those in the United States, especially relating to the Unlawful Internet Gaming Act and the Wire Act, the Board of Directors and the management team of Lottoland, we believe, will be able to significantly assist the management team of LottoGopher in navigating what will likely be a similar set of regulatory hurdles.
We also think there are some exciting merger possibilities between the two companies, especially if LottoGopher effectively penetrates the additional 22 state lottery systems in the United States it is currently targeting.
During September of 2017, the Company announced that actor William Shatner had signed on to be the LottoGopher spokesperson. We like Shatner in this role. He is certainly well known to Baby Boomers, while at the same time being known as almost a cult icon to younger people.
James Morel is another online pioneer who is CEO of the LottoGopher team. Likely most significant of his accomplishments was1-800 POSTCARDS, which he founded, which was subsequently recognized by Inc. as one of the fastest-growing private companies in 2010. Morel has over 25 years of experience creating and growing consumer and B2B brands. He previously founded Dr. TATTOFF, a chain of laser tattoo removal clinics located in CA, AZ, GA and TX, where he served as CEO and Director. Mr. Morel was also the founder and President of 1-800 POSTCARDS, the New York City based promotional printing company, and produced reality television shows including “Star Dates” for the E! network. He holds a dual degree in Psychology and Advertising from the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.
Ted Dhanik is one of the main founders of LottoGopher and an important part of the management team. He has a strong pedigree relative to innovation, having been part of the launch team at MySpace, which many people regard as one of the 1st important social media venues. The company was ultimately acquired for $580 million. He was also an important part of the growth at another company called LowerMyBills.com and he was an integral part of the ultimate purchase of the organization by a privately held organization for $330 million. He has been involved in several other highly successful operations including EngageBDR, where he gained valuable experience relative to many of the marketing and online advertising techniques that are now being utilized by the LottoGopher operation.
A recent addition to the board of directors is Kevin Harrington. Mr. Harrington is a very successful business executive, marketing tycoon, and world-renowned entrepreneur. Kevin is well known as an original shark on the Emmy-winning TV show, Shark Tank, as well as the inventor of the “Infomercial” and pioneer of the As-Seen-On-TV empire. He was named one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the world by Entrepreneur Magazine, having launched over twenty businesses that saw sales exceeding $100 million
LottoGopher has put forth some aggressive growth numbers to its investors. Having only been public since early 2017, the Company is already starting to see impressive uptake on its website. As is outlined in Exhibit Four, the Company is estimating nearly 200,000 members by the end of 2018 growing to almost a half million users by 2020.
While at first glance these estimates may seem aggressive, the Company is already seeing some strong uptick toward these goals.
Among the new visitors to the website, approximately 7% are registering with an e-mail address. Typically, e-commerce marketers get pretty excited with conversion rates in the low single digits. Therefore, a 7% e-mail registration rate is rather strong. Even if these registrars do not become immediate customers, the e-mails can be loaded into an e-mail marketing program for eventual conversion to customer status. This is a powerful marketing tool that typically provides strong future conversion for marketers.
In fact, recent statistics show that just over 40% of those registering with an e-mail address do become members of the site. Again, relative to other e-commerce operations, this is a pretty impressive number. It is also impressive that 12% of those becoming members on a free basis eventually convert to being paying customers.
Again, impressive statistics.
While we are pretty excited with the statistics, we remind our readers that these stats are primarily relative only to California. With an additional 22 states in play for eventual LottoGopher penetration, the total number of registered e-mail addresses and paying customers could grow very quickly in the future.
The management team believes that its cost structure is sufficiently low enough to allow for much of these revenues to be moved to the bottom line as profits. For example, the Company is estimating EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of approximately 50% of revenues. Please reference Exhibit Four.
We remind our readers that the business plan here is an online one, which involves very little capital expenditures and personnel expenses. Certainly, if the revenue growth does come in as estimated, much of the revenues can be brought down to the profit line.
We also see an additional angle to the Company’s online platform and business plan. With the extensive experience gained in the California market, we believe the Company could leverage its platform directly as a packaged software solution directly to a state lottery provider. As we explained above, we believe, most state lottery officials are hesitant to alienate the important retailers by openly advocating moving the purchase of lottery tickets to an all online venue. With this said, however, we do believe there will likely be movement toward doing exactly this and it could be that LottoGopher’s platform could be the perfect software solution to meet these needs. We don’t think this is something that will develop over the short term, but we certainly think there are midterm and longer-term possibilities relative to this area.
LottoGopher completed its acquisition to become a publicly traded company in early 2017 and has also gained a listing to trade in Canada and Germany.
In the U.S., there are approximately 64 million shares issued and outstanding. With the shares trading at approximately US$0.30, the Company is being valued by the marketplace at approximately US$19 million.
Additionally there are approximately 15 million outstanding options and warrants, most of which are at significantly higher prices than where the stock is currently trading, which is usually looked upon rather favorably.
As of the end of the period ending June 30, 2017, the Company had approximately C$2.8 million of assets and rather modest liabilities at approximately C$666,000. Revenues reported during the period were negligible, but we expect that considering the Company’s start up status.
Based on management’s estimates we expect this revenue number to grow significantly over future periods.
We see this Company doing something that’s extremely innovative. The worldwide and North American lottery markets continue to grow at paces that significantly exceed that of GDP for most countries.
Within the United States there is certainly a growing market for lotteries, but there has been little to no technological or Internet related innovation in an extended period of time. This certainly bodes well for LottoGopher as there are few companies addressing this marketplace, while the stated national lotteries have been slow to implement e-commerce solutions as regulations restrict such activities.
In our opinion, no market is immune to the forces of Internet and broadband revolution and we believe the lottery market will be no different. Clearly, we believe lotteries will increasingly be moving toward online venues, and with a significant lead relative to this direction, LottoGopher is likely very well positioned.
We also like the angle of this Company allowing state lottery officials to tacitly endorse online lottery participation via embracing LottoGopher, while not alienating the very important retailer who is the current backbone of lottery ticket distribution.
We also think there’s an interesting millennial marketing angle relative to the company. State lottery officials are really at odds as how to attract Millennials to the lottery and as of yet have come up with few successful formulas to increase participation. While there are many reasons for less than robust Millennial participation, certainly one of the underlying factors is the antiquated cash-based, brick and mortar distribution system of the lottery business. By being able to bring online purchasing to the lottery business, LottoGopher could be an important part of the solution relative to the Millennial issue.
The management team of this Company, and its strategic partner, Lottoland, are also critical success factors in our opinion.
The management team has been involved in other innovative online businesses and we believe this experience can be leveraged at this Company.
In our opinion, there’s also a significant aspect to having successfully navigated the California regulatory environment, and we believe the experience management has gained relative to this issue could prove useful as the Company seeks to gain entry into the other 22 U.S. states being targeted.
We see LottoGopher as a real innovator and a company to watch over the coming years. Competition seems all but nonexistent, and having early successes in the California market certainly bodes well for penetrating the markets in other U.S. states, in our opinion.
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