Tapping into the popularity of food trucks, the D.C. Lottery is rolling out its own store on wheels with Tuesday’s debut of the Lucky Lottery mobile unit at Farragut Square.
It’s no coincidence the agency chose the local mobile-meal mecca for its coming-out party. D.C. Lottery hopes to lure the lunchtime crowd that swarms the square with a full line of lottery games, including scratch-off tickets, Powerball, D.C. Fast Play and Mega Millions. The agency is even taking cues from local chow wagons by scheduling appearances at sporting events and street fairs, like the food truck festival Truckeroo.
“Food trucks are all the rage in D.C. and we wanted to touch that market and bring in new customers,” said Tracey Cohen, D.C. Lottery’s chief operating officer.
The 26-foot long, lime-green mobile lottery store is actually a fully functioning food truck — with burners, refrigerators and all — being leased to the agency by Sam Ennis, owner of Black Diamond Catering in Salisbury, Md.
Ennis happened to be catering a commercial shoot for the agency’s “lottery intervention” campaign several months ago when he and Cohen started chatting about the proposed mobile unit. Ennis signed on to rent out and operate the truck through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, for $32,600.
Depending on the success of this pilot run, Cohen said, the agency may consider additional partnerships, including teaming with existing food trucks for hybrid mobile operations.
There has been a fervent effort, she noted, to expand the roster of traditional lottery retailers to generate more revenue for the District. Since September, 63 new retail sites have been added for a total of 505 stations at bars, convenience stores, supermarkets and other outlets throughout the city. On average, retailers can pocket $25,000 in annual commissions — some top earners take home as much as $200,000 a year.
In the wake of the recession the District has witnessed a dip in lottery revenue, projected to be $63 million this fiscal year, compared to $70.3 million in 2008. Jurisdictions across the country have posted similar declines, according to David G. Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada’s Center for Gaming Research.
Against this backdrop, the D.C. Lottery has in the past 17 months begun selling Mega Millions tickets and introduced the popular $20 instant scratch game, D.C. Black.
The Lucky Lottery store will showcase all of these offerings on the road, while advertising nearby lottery retailers to sustain customer interest, Cohen said. To further improve accessibility, the agency will before the end of the year unveil a hand-held device that can print tickets.
Not everyone is keen on these efforts to gin up business. Les Bernal, executive director of D.C.-based Stop Predatory Gambling, argues that “going into neighborhoods to push the lottery in a weak economy” is irresponsible. Mobile operations, along with D.C. Lottery’s efforts to legalize online gambling within city limits, he added, will result in reckless spending and drive local residents further into debt.
Cohen argued, “We face so much competition from surrounding jurisdictions and we know District residents are heading out of the city to gamble. We want to keep the money here for better schools, better roads, better neighborhoods.”