New Illinois online instant draw games include Piggy Bank Bucks, Hot Dice, Blackjack, Illinois Jackpot and Quick Spot

Illinois Online Lottery Adds ‘Instant Draw’ Games To Its Lineup

“Instant draw” lotteries may be a bit of an oxymoron, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming popular in some states. Illinois was one of the more recent states to adopt them, just last year, and has now brought them online. The new online version of the games went live on Nov. 15 without much fanfare.

The Land of Lincoln was the first state to pass an online lottery bill, but has recently found itself behind the times because of its decision to limit online sales to draw tickets only. Lawmakers drafted the law in question in 2009, though it took until 2012 for online draw sales to begin. Georgia likewise started online draw sales the same year, but added instant games just three years later. Michigan had already done so in the meantime, introducing both draw and instant online games in 2014.

As of last month, there were seven states with full-featured online lotteries (plus D.C.) and another seven, including Illinois, doing draw sales only. Creating this new category of “instant draw” games may have been Illinois’ way of catching up with the pack, without the need to formally change its policies.

According to the lottery’s press release, the retail versions of these games have collectively generated $48.3 million in sales since their launch 14 months ago. As with traditional draw lotteries, some of the games feature only fixed payouts, while others have a progressive jackpot as the top prize.

How do ‘instant draws’ differ from regular instants?

Traditional retail instants are fairly distinct from instant draws. The difference gets fuzzier online, however.

Traditional retail instants come on pre-printed scratch or pull-tab tickets. Instant draws are printed on demand from the same machine as draw tickets. The difference from traditional draws is that the results of the “instant draw” are generated at the same time and printed on the same ticket.

Online, however, both types of games are generated on the fly by the software. There’s no difference in where the ticket “comes from.”

There is also a bit less of an interactive element for the instant draws. The retail version has all the information printed right on the ticket, and the player can read off whether they won or not without scratching or pulling anything. This, too, gets a little blurry online, as the online instant draws have some animation added.

The remaining distinction is in how the player finds out if they won. Online instants come with a variety of mechanics, some almost like slot machines. Instant draws provide a set of player numbers and a set of draw numbers. Comparing the two determines the prize, but this isn’t always a straight number-matching mechanic. For instance, the Illinois lottery offers an instant draw blackjack game, where wins are determined by the number of player hands whose value exceeds the corresponding dealer hand.

Ultimately, though, this is a cosmetic distinction without a meaningful difference. Flipping a coin, rolling for evens or odds on a die, or pulling red or black from a deck of cards are all mathematically identical 50/50 propositions. Similarly, both types of instant lotteries offer the player an array of possible prizes at fixed odds.

Online gambling revenue increasingly important

In states which have instant online lotteries, their growth has been outpacing retail sales. That’s easy to see in the numbers Michigan has been putting up as an early adopter. The Covid pandemic brought even more attention to online lotteries – and online gambling in general – because of the impact it had on in-person gambling, including retail lottery sales.

Of course, the legalization of sports betting in Illinois means the state does already have one online gambling channel. However, not everyone’s a sports fan, and there are a lot of lottery players with no interest in sports betting, and vice versa.

Illinois made an attempt this year to expand its online gambling marketplace to include casino and poker. That effort’s officially dead in the water for this year, however. Even the bill’s sponsors don’t think its odds are good for 2022. At this point, cautiously optimistic timelines for Illinois iGaming would have it launching in late 2023 at the earliest.

The three states similar in size to Illinois which have online casinos will all exceed $1 billion in gross revenue this year, and receive hundreds of millions in tax dollars. Online instant draw games alone won’t come close to that. However, given the frustrating delays the state is facing in getting iGaming up and running, it’s unsurprising that Illinois is looking for such ways to generate some additional online revenue in the meantime.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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