Japan approves online lottery sales


Aiming to boost slumping sales, the internal affairs ministry said Friday that starting in October, people will be able to purchase tickets online for most public-run lotteries.

Gamblers will be able to buy tickets for the popular Jumbo Takarakuji series, which are sold five times annually and offers a prize of ¥1 billion, as well as regular Takarakuji tickets and the Numbers and Loto series.

Those wishing to buy the tickets online will need to register as members on the website. Cash prizes will be wired to winners’ designated bank accounts.

“One reason (to push the online option) is because lottery sales have been decreasing,” said an official at the ministry, which deals with laws regulating lotteries.

Sales of lottery tickets have been falling since they peaked in fiscal 2005, when about ¥1.1 trillion worth of tickets were sold. In fiscal 2016, sales came to just over ¥845 billion.

The official said about 93 percent of tickets are sold at outlets commonly set up near train stations. But their business hours are limited and there are some areas which do not have the outlets, so there are likely many missed sales opportunities, she said. Online sales will allow people to buy lottery tickets around the clock.

Also, those aged 50 or older account for about 60 percent of store sales, which implies that “efforts to reach potential customers in younger generations have been weak, and that expanding sales channels to web and smartphones is needed,” she said.

Currently, some banks sell the Numbers and Loto series to customers using online banking services. In both series, users pick numbers and receive prizes depending on how many match those in a drawing.

Lottery tickets are sold by prefectural governments and major cities. A portion lottery revenues is retained by the prefectures or cities and is used as part of their budgets.

Internal affairs minister Seiko Noda said she hopes to see the new service attract 500,000 users in its first six months.