CLEVELAND (AP) - The Ohio Lottery, the reliable betting outlet in Ohio for decades, is pumping up its marketing in the face of a growing array of alternatives including four casinos and racetracks with slots-like betting.
Vice president Jeff Sinacori with Scientific Games, supplier of the lottery's instant tickets, says the way to respond is with basic merchandising.
Scientific Games promotes SalesMaker, which Sinacori said has been adopted by lotteries in nine states and four countries.
Sales of Ohio Lottery standbys like instant tickets and the Pick 3 daily number game have dropped or flattened as customers have cut back or moved to the state's new casinos and racinos.
Sinacori tells The Plain Dealer of Cleveland the campaign is "Marketing 101" for store owners who often display products haphazardly.
"A lot of retailers have 500 lighters on the counter, and you're selling seven a day," said Sinacori who formerly owned a successful lottery outlet in Long Island, N.Y. "Why would you do that? You're taking up valuable real estate."
Lottery officials intensified their approach to merchandising more than a year ago and have seen results: 10 stores that received the treatment in the Akron area have collectively increased their sales of instant tickets by 7 percent.
The number of makeovers has reached about 100, a small portion of the state's 9,000-plus retail sites.
In Lake County northeast of Cleveland, a half-dozen lottery employees pulled up a store in Wickliffe and launched into an analysis of its shortcomings.
Owner Prakash Patel and his wife, Pinnika, welcomed the assistance. Prakash Patel said the lottery accounts for half of the store's sales, but instant tickets are down 7 percent since the couple took over the location in March.
Crew leader Michelle Frabott, the lottery's retail sales manager, said the Patels keep a neat shop when compared with many her workers see. But she also found plenty of ways to grab customers' attention on arrival and hold it.
The countertop was cleared of distractions. Slim Jims and pistachios remained but were off center stage.
Candy that had shared an instant-ticket scratching station was replaced by more winning tickets and notice of their jackpots.
Patricia Vasil, the lottery's deputy director for sales management, said retailers sometimes resist the team's recommendations. She said a few have allowed the makeovers, only to backslide into clutter creep.
"A lot of times, I tell them, 'You're a carryout, and they know you sell beer. They don't know you sell lottery,' " Vasil said.
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