Case Study

A New Way to Play.

Playing the lottery.

Humans play games to create excitement, to make choices, to compete. Game designers often refer to “the magic circle,” a real or virtual space where unique rules apply yet anything can happen.

In early 2021, VA Lottery challenged WillowTree to extend their omnichannel approach to mobile gaming. How can we provide digital tools to activate a new generation of players and support the traditional retail experience?

With all VA Lottery profits benefiting K-12 education, a great digital experience could generate increased revenues for schools across the Commonwealth.

As always, WillowTree was game for the challenge.

Week One Outcomes.

May 12-18, 2022

players used the app in the first week after launch, nearly 24% of all Lottery players!


higher user retention on app vs. web (% of new users who return five days after their first visit).

Revenue Growth

total first-week sales generated from the app.

Designing a Consumer-Competitive User Experience.

While the app enhanced existing omnichannel infrastructure, including a retail locator and digital playslip scanner, taking a mobile-first approach meant exceeding consumer expectations for digital gameplay. “There’s a wholly new market for mobile gaming,” said WillowTree Design Director Alex McNeal. “The team created a dynamic, visually-exciting user experience that rivals top-ranking entertainment/gaming apps in the marketplace.”

How the VA Lottery Works for Education.

Since 1999, all Virginia lottery proceeds have been used for K-12 public education in Virginia.

FY2022 Sales: $3.75 billion

$2.68 billion
Generated for K-12 education*

$780 million
Retailer Compensation

$139 million
Operational Expenses

$158 million
*Not all proceeds earned in a fiscal year are appropriated in that year

“Our primary goal was to build a bespoke, best-in-class mobile experience that could support VA Lottery’s overall omnichannel strategy—allowing players to choose how, when, and where they want to play. We incorporated best practices in terms of navigation and user experience, but we also ensured VA Lottery could manage content and leverage the creative assets they receive from iLottery game creators.”

Tucker Legard
Engineering Director, WillowTree

Iterating and Evolving Across Multiple Versions and Releases.

Alongside our client team, WillowTree implemented an Agile process, planning out seven distinct releases for iOS and Android. This frequent release cadence allows for more robust and automated testing, while gathering analytics and iterating on user data after the initial launch.

Working with Partners to Navigate Complexity.

VA Lottery asked WillowTree to act as owner/operator of the digital product, integrating the tech stacks and legal frameworks of key lottery partners to ensure integrity, security, and accuracy. This included collaborating with partners responsible for retail games including scratchers as well as those developing digital online games. Gaming apps are closely reviewed through Google and Apple app store policy, so WillowTree will manage each new mobile release as it undergoes comprehensive scrutiny.

“WillowTree’s expertise and partnership is helping us achieve our goals of giving players a best-in-class mobile experience while supporting our overall omnichannel approach. This app enables us to reach a broader player base, helps with our acquisition efforts, and will maximize our return to K-12 eduation in Virginia.”

Deputy Executive Director of Lottery, VA Lottery

Extending Responsible Gaming to a Digital Platform.

In creating a top-flight customer experience, it was critically important to help players engage responsibly with the lottery. Strong responsible-gaming controls on VA Lottery’s online platform were extended to the mobile experience, including resources, FAQs, a Voluntary Exclusion Program, and the ability for users to set deposit and bet limits.

You’ve helped us execute a complex vision and grow our revenues, but I also love WillowTree’s culture. You do honest work and the integrity you have is priceless.”

Courtland Bluford
digital product owner, VA Lottery