Rebranding A Lottery As A TV Game Show

Scientific Games is the first lottery company to create a national TV game show based on one of its multimillion-dollar properties. CCO Steve Saferin explains how they did it.

Rebranding A Lottery As A TV Game Show
[Photo: Ronda Churchill]

You’ve likely known of toy companies expanding their brands with TV shows based on their products. In a similar strategy, a lottery company has fashioned a TV game show based on one of its properties, for the first time, on a national level.


Lottery products and service provider Scientific Games Corp. (SG), under license from Hasbro, will premiere Monopoly Millionaires’ Club March 28 and 29 in syndication in 44 states (the ones that allow lotteries) and on March 31 nationally on GSN (Game Show Network), a digital cable and satellite TV channel. SG is both producing and syndicating through its recently formed production and distribution subsidiaries.

“Think of Deal or No Deal with Monopoly iconography,” says Steve Saferin, Scientific Games’ chief creative officer and president of its properties group. “It will be on twice in almost every market, with some stations giving it multiple runs. Individual state lotteries have run their own 30-minute poorly produced shows, but it’s never been done on a national level. While we’re not using groundbreaking technology, it’s the most ambitious set for a studio-based game show. There’s something like a million LED lights used.”

As part of a partnership with Caesar’s Entertainment Corp., the production shoots in Las Vegas, on the grounds of the Caesar’s owned Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino and Planet Hollywood, which also houses contestants.

Monopoly Millionaires’ Club shoots on Nevada’s largest soundstage, a 48,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility Scientific Games built for this program. In its first six episodes, the show had two $1 million winners and awarded a total $3.5 million in cash and prizes.Photo by Steve Reed

Monopoly Millionaires’ Club combines two brands: Monopoly Millionaire, which Hasbro added to its Monopoly board-game franchise three years ago, and Millionaires’ Club, a successful draw-based lottery that chooses winning numbers at random. As it launches, the TV show will extend its brand back into the lottery space with a new Monopoly Millionaires’ Club lottery scratch ticket, initially in 14 states. (Scratch tickets are a vibrant lottery segment, accounting for $48 billion, or nearly 70%, of the U.S. lottery industry’s annual $70 billion in revenues, says Saferin.)

In the hour-long game, hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell, audience members and Millionaires’ Club state lottery winners and their guests sit in five sections based on Monopoly-board tokens. One person from each section is preselected to compete in a series of minigames leading up to a final round where they can earn money for themselves and their section, with a potential $1 million jackpot. No skill is involved and contestants aren’t prescreened, with prizes paid from lottery money.

“So instead of playing for just themselves, they share with their audience section,” says Saferin. “That’s one of the things that gets each section so emotionally involved.”

Audience members cheer on their section’s game player. Photo by Ronda Churchill

The production also localizes the show by devoting a minute of airtime to each state’s lottery winner on the hometown affiliate. Friday Game Night‘s Todd Newton hosts that minigame portion, which shoots at the Planet Hollywood.

The TV production came about when the lottery trade group Multi-State Lottery Association put out a call in 2013 for TV game show ideas tied to a specific lottery. Ten entries were submitted, and four finalists gave an oral presentation in November of that year. SG’s pitch was selected the following April, and shot last month.

Steve Saferin

“It was a natural evolution of what Scientific Games has been trying to do when we acquired MDI Entertainment in 2003 to bring a higher level of entertainment to the lottery business by licensing a lot of entertainment-type programming,” says Saferin. (Saferin founded MDI, which acquired entertainment brands for the lotteries, after a long career in cable network development.)

Eventually, Saferin sees expanding SG properties into mobile gaming platforms, slot machines, and electronic kiosks. “There’s a lot going on with casino technology,” he says. “The idea is that we can take a property and deliver entertainment-based gaming content that people want to both watch and play.”

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.