It's been nearly a month since the state of Montana imposed social distancing rules and stay-at-home orders that required bars, restaurants and casinos to basically shut down. While you can get food to go, you can't get a take-out version of a keno machine.  So what's a gambler to do?

I talked to a buddy the other day (someone who in pre-corona times would hit the casino almost daily) and asked him how he's holding up. After all, gambling can be an addiction. Take away the endorphin rush of gaming + remove the social aspect of sitting at your favorite casino, chatting with the staff or playing machines with friends and suddenly you might find yourself a little lost.

My friend said since he can't shove a twenty into anything, he's been placing his gaming dollars on scratch tickets. Makes sense. I don't buy a ton of scratch tickets personally, but some of the games are pretty fun. The various bingo and crossword games are a couple of my favorites. I feel like I get my $3 or $5 worth of entertainment on them even when I don't win. Heck, some of them take 15 minutes to scratch. That's worth a couple of bucks to me.

According to my very informal survey (which included three people... my gambling buddy and two gas station clerks), scratch ticket sales are up in Montana. I reached out to Jennifer McKee, Communications Manager at the Montana Lottery to see if she could confirm my pathetic survey. Jennifer said that it's too soon for them to know the exact sales numbers of scratch tickets in the weeks since the stay-at-home order. She said they have not seen any unusual trends or spikes.

We also chatted briefly about sports betting. The machines were rolled out to retailers in Montana literally a day or two before the shut down. Unfortunate timing. Unlike the lottery vending machines you see in gas station and grocery stores, the sports betting machines are only located at places with full liquor and gaming licenses. So basically they are not accessible at this time. McKeen added that the Montana Lottery is not promoting sports betting right now, for obvious reasons.

I didn't think I would miss the casino that much. It turns out, maybe I do. Guess I'll grab some scratchers on the way home tonight.

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