The Virginia Lottery recorded $2.15 billion in sales during 2020, slightly lower than the 2019 figure, despite facing statewide shut downs in the spring and the growing economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery, gave a presentation Tuesday to members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, providing updates on the current trend and forecast as well as the implementation of expanded gaming options coming to the state.
“Considering the competitive pressure that we faced for much of the year – historical horse racing, grey machines, the global health crisis and that sharp impact on the overall economy – we were very pleased [to see] what we consider to be solid performance for FY 20,” Hall told the committee.
Hall first discussed the impact from COVID-19 on lottery retail sales by showing a month-to-month comparison of 2020 and 2019 sales between January and September.
Before the virus hit the United States, lottery sales were just slightly behind the 2019 figures, but decreased significantly in March, dropping to minus 21 percent of March 2019.
“Mid-March is when public awareness and concern about coronavirus first took hold. It’s when business restrictions and shelter in place guidance took effect,” Hall said. “We saw a sudden dramatic drop in lottery sales activity in March, which continued through much of April.”
April was not nearly as bad with retail sales decreasing by eight percent compared to April of 2019.
Starting in May and spanning through September, 2020 lottery sales increased by at least nine percent or more for those months, the largest occurring in July with a 17 percent jump.
Hall said the spring rebound could be attributed to several factors including retailers retrofitting their stores with plexiglass barriers on counters and other coronavirus adjustments as well as consuming becoming more comfortable in public spaces and specific business restrictions.
Although the Virginia Lottery did not meet or exceed the total sales of 2019 ($2.3 billion), they were able to exceed the fiscal year 2020 sales goals by one-tenth of a percent and revenue expectations by 1.5 percent, according to Hall.
This resulted in $595 million in lottery proceeds given to K-12 programs, albeit lower than 2019 proceeds of $649 million.
When talking about the launch of online lottery games, under the term iLottery, Hall said, “we continue to believe [iLottery] will strengthen overall lottery sales by reaching consumers anywhere they are, anytime they want” and since implementation traditional products have experienced significant sales growth, signaling that more accessible online games do not have an adverse effect on things like scratch tickets.
Hall also touched on the progress of bringing mobile sports betting to the Commonwealth in early 2021, a process that has been ongoing for several months now.
Currently, the lottery has begun accepting applications from mobile sports betting operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, Penn National Gaming and others, and has 90-days to review many aspects of the applicant companies.
The process for bringing casinos to multiple cities in Virginia, including the possibility of one in Richmond, was also discussed by Hall and committee members.
During a short question and answer period, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City County) brought up the diversification of gaming options and asked “is enough enough at this point?”
In response to Norment, Hall said: “The unique, perhaps once in a generation impact of the public health emergency, has prompted a push by the gaming industry for further expansion.
“Sufficient to say there will always be an industry interest in pushing the envelope forward and using whatever opportunity or tools are available. Virginia as a commonwealth is somewhat late to the conversation, but I believe is moving forward in a measured, responsible way.”
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