The Virginia Lottery’s new online offerings are driving an increase in revenue for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, which runs until the end of June. By February, online sales hit $436 million, about 21 percent of overall sales for that same period, according to lottery spokesperson John Hagerty.
“Fiscal Year 2021, which ends on June 30, is on track to break sales and profit records,” a Tuesday press release from the lottery states.
In 2020, the General Assembly approved online lottery ticket sales by passing Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment’s (R-James City) SB 922. In July 2020, the lottery introduced online sales of already popular games like Mega Millions and Powerball alongside instant online-only games that Hagerty said are similar to scratchers.
The lottery saw a decrease in sales in FY 2020 (July 2019 through June 2020) to about $2.15 billion, according to a financial report. The beginning of COVID-19’s impact in Virginia coincided with the end of FY 2020, driving lower sales. In FY 2019, sales were $2.29 billion, FY 2018 sales were $2.14 billion, and FY 2017 sales were $1.99 billion, according to a financial report.
Sales rebounded to normal levels by the beginning of FY 2021 in July. Hagerty told The Virginia Star that by the end of February, total lottery sales, including online sales, were just over $2 billion, a good sign for the lottery.
“The traditional way of buying lottery products, at the retail counter, has also seen a significant increase in sales over the same period. More than $1.6 billion in Virginia Lottery products have been sold at more than 5,000 retail locations across Virginia since July 1,” the press release states.
Hagerty said unusually high Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots in January helped drive the increased retail sales. In January, the Mega Million hit $1 billion for only the second time in its history. Also in January, the Powerball jackpot hit $731 million, the fourth largest jackpot in its history.
As the jackpots get higher, more people start talking about them, leading to more sales, including sales to pools of friends and to individuals who wouldn’t normally buy tickets, Hagerty said. Virginia generated $29.1 million in profit from the Mega Millions September through January jackpot run, according to a January Virginia Lottery press release.
But Hagerty said online sales were the biggest driver of increased sales.
“More than 163,000 unique players have won prizes playing the Virginia Lottery online, for a total of more than 85 million wins. The single largest online win was $2 million by Betty Wong of McLean,” the Tuesday press release states.
In FY 2020, the lottery generated $595 million in profit. All profit goes to support kindergarten through 12th grade public education in Virginia.
“Online players have shattered all of our expectations and allowed the Virginia Lottery to set the standard as the nation’s most successful online lottery launch,” Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall said in the Tuesday press release. “Offering consumers the choice of playing online is part of being relevant in today’s marketplace while also strengthening and supporting the traditional retail side of the business.”
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