Schools win big as Virginia Lottery announces a record-setting year.
The successful launch of new online games and the continued strength of traditional lottery products sold at retail pushed the Lottery’s annual sales to nearly $3.3 Billion in FY21, a more than 50 percent sales increase over the prior year. Lottery profits, which are constitutionally required to be spent on Virginia K-12 public school programs, surged nearly 30 percent, topping $765 million.
The preliminary FY21 results were revealed during today’s meeting of the Lottery Board, and Gov. Ralph Northam attended to accept a ceremonial check for $765 million in Lottery profits for K-12 school programs from Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall. Official certification of the Lottery’s year-end results by the Auditor of Public Accounts is expected in mid-August.
“The Virginia Lottery is tasked with the important mission of supporting our public schools, and this year you really delivered,” Gov. Northam said. “Our Administration has focused on strengthening public education across the Commonwealth, and I wanted to be here today to personally congratulate the Virginia Lottery on its recording-breaking performance.”
“The Virginia Lottery delivered record results for Virginia public schools by engaging with new customers online and by enhancing many of our traditional games sold in thousands of retail stores across the state,” said Hall. “Utilizing technology, product innovation and tried-and-true business practices, the Lottery’s players, retail partners and staff delivered in a big way for the Commonwealth’s students and teachers.”
In FY21, the Lottery posted a record $3.26 billion in sales, up from $2.15 billion in FY20 — a 52 percent sales increase. The biggest driver of the increase was the introduction of online lottery sales. Online sales began on July 1, the first day of the fiscal year and the first day online iLottery play was authorized under legislation passed by the General Assembly in its 2020 session. Playing the Lottery online caught on quickly with Virginians and accounted for more than $807 million in FY21 sales.
Record FY21 profits of $765 million represented a 29 percent increase from the previous year. On average, the Virginia Lottery helps generate more than $2 million per day for K-12 schools. Lottery revenues traditionally represent about 10 percent of Virginia’s total K-12 education budget.
Along with the benefit to education in the Commonwealth, the Lottery also supports thousands of small businesses across Virginia. More than 5,300 bricks-and-mortar lottery retailers earned a total of $139 million in sales and cashing commissions in FY21, a $19 million increase over FY20.
“The Lottery partners with thousands of licensed retailers across Virginia, many of them small ‘mom-and-pop’ and minority-owned businesses,” said Hall. “These retailers continue to be the backbone of how we reach consumers, and we literally could not do it without them. We were especially pleased this year to see substantial sales increases at retail even after we added online play.”
Virginia Lottery players also had a banner year in FY21, winning a record $2.2 billion in prizes. Roughly 68 cents of each dollar spent on lottery tickets in Virginia is returned to customers in the form of prizes. Additionally, more than $10 million in unclaimed prize money in FY21 was deposited in the Literary Fund, which provides low-interest loans to localities for public school construction, renovations and technology upgrades.
Even with the record-shattering performance in FY21, the cost of running the Lottery in Virginia was kept to a frugal 4.5 percent of total sales — well below the 10 percent cap set by law. The Virginia Lottery operates entirely on revenue from the sale of Lottery tickets.
In FY21, the Lottery also pivoted to take on significant additional responsibilities assigned by the General Assembly: licensing and regulating mobile sports betting and casino gaming. Sports betting successfully launched in late January, and the Lottery has begun the licensure process for casino projects endorsed by local voters last fall in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Richmond’s casino proposal is expected to be presented to local voters in a referendum this November.
“The Lottery Board takes very seriously its new role in regulating expanded gaming in the Commonwealth,” Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid said. “We remain focused and committed to upholding the integrity and high standards the Lottery has maintained for more than three decades.”
For more information, including a localized list of FY20 Lottery funds to individual school districts, visit the Virginia Lottery’s Giving Back page. You can also follow the Lottery on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.