Sports Betting Slows While Scratch-Off Sales Remain Steady This Summer

Written By Matt Boecker on July 19, 2022 - Last Updated on August 1, 2023
September Virginia Lottery Winners

As the calendar year hurtles into mid-July, Virginia sports betting crawls into the dog days of summer.

It wasn’t long ago that Virginians could bet on NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, college baseball and more. But now, the calendar has diminished to Major League Baseball, UFC events and the occasional PGA tour event (sorry, LIV Golf – betting on you is banned in the Old Dominion).

No matter the time of year, though, residents and tourists alike can rely on the Virginia Lottery for their betting enjoyment.

Virginia Lottery scratch-off tickets

The Virginia Lottery has been a constant feature in convenience stores state-wide since 1987. Offerings originally consisted of only:

  • Scratch-off tickets
  • Powerball drawings
  • Mega Millions drawings

Nowadays, most convenience stores also incorporate slot-like skill games.

Scratch-off and drawing ticket sales momentarily dwindled for the Virginia Lottery at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March and April 2020, then-Gov. Ralph Northam enacted social distancing rules, limiting the number of occupants in a store. People were also wary of leaving their homes because there was no vaccination out at that time.

Just before the pandemic began, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing the online sale of Virginia Lottery tickets. By the end of 2020, virtual sales and in-person sales both picked up significantly.

Ticket vending machines soon came as another big advent for lottery players, creating a more efficient ticket purchasing experience for bettors and retail shop owners alike. Virginia Lottery spokesperson John Hagerty noted the improvement, saying:

“A lot of consumers prefer self-service machines because of the control they have with those devices. Retailers also prefer them because they are useful when jackpots for Power Ball and Mega Millions get unusually high and clerks can get busy with people buying tickets.”

As a result, reports from the last three years reveal that Virginia Lottery scratch-off sales have far exceeded sales of drawing-style games:

YearDrawing TicketsScratch-Offs
2019-20$1.14 Million$5.45 Million
2020-21$1.39 Million$6.69 Million
2021-22$1.13 Million$6.18 Million

How does Virginia allocate money from the lottery?

By law, all profits from the Virginia Lottery go to state education programs. While Mega Millions and Powerball draw the most media attention, Hagerty noted that scratch-offs are the largest revenue source for the Virginia Lottery, saying:

“People sometimes have a misconception that lottery money goes directly to local schools or that it is what funds education. Lottery profits make up about 10% of all state education funding each year, so it helps fund different things in the education budget.”

Hagerty says these revenue trends generally coincide with current events:

“Economic conditions do have an impact. When gas prices are high, though, we tend to see decreases in lottery sales at convenience stores.”

Any winning tickets that go unclaimed after 180 days go to Virginia’s Literacy Fund to help support school construction projects. In 2021, that total was $10 million, according to Hagerty.

Sports betting & casino contributions

Since its legalization in Jan. 2021, licensed Virginia online sportsbooks have taken in over $4.98 billion in wagers. Operators have made $422.4 million in combined revenue from that, and the state has made $29.8 million in tax revenue.

The state will soon also profit from legalized casino gambling. In 2019, a projection by the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission revealed that five proposed casinos in Virginia would pay $260 million annually in gaming tax annually while the casinos would earn $970 million in gaming revenue.

Hagerty said the Virginia Lottery is excited about what the future holds with new casinos. The Hard Rock Casino Bristol, for instance, became the state’s first operating casino when it debuted its temporary location earlier this July.

Addressing problem gambling remains a priority

Hagerty also works with Virginia Lottery’s Play Responsibly (VLPR) program. The VLPR has partnered with the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling along with the National Council on Problem Gambling to ensure bettors are educated on gambling issues. Hagerty said:

“We take ‘Play Responsibly’ very seriously. Some people may think there’s no such thing as a gambling addiction and it’s a matter of being responsible, but gambling addiction is real. The organizations we work with offer hotline and education services.”

Virginia also promotes a Voluntary Exclusion program, which blocks those who sign up from playing account-based lottery games, casino games, sports betting, horse race betting and charitable gaming.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis
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