As the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the commonwealth on March 7 approaches, most Virginians will look back on the past 12 months when a microscopic virus upended their lives with a combination of sadness, fear and frustration. It was a dark year, indeed, but there were a few bright spots amid the gloom.
While most businesses and government bodies had to grapple with lost revenue in addition to increased costs caused by the pandemic, the Virginia Lottery reported a 37 percent increase in revenue for the second half of 2020 over the same time in 2019. And after paying off the winners, the Lottery’s profit on $1.48 billion of total sales during the last six months of 2020 was a not-too-shabby $350 million.
Lottery officials credit the substantial increase in revenue during the last six months of 2020 to big Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots, and to the launch of its mobile app.
The Lottery’s windfall is something to celebrate because the money will be handed over to the state Department of Education, which will then distribute it to local school divisions on a per-pupil basis.
In fiscal 2020 (July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020), the Virginia Lottery generated over $595 million for education from $2.15 billion total sales, or more than $1.6 million per day for Virginia’s K-12 public schools.
If lottery sales continue at the same rate as the last six months, the amount of money raised for education would increase to around $700 million. Early returns on the iLottery app authorized by the General Assembly seem to indicate that not only has the app not cut into sales at the commonwealth’s brick-and-mortar stores, it has also increased participation in the lottery.
It’s easy to see why. A lot of people are still either stuck at home social distancing, or social distancing at work. They miss the intimate interaction and gatherings with family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues that they used to enjoy. They’re worried about their finances. And after long hours alone spent staring at computer screens, they’re desperate for something to look forward to.
Despite the stories of misfortune and woe that have befallen past lottery winners, most people fantasize about hitting it big one day and never having to worry about money again. When purchasing a lottery ticket is as easy as a few taps on your mobile phone, it’s easy to act on those fantasies.
And win or lose, the money spent on lottery tickets goes to educating children in the commonwealth. That’s an unexpected silver lining in the COVID-19 playbook.
The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star