The Virginia Lottery is an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was created in 1987 when Virginians voted in favor of a state lottery. The first ticket was sold on September 20, 1988. All profits from Virginia Lottery ticket sales go to K-12 public education. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Lottery's profits totaled nearly $650 million, accounting for approximately 10 percent of school funding in Virginia. That brought total Lottery profits in Virginia (from 1989 to June 2017) to more than $12.4 billion.
|Headquarters||600 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219|
|Parent agency||Commonwealth of Virginia|
Daily draw games include Pick 3, Pick 4, and Cash 5; each of which is drawn twice daily. The Virginia Lottery also offers numerous scratchers. It is one of 46 lotteries which sells Mega Millions tickets, and one of 47 offering Powerball. Cash4Life is nightly; Mega Millions is drawn Tuesdays and Fridays, while Powerball is drawn Wednesdays and Saturdays. Bank A Million is also drawn Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Lottery maintains elaborate security procedures to protect the integrity of its games.
The Lottery's headquarters is in downtown Richmond; additional customer service centers are in Abingdon, Farmville, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Henrico, Roanoke, and Woodbridge.
Lotteries date back to the earliest days of Virginia. "The Great Virginia Lottery" was held long before Virginia became a state. It began in 1612 to help raise funds for the struggling Jamestown Settlement; it raised £29,000 for the Virginia Company. Lottery proceeds helped establish early universities (including Virginia's College of William and Mary and University of Virginia), churches, and libraries.
Virginia voters approved a government-run lottery in 1987. Before the vote, supporters of a lottery suggested a number of possible ways in which lottery profits could be designated in Virginia, such as education, transportation and Chesapeake Bay cleanup. However, the referendum made no designation of how lottery profits would be spent. Sales began September 20, 1988. In 1989, the General Assembly directed Lottery proceeds to capital construction projects. From 1990 to 1998, the proceeds went to Virginia's General Fund. Starting in 1999, a provision in Virginia's budget called for all proceeds to be assigned exclusively to education. In November 2000, Virginia voters approved the creation of the State Lottery Proceeds Fund by an 83.5-point margin. The measure, which is a permanent part of Virginia's Constitution, directs the General Assembly to use all Lottery profits for educational purposes. The Lottery does not control how its profits are spent.
Under Virginia law, all unclaimed prizes go to the Virginia Literary Fund, which is also used for educational purposes. As of 2019, more than $295 million in unclaimed prizes have been transferred to the Literary Fund.
The largest win in the Virginia Lottery's history to date occurred on February 20, 2004, when retired truck driver J. R. Triplett of Winchester won a Mega Millions jackpot worth $239 million. Nine Mega Millions jackpots and one Powerball jackpot have been won in Virginia.
The Lottery is an independent agency, separate from the other branches of government. The Lottery is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed by the Governor. Kevin Hall, former communications director and senior policy advisor for U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, is the fifth executive director in the Lottery's history. He was appointed in January 2018 by Gov. Ralph Northam. The department is governed by a five-member board, with each member appointed by the Governor to serve a five-year term.
In Fiscal Year 2019, Lottery sales were $2.293 billion. The lottery generated nearly $650 million, or 28.3% of total sales, for public education, 61.1% went back to players as prizes, 5.6% was paid to retailers as sales commissions, and 5% covered the Lottery's operational expenses.
The Lottery has a number of programs highlighting its connection to education in the Commonwealth. This includes the "Thank a Teacher" program, which began in 2016. Prior to that, the Super Teacher Awards ran for 10 years, ending in 2017.
The Virginia Lottery gives top-prize winners of certain games a choice of cash or annuity. When a Virginia top-prize winner of Mega Millions, Powerball or Cash4Life is claimed, the Lottery purchases sufficient U.S. Government bonds to cover the prize. (A cash option winner of Mega Millions or Powerball receives the "lump sum" in two installments as both games are offered by multiple lotteries.) The actual cash value depends on the market value of the bonds on the date they are sold. Federal laws require the Lottery to withhold Federal Income Tax on all prizes (whether lump sum or annuity) over $5,000.
Virginia Lottery sales are conducted by licensed retail businesses which receive a commission. Under state law, debit cards can be used to purchase Lottery tickets, but not credit cards. The Lottery offers a subscription service for Mega Millions, Powerball and Cash4Life by automatic withdrawals from the subscriber's checking account.
Virginia-only draw games
Within Virginia, the Lottery offers "Pick 3", "Pick 4," and "Cash 5." Each game is drawn twice a day (at 2PM and 11PM), seven days a week.
Pick 3 and Pick 4
Virginia's Cash 5 game draws five numbers from a pool of 34. The minimum wager is $1; games can be played for 25 and/or 50 cents providing the total is $1 or more. The top prize on a $1 single-game wager is $100,000.
Bank A Million
Bank A Million is a drawing game offering a top prize of $1,000,000 after the tax withholding. Drawings are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Players choose 6 of 40 numbers. The minimum bet is $2; however, similar to Cash 5, players have the option of splitting the wager into two $1 plays or four 50-cent plays. The Lottery draws six numbers plus a Bonus Ball. The top prize (matching the first six numbers) on a $2 wager is $1,000,000; however the top prize is "taxes paid" (the actual prize, $1,408,451, is before withholding, which is to be reported for tax purposes; the after withholding amount is $1,000,000.) Top prizes on $1 and 50-cent wagers are proportionally smaller.
Virginia's New Year's Millionaire Raffle
Virginia's New Year's Millionaire Raffle is offered by the Lottery each year with a drawing on New Year's Day. In 2019, the raffle featured three $1 million top prizes, five $100,000 prizes, and 500 prizes of $500 each. A total of 375,000 tickets were available for sale.
Virginia's multi-state draw games
Cash4Life is a drawing game currently offered in nine states, including Virginia. Tickets cost $2, and players pick 5 numbers from a pool of 60 and 1 "Cash Ball" number from a pool of 4. The top prize (for matching all numbers) is the choice of $1,000 a day for life or a $7,000,000 lump sum, subject to a liability limit. Drawings are held nightly at 9pm Eastern Time.
Mega Millions is a drawing game played in Virginia and most other U. S. states (Virginia is one of the original six states to first offer the game in 1996 when it was then known as "The Big Game"). Jackpots start at $40 million and grow with each drawing in which there is no jackpot winner. Drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays. Players select five numbers, 1 through 70, plus a Mega Ball number, 1 through 25. Players also have the option to use the Megaplier, which increases the ticket price by $1 each but raises the value of any non-jackpot prizes won. A ticket matching all six numbers win the jackpot. The jackpot is pari-mutuel, meaning that if multiple tickets match all six numbers, each of them receives an equal share of the total jackpot. Mega Millions jackpot are offered as an annuity, although a cash option is also available.
The odds of matching all six numbers to win the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350. The odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24. As of 2019, nine Mega Millions jackpots have been won in Virginia.
Powerball is a drawing game in which players try to match five numbers from 1 through 69, plus a Powerball number from 1 through 26. A ticket that matches all six numbers wins the jackpot. Jackpot amounts begin at $40 million and grow with each drawing in which the jackpot is not won. Top-prize Powerball winners can choose cash in lieu of annuity payments. The jackpot is pari-mutuel, meaning that if multiple tickets match all six numbers, each of them receives an equal share of the total jackpot.
A basic Powerball ticket costs $2. The Power Play option adds $1 to the price of each ticket in a given playslip, so a Powerball ticket with Power Play costs $3 (up from $2). The odds of matching all six numbers to win the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338. The odds of winning any prize are 1 in 25. One Powerball jackpot has been won in Virginia since the game first became available in the Commonwealth in 2010.
From its inception, the Virginia Lottery has sold instant (scratcher) games. Originally, all scratch tickets were $1 each; in the mid-1990s, the first Bingo scratcher was introduced; each Bingo ticket cost $2. Eventually, higher-priced scratchers (including $3, $5, and $10) with larger prizes were introduced. Currently, the most expensive scratchers in common circulation are $30 each. All $20 and up games currently in circulation and most $10 games offer a top prize of at least $1 million (annuitized). Winners of scratcher annuity prizes of at least $1 million can choose cash (just as in the top prizes in Powerball, Mega Millions, or Cash4Life).
Print 'n Play
The Lottery also offers Print 'n Play games. As with traditional Lottery games, tickets are printed by the terminal; however as in scratchers, winning status are determined when the ticket is printed (there is no drawing). There is a continually-changing lineup of games at $2, $3, and $5 prices: each with its own rules and prizes. The basic rules are the same, but the lineup is now simplified to the three most popular Fast Play games—Bingo, Blackjack, and Crossword—each of which is now available in up to four different price tiers including a new $10 tier.
Virginia Lottery drawings are conducted under elaborate security protocols. The set of balls used for each drawing are randomly selected from a number of sets; and detailed records of "test" drawings are maintained to prevent systematic biases. In addition, forging lottery tickets, or tampering with a Lottery drawing is a Class 5 felony. All Virginia Lottery employees and applicants to become Lottery sales agents are fingerprinted and subject to criminal background checks.
Theft of Virginia Lottery tickets are investigated by both the Lottery Investigators and local law enforcement agencies. Lottery Investigators are fully sworn Law Enforcement Officers. Per Virginia law it vests the Director, the director of security, and investigators of the State Lottery Department with the powers of sheriffs in enforcing the statutes and regulations relating to the lottery.
The Virginia Lottery has an extensive Play Responsibly program aimed at informing people about problem gambling and gambling addiction. Virginia law requires that each ticket include a telephone number for a counseling service that addresses compulsive gambling. That number links to the Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline, which is maintained the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling. The Lottery also includes information on compulsive gambling on its website. and has produced Problem Gambling and Play Responsibly public service announcements for TV and radio. The Lottery supports National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
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