After COVID-19 lapse, West Virginia Lottery revenue tops $1B again

A year after COVID-19 shutdowns ended an 18-year streak of West Virginia Lottery gross revenue topping the $1 billion mark, the Lottery has again topped $1 billion for the 2020-21 budget year, director John Myers told the Lottery Commission on Tuesday.

“We always set the goal each year to exceed that $1 billion mark,” Myers said, adding that Lottery revenue hit that milestone last week.

Record levels of Limited Video Lottery play in bars, clubs and fraternal organizations around the state helped push the gross revenue back over the $1 billion mark, Lottery data shows.

With revenue running ahead of the same point in the 2018-19 budget year, the Lottery is on pace to finish out the fiscal year June 30 with gross revenue of about $1.2 billion, Myers said.

“It’s a milestone that reflects a good year, even considering what we’ve had to deal with,” said Commission Chairman Ken Greear.

Last year, Gov. Jim Justice issued stay-at-home orders closing casinos and bars, clubs and fraternal organizations offering video lottery games on March 18. Video lottery locations were allowed to reopen May 30 and casinos June 5, but with social distancing and occupancy restrictions that carried over for much of the current budget year.

As a result of the shutdown, Lottery gross revenue for the 2019-20 budget year fell short of the $1 billion threshold, at $955.7 million.

Today, the state’s four racetrack casinos continue to struggle to regain business, compared to their pre-pandemic numbers, Lottery reports show.

For April, the racetrack casinos grossed $39.62 million, down 13% from April 2019. The Greenbrier Casino grossed $575,000 for the month, down 2.8% from April 2019.

For the first 10 months of the budget year, racetrack casinos grossed $345.88 million, down 22% from the same point in 2018-19. The Greenbrier has grossed $6.61 million, down slightly from 2018-19.

While casinos have struggled, video lottery in bars and clubs has been booming, with April gross revenue of $50.42 million topping the $50 million mark for the second month in a row, after setting an all-time record in March with $53.89 million.

April revenue was up 48% over the $34.09 million gross in April 2019.

 Year-to-date video lottery gross revenue of $395.06 million is up nearly $70 million, or 21%, over the same point in 2018-19, likely a combination of pent-up demand after the 10-week shutdown, and the infusion of federal stimulus and supplemental unemployment funds into the state’s economy.

That helped push the overall Lottery year-to-date gross revenue through April to $961.04 million, up $11.82 million over the same point in 2018-19. For the month, the state’s share of Lottery profits totaled $53.03 million, bringing the year-to-date profit to $437.53 million.

Also during Tuesday’s commission meeting:

  • Myers said the Lottery received 1,970 bids for 1,508 available Limited Video Lottery licenses, which were bid out under legislation passed this past session that expands the maximum number of machines permitted at a retail location from seven to 10.

“There will be some people who will not get a permit based on what they bid,” he said.

The final tally on the total value of the winning bids was not complete Wednesday. The minimum bid for a license was $8,500, and Myers said the highest bid was $15,028. Once the licenses are awarded and the machines are installed, it will mark the first time since 2005 that all of the maximum 9,000 video lottery machines permitted by law will be in operation, he said.

  • A new law allowing bars and clubs to begin serving alcohol at 6 a.m. daily has, so far, had limited impact on Limited Video Lottery play, Myers said.

Last month, commissioners voted to turn on gaming machines — which are operated through a central control computer at state Lottery headquarters — at 6 a.m. to correspond with the new serving hours.

Myers said there was about $6,000 of video lottery play during the new hours on the first weekend after the law went into effect on May 10. Previously, bars and clubs could not begin serving until 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sundays. In counties where voters have approved Sunday brunch referendums, serving could begin at 10 a.m.

Myers said only a few locations took advantage of the earlier opening hours during the first weekend, but he said the number of locations opening early has increased during the month.

  • The Greenbrier Casino lost money on sports betting in April, after a high roller bet more than $100,000 on NHL hockey and won more than $470,000, David Bradley, deputy director for security, told commissioners.
  • Myers said all Lottery staff will return to work at Lottery headquarters on June 7, ending more than a year of working remotely for many.

The June 30 Lottery Commission meeting is tentatively scheduled to be in-person at Lottery headquarters in Charleston, after being conducted virtually during the pandemic.