Published: June 12, 2024

North Carolina Lottery hits $1B milestone for digital instants

North Carolina launched digital instants or mobile scratch-offs in November. The North Carolina Education Lottery has sold more than $1 billion worth of the instants.

North Carolina residents are spending more than ever on state-sanctioned gambling, fueled by the introduction of new mobile options for betting.

The North Carolina Education Lottery has sold more than $1 billion worth of digital instant games as of last weekend. The games, sometimes called mobile scratch-offs, went live in November. North Carolina reached that milestone faster than any other state offering digital instants, according to lottery staff.

That's on top of more than $1.5 billion in real money wagers on sports since legalized mobile sports betting launched in mid-March.

Through May, the lottery sold more than $4.8 billion across all of its offerings, up more than $857 million from last year. Scratch-off tickets account for more than 55% of all sales and digital instants already account for more than 19% of all sales. The financial data was presented to commission members during a series of committee meetings Wednesday.

Through the end of May, the lottery had sold more than $943 million worth of digital instants, with 68% of sales coming from the mobile app. The other sales are through the lottery's website as digital instants are only available online and have different games than paper scratch-off tickets. The games generated more than $122 million in revenue, exceeding the lottery's projections by nearly $100 million.

The North Carolina Education Lottery set a record for sales, prizes and education funding in the last fiscal year with $4.3 billion in revenue. As a result, it generated more than $1 billion for education programs, the first time the lottery has ever hit that mark.

The lottery is set to exceed those marks.

But the commission said it was "necessary" to launch digital instants to continue to grow revenue, which goes to education in the state.

"The launch of digital instant games has been the catalyst this year to allow us to post year-over year revenue gains," Greg Bowers, the lottery's deputy executive director for finance, said Wednesday. "As we've been predicting, that growth in traditional lottery games that we've seen would slow or become negative at some point. That time is now."

Traditional lottery sales are still above budgeted numbers for the year.

"Sales have just been fantastic even with the thoughts and probably questions in our mind with digital and sports betting," said Terri Avery, the deputy executive director of sales.

Sports bettors in North Carolina have placed more than $1.5 billion in paid wagers, plus an additional $313 million in promotional wagers, since the launch of mobile sports betting in mid-March. The state will collect more than $42 million in taxes from the gross wagering revenue collected by sports betting operators through the end of May.

There have been concerns about mobile sports betting might impact lottery sales.

"It's most likely to early for us to quantify the impact it's going to have on our regular traditional lottery games, especially scratch-offs," Bowers said. "We are looking at that. We're carefully looking at what other lotteries or other states have seen when they launch sports betting. It may. It may not have a big impact, it may have a small impact. We're still looking at that."

The commission's finance committee approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It projects more than $6.2 billion in sales and more than $1 billion in revenue to the state for education. Digital instants account for $2.2 billion in sales in the budget with 87% of sales paid out in prizes.

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