Virginia State Lottery

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Virginia Lottery
Agency overview
Headquarters900 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Minister responsiblePaula I. Otto, Executive Director
Parent AgencyCommonwealth of Virginia
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Virginia Lottery
Agency overview
Headquarters900 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Minister responsiblePaula I. Otto, Executive Director
Parent AgencyCommonwealth of Virginia

The Virginia Lottery is an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was created when Virginians voted in 1987 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 the Commonwealth. In Fiscal Year 2012, the Lottery's profits totaled $487 million, which accounted for approximately 8 percent of school funding in Virginia. That brought total Lottery profits in Virginia (from 1989 to June 2012) to $8.4 billion.[1]

Daily draw games include Pick 3, Pick 4, and Cash 5; each of which is drawn twice daily. The Virginia Lottery also offers numerous scratchcards. It is one of 44 lotteries which sells Mega Millions tickets, and one of 44 offering Powerball (45 when California joins in April 2013.) Decades of Dollars is drawn Mondays and Thursdays; Mega Millions is drawn Tuesdays and Fridays, while Powerball is drawn Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Lottery maintains elaborate security procedures to protect the integrity of its games.

The Lottery's headquarters is located in downtown Richmond, Virginia. It maintains customer service centers in Abingdon, Farmville, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Henrico, Roanoke and Woodbridge.



America's first lottery was "The Great Virginia Lottery," held in 1612 by the Virginia Company to help fund the Jamestown Settlement; it raised 29,000 for the Virginia Company.[2] Lottery proceeds helped establish some of the nation's earliest and most prestigious universities, including Virginia's College of William and Mary and University of Virginia. Lottery funds were also used to build churches and libraries.[3] However, gambling was outlawed in Virginia in 1849.[4]

Virginia voters approved a government-run lottery in 1987.[5] Although some people made the assumption they were also voting on how Lottery profits would be spent, there was no designation at that time. Sales began September 20, 1988. In 1989, the General Assembly directed Lottery proceeds to capital construction projects. From 1990 to 1998, Lottery proceeds went to Virginia's General Fund. Starting in 1999, a provision in Virginia's budget sent Lottery proceeds to local public school divisions to be used solely for educational purposes. In November 2000, Virginia voters approved the creation of the State Lottery Proceeds Fund by an 83.5-point margin.[6] 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.[7] As of 2012, more than $222 million in unclaimed prizes have been transferred to the Literary Fund.[8]

In 2004, retired truck driver J. R. Triplett of Winchester won the largest Virginia Lottery prize to date when he claimed a Mega Millions jackpot worth $239 million (annuity value) for the April 1 drawing.[9] As as March 2013, seven Mega Millions jackpots and one Powerball jackpot have been won in Virginia.

In 2006, the Lottery selected GTECH to provide a lottery central computer system, new terminals, and a new IP wireless communications network, all under a seven-year integrated services contract.[10]


The Lottery is an independent agency, separate from the other branches of government.[11] The department is governed by a five-member board, with each member appointed by the Governor to serve a five-year term.[12] The board is authorized to adopt regulations governing the establishment and operation of the Lottery, including price points, the number of, and sizes, of prizes; prize payment, frequency of drawings, and licensing of, and compensation for, sales agents. The board also hears appeals on the denial, suspension, or revocation of retailers’ licenses.[13]

The Lottery is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed by the Governor.[14] On February 1, 2008, then-Gov. Timothy Kaine appointed Paula Otto, a former spokesperson of the Lottery and an associate director of the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University, as the fourth executive director in the Lottery's history.[15] Otto was reappointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell on November 5, 2010.[16]

In Fiscal Year 2012, Lottery sales exceeded $1.6 billion. Of this total, the Lottery generated $487 million, or 30%, for public education, 59.3% was paid to players in the form of prizes, 5.6% was paid to retailers as sales commissions, and 4.8% covered the Lottery Department's operational expenses.[8]

The Lottery conducts an annual Super Teachers contest. A Commonwealth-wide panel of educators select one Super Teacher from each of eight regions yearly. Each Super Teacher receives $2,000 credit from The Supply Room Companies to outfit their classroom, and $2,000 from the Lottery.[17]


The Virginia Lottery gives top-prize winners of certain games a choice of cash or annuity. Installment winners receive: 26 equal yearly payments in Mega Millions, 30 yearly payments of $250,000 in Decades of Dollars, or 30 graduated payments in Powerball. (Virginia Lottery winners have a 60-day period to choose cash or annuity in the above three draw games.) When a Virginia Lottery top-prize winner of Powerball, Mega Millions, or Decades of Dollars is claimed, the Lottery purchases sufficient US Government bonds to cover the prize. If the cash option is chosen, the winner receives two payments; the first when the claim is made, and the second after the Lottery sells the US government bonds that were purchased to invest the prize proceeds.[18] The actual cash payment depends on the market value of the bonds on the date they are sold.[19] As winnings from gambling are considered an income, 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 businesses which receive a commission. Credit cards cannot be used to purchase Lottery tickets.[20] The Lottery offers a subscription service for Mega Millions and Win for Life (Decades of Dollars and Powerball subscriptions not yet available in Virginia) by automatic withdrawals from the subscriber's checking account.[21]

Virginia-only draw games[edit]

Within Virginia, the Lottery offers these daily drawing games: "Pick 3", "Pick 4" and "Cash 5."

Pick 3 and Pick 4[edit]

Virginia offers three- and four-digit games that are similar to those of other US lotteries. The maximum prize on a $1 play are $500 in Pick 3 and $5,000 in Pick 4.[22][23][24][25]

Cash 5[edit]

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; that pool's liability limit is $2,000,000.[26][27]

Millionaire Raffle[edit]

In 2007, the Lottery offered its first Millionaire Raffle; 330,000 tickets were sold at $20 each, after which numbers were randomly drawn to win up to $1 million. The Lottery has held Millionaire Raffles irregularly: some during spring; but most have been drawn on New Years Day. Rules vary with each raffle; the top prize is usually always $1 million; generally, all raffle prizes are paid in lump sum.[28]

Multi-jurisdiction draw games[edit]

Decades of Dollars (four members)[edit]

On January 30, 2011, Virginia, Georgia, and Kentucky began sales of Decades of Dollars, which is drawn on Mondays and Thursdays; its first drawing was on February 3. (Arkansas joined on May 3.) Each game costs $2; players choose 6 numbers from 1 through 47. Any game matching at least two numbers wins. Matching two numbers (on a Virginia-generated ticket) wins a $2 quick-pick Decades of Dollars ticket; three numbers wins $10, four numbers wins $100. Matching five numbers wins $10,000; that prize pool has a liability limit of $250,000 across the four lotteries. (Two of the other three lotteries pay $2 cash instead of a free quick-pick.)

The top prize is $250,000 yearly in 30 equal installments ($7,500,000 total) or a cash option of $4,000,000.

Virginia' first Decades of Dollars top prize-winning ticket was sold in Norfolk for the April 12, 2012 drawing; the winner chose the cash option. A second top prize-winning ticket was sold less than a month later in Waynesboro. As of March 2013, there had been 420 second-prize ($10,000) Decades of Dollars winning tickets bought in Virginia.

Mega Millions (45 members)[edit]

On September 6, 1996, six lotteries, including Virginia's, began a game originally called The Big Game. In 2002, it became Mega Millions. As of May 15, 2013, there are 45 lotteries offering Mega Millions. Mega Millions jackpot winners can choose cash in lieu of annuity payments. Its jackpot starts at $12 million. Drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays.[29] On August 29, 2010, Virginia added Mega Millions' Megaplier option.

Powerball (45 members)[edit]

Powerball is played in 45 jurisdictions. It began in 1992. On October 13, 2009, the Mega Millions consortium and the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL; which coordinates Powerball) reached an agreement in principle to cross-sell Mega Millions and Powerball in US lottery jurisdictions. Virginia, already offering Mega Millions, joined Powerball on January 31, 2010.[30] Top-prize Powerball winners can choose cash in lieu of annuity payments.

A basic Powerball ticket costs $2. The Power Play option, begun in 2001, adds $1 to the price of each ticket in a given playslip, so a Powerball ticket with Power Play costs $3 (up from $2).

Win for Life[edit]

Win for Life began in 2006; it was available in Kentucky as well as Georgia and Virginia. (Kentucky dropped out when Decades of Dollars began.) The top prize is $1000 per week for the life of the winner. Second prize is $52,000. The game draws 6 numbers 1-42, plus the Free Ball from the other 36. Unlike other Virginia online games, WFL winners cannot choose cash in lieu of annuity payments.

Fast Play and scratcher games[edit]

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 with larger prizes were introduced. Currently, the most expensive scratchers are $20 each. These almost always offer a top prize of at least $1 million (annuitized; "fixed" annuity scratcher prizes always offer a cash option.) The largest prize offered in a Virginia scratcher was $5 million (annuity.) Winners of scratcher annuity prizes of at least $1 million can choose cash (just as in the top prizes in Powerball, Mega Millions, or Decades of Dollars.)

In 2007, the Lottery began complementing scratchers with Fast Play games, including "Bingo" (later replaced by "Bonus Bingo") and "Find the 9's": each with its own set of rules and play instructions. Most Fast Play games cost $2 each ("Three Card Bingo" costs $3). As with traditional Lottery games, tickets are printed by the terminal; however as in scratchers, winning status is determined when the ticket is printed (there is no drawing for a Fast Play game).


Virginia Lottery drawings are conducted under elaborate security protocols, in which each drawing supervised is by two Lottery employees and a representative of an independent accounting firm. 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.[31] In addition, forging lottery tickets, or tampering with a Lottery drawing is a Class 5 felony.[32] All Virginia Lottery employees[33] and applicants to become Lottery sales agents[34] are fingerprinted and subject to criminal background checks.

Theft of Virginia Lottery tickets are investigated by both the Lottery and local law enforcement agencies.

Compulsive gambling[edit]

Virginia law requires that each ticket include a telephone number for a counseling service that addresses compulsive gambling.[35] That number links to the Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline, which is maintained by the Lottery. The Lottery also includes information on compulsive gambling on its website.[36] and has produced Problem Gambling and Play Responsibly public service announcements for TV and radio. The Lottery supports National Problem Gambling Awareness Week by suspending its television and radio product advertising for that period.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official Home of the Virginia Lottery". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  2. ^ "Staff-Generated Report on Lotteries (History Section)". National Gambling Impact Study Commission. Retrieved 2010-11-22. 
  3. ^ "History of Gambling in the United States, Chapter 2". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  4. ^ Acts passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia p. 115. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  5. ^ Schapiro, Jeff (Nov 4, 1987). "Virginia Lottery Coasts to Approval; Urban Areas Solidly Back Gaming Plan". Richmond Times – Dispatch – Richmond, Va. p. A1. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  6. ^ "Virginia General Election – November 7, 2000". Virginia State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  7. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4020.
  8. ^ a b "Where Money Goes". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-11-22. 
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "GTECH selected by the Virginia Lottery to provide new lottery central system, terminals, communications network, and ongoing services". GTECH. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  11. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4003.
  12. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4004.
  13. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4007.
  14. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4005.
  15. ^ Shapiro, Jeff (January 26, 2008). "Otto back at lottery agency". Richmond Times Dispatch. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  16. ^ "Governor McDonnell Announces Additional Appointments to Administration". 2010-11-05. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  17. ^ "Super Teacher". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  18. ^ "Jackpot Prize Payment Election Form". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  19. ^ "What is "Cash Option"?". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  20. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4014.1.
  21. ^ "Mega Millions and Win For Life: Subscribe!". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  22. ^ "Game Information: Pick 3". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  23. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  24. ^ "Game Information: Pick 4". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  25. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  26. ^ "Game Information: Cash 5". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  27. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  28. ^ "Official Home of the Virginia Lottery". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  29. ^ "Mega Millions Official Home: History of the Game". Mega Millions. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  30. ^ Neibauer, Michael (January 4, 2010). "Governments expand gambling to bring in revenue". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  31. ^ "Security". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  32. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4018.1.
  33. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4008.
  34. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4009.
  35. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4007.1.
  36. ^ "Compulsive Gambling". Virginia State Lottery. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  37. ^ "Virginia Lottery Encourages Support of National Problem Gambling Awareness Week". Virginia State Lottery. March 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 

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