Virginia State Lottery

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This article is about the lottery in Virginia. For the lottery in West Virginia, see West Virginia Lottery.
Virginia Lottery
Agency overview
Formed 1987
Type Independent
Headquarters 900 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Minister responsible Paula I. Otto, Executive Director
Parent agency Commonwealth of Virginia

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 2013, the Lottery's profits totaled $486.5 million, which accounted for approximately 8 percent of school funding in Virginia. That brought total Lottery profits in Virginia (from 1989 to June 2013) to nearly $9 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 45 lotteries which sells Mega Millions tickets, and one of 45 offering Powerball. 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 in downtown Richmond; additional customer service centers are 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 early universities (including Virginia's College of William and Mary and University of Virginia), 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 assumed they were also voting on how Lottery profits would be spent, there was no designation made at that time. 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.[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 2013, more than $234 million in unclaimed prizes have been transferred to the Literary Fund.[1]

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.[8] As at March 2013, seven 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.[9] The department is governed by a five-member board, with each member appointed by the Governor to serve a five-year term.[10] The Lottery is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed by the Governor.[11] 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.[12] Otto was reappointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell on November 5, 2010.[13]

In Fiscal Year 2013, Lottery sales were nearly $1.7 billion. The lottery generated $486.5 million, or 28.7%, for public education, 60.7% was paid out as prizes, 5.6% was paid to retailers as sales commissions, and 5% covered the Lottery Department's operational expenses.[1]

The Lottery conducts an annual Super Teachers contest. A Commonwealth-wide panel of educators annually select one Super Teacher from each of eight regions. Each winner receives a $2,000 credit for schoolroom supplies from The Supply Room Companies and $2,000 from the Lottery.[14]


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.[15] The actual cash payment depends on the market value of the bonds on the date they are sold.[16] 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.[17] The Lottery offers a subscription service for Mega Millions and Win for Life by automatic withdrawals from the subscriber's checking account.[18]

Virginia-only draw games[edit]

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[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.[19][20][21][22]

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.[23][24]

$1,000,000 Moneyball[edit]

$1,000,000 Moneyball replaced Win for Life on September 17, 2014. Moneyball is drawn Wednesdays and Saturdays. Players choose 5 of 35 numbers; there are 36 balls to be drawn from, including a gold-colored "Moneyball". Games are $2 each. If one of the five balls drawn is the "Moneyball", a sixth ball will be drawn so that there will be five winning numbers. A ticket matching all five numbers in a drawing where the "Moneyball" is drawn wins $1,000,000; otherwise the prize is $100,000. Other prizes are $100, $10, and $2.

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.[25]

Multi-jurisdiction draw games[edit]

Decades of Dollars[edit]

Main article: Decades of Dollars

Decades of Dollars is a drawing game offering a top prize of $250,000 per year in 30 annual installments ($7.5 million total) or a cash option of $4 million. Drawings are twice a week: on Monday and Thursday. Each play costs $2. Players choose six numbers from 1 through 47.

Any ticket 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. A ticket that matches all six numbers wins the top prize.

Virginia's first Decades of Dollars top prize-winning ticket was sold in Norfolk for the April 12, 2012 drawing. 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.

DoD began in January 2011 in Virginia, Georgia, and Kentucky, with Arkansas joining in May 2011. In October 2014, DoD will become a Virginia-only game; the other three states will become part of the launch of Monopoly Millionaires' Club. Virginia will join Monopoly Millionaires' Club in 2015 (see below); it is not known whether DoD will continue beyond then.

Mega Millions[edit]

Main article: Mega Millions

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 $15 million and grow with each drawing in which there is no jackpot winner. Drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays.[26] Players select five numbers, 1 through 75, plus a Mega Ball number, 1 through 15. 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.

As of January 2014, eight Mega Millions jackpots have been won in Virginia.[27]


Main article: Powerball

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.[28] 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). Powerball jackpots start at $40 million and increase until won.

Monopoly Millionaires' Club (Virginia to join in 2015)[edit]

On October 19, 2014, Monopoly Millionaires′ Club will be launched by 23 lotteries; an additional 7, including Virginia's, will join in 2015.

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 (including $3, $5, and $10) with larger prizes were introduced. Currently, the most expensive scratchers are $20 each. All $20 games currently in circulation and many $10 games offer a top prize of at least $1 million (annuitized). The largest prize offered to date in a Virginia scratcher is $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 its first Fast Play game: "Fast Play Bingo". 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). More Fast Play games have been added over the years, and as of 2013, the Lottery maintains a continually-changing lineup of Fast Play games at $2, $3, and $5 prices: each with its own rules and prizes.


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.[29] In addition, forging lottery tickets, or tampering with a Lottery drawing is a Class 5 felony.[30] All Virginia Lottery employees[31] and applicants to become Lottery sales agents[32] 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]

Main article: Problem gambling

Virginia law requires that each ticket include a telephone number for a counseling service that addresses compulsive gambling.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Official Home of the Virginia Lottery". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  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. ^ "Virginia couple wins huge lottery". NBC News. April 1, 2004. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  9. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4003.
  10. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4004.
  11. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4005.
  12. ^ Shapiro, Jeff (January 26, 2008). "Otto back at lottery agency". Richmond Times Dispatch. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  13. ^ "Governor McDonnell Announces Additional Appointments to Administration". 2010-11-05. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  14. ^ "Super Teacher". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-06-03. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  15. ^ "Jackpot Prize Payment Election Form". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  16. ^ "What is "Cash Option"?". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2010-02-06. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  17. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4014.1.
  18. ^ "Mega Millions and Win For Life: Subscribe!". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  19. ^ "Game Information: Pick 3". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  20. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  21. ^ "Game Information: Pick 4". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  22. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  23. ^ "Game Information: Cash 5". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  24. ^ "Lottery Official Rules". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  25. ^ "Official Home of the Virginia Lottery". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  26. ^ "Mega Millions Official Home: History of the Game". Mega Millions. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ Neibauer, Michael (January 4, 2010). "Governments expand gambling to bring in revenue". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  29. ^ "Security". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  30. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4018.1.
  31. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4008.
  32. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4009.
  33. ^ Virginia Code § 58.1–4007.1.
  34. ^ "Compulsive Gambling". Virginia State Lottery. Archived from the original on 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  35. ^ "Virginia Lottery Encourages Support of National Problem Gambling Awareness Week". Virginia State Lottery. March 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 

External links[edit]