Limited Video Lottery machines will be waking up at the crack of dawn beginning May 10, under a policy change approved Wednesday by the state Lottery Commission.
The 7,513 video lottery machines — which are operated through a central control computer at Lottery headquarters – will turn on at 6 a.m. daily to correspond with new hours that alcohol may be served in licensed bars, clubs and restaurants. The Legislature passed House Bill 2025, which makes widespread changes to state law regarding liquor, beer and wine, on April 10.
“This will align our hours of operation with ABCA hours,” Lottery Director John Myers told commissioners, stressing that video lottery retailers are free to set their own hours of operation, and are not required to open at 6 a.m.
“If they want to open at 8 a.m., they can do that. They can open at 10 a.m.,” he said.
The new law allows alcohol, beer and wine to be served as early as 6 a.m. daily, changing current law that sets 7 a.m. as the starting hour Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, sales can currently begin at 1 p.m., except in counties where voters have approved Sunday brunch referendums. Sales in those counties can begin at 10 a.m.
Effective May 10, the new law allows establishments in all counties to begin serving at 6 a.m. daily. Counties have the option to hold countywide referendums to revert the Sunday serving time back to 1 p.m.
Also Wednesday, commissioners approved a bidding schedule for new video lottery machine licenses, under another piece of legislation passed this session that will expand the maximum number of machines permitted at a given retail location from seven to 10 (HB 3308).
Bidding for new licenses for current video lottery retailers who want to increase the number of machines at their locations will open July 15 and close Sept. 21, with a bid opening Sept. 23. The minimum bid is $8,500, and licenses will be valid through June 30, 2031.
Meanwhile, March Lottery revenues, as expected, were much improved over March 2020, when Gov. Jim Justice ordered bars, clubs, dine-in restaurants and casinos closed in mid-month. March 2021 revenues totaled $118.39 million, compared to $59.91 million in March 2020.
Video lottery revenue set another monthly record in March, with gross revenue of $51.82 million, a jump likely spurred by issuance of another round of pandemic stimulus checks.
The previous single-month record of $40.88 million was set in June 2020, the first full month that gaming reopened after a 10½-week shutdown, and also after the issuance of CARES Act stimulus checks.
The state’s share of Lottery profits for March totaled $53.89 million, and 2020-21 year-to-date profits total $374.5 million.
Year-to-date gross revenue of $845.2 million puts the Lottery on pace to break $1 billion when the fiscal year ends June 30. That mark was missed during the pandemic-hampered 2019-20 budget year, breaking an 18-year streak of topping $1 billion annually.
This year’s revenue collections are driven by $344.64 million of gross revenue from video lottery, up 18% from the same point in the 2018-19 budget year.
Also notable is that March marks the first time that iGaming revenue — from betting apps with casino themes — topped sports wagering revenue.
For the month, iGaming grossed $658,000, compared to $423,000 for sports wagering, offered on sports betting apps as well as at on-site sportsbooks at state casinos.