With casino gaming revenue rebounding and Limited Video Lottery play at bars and clubs around the state remaining strong, state Lottery Director John Myers said Lottery financial numbers are returning to normal.
A potential surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant could threaten to stall that momentum, he said.
“Hopefully it keeps moving in this direction,” Myers said of the Lottery’s monthly gross of $105.48 million, up $1.74 million from June 2020.
“We have proven we can operate while taking the necessary safety precautions,” he said of prospects that spread of the delta variant could force the Lottery to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity reductions and reinstalling Plexiglas shields separating players in gaming areas.
June revenue pushed Lottery gross revenue for the 2020-21 budget year back over the $1 billion mark, to $1.17 billion. The budget year ended June 30.
Last budget year, the pandemic forced an extended shutdown of state casinos and limited video lottery parlors, which dropped gross revenue for 2019-20 to $955 million, breaking an 18-year streak of $1 billion revenue years.
Commission Chairman Ken Greear took note of the milestone in light of the lingering pandemic.
“If you look at the past year, and what everyone has gone through … $1 billion in sales is a heck of an accomplishment,” he said.
Video lottery at the state’s four racetrack casinos traditionally is by far the largest source of revenue for the Lottery. In June, it pulled even with limited video lottery at about $40 million each.
Limited video lottery has enjoyed record-breaking levels of play as the pandemic has wound down, topping $50 million in March and April, well above its $35 million average monthly gross.
Myers said racetrack video lottery revenue has topped limited video lottery revenue in four of the past six weeks, an encouraging sign that players are returning to the casinos.
Also, traditional scratch-off and online tickets set a sales record in the 2020-21 budget year, something Myers attributed to in-house marketing efforts, including introducing a variety of larger denomination scratch-off tickets that the buying public prefers.
“That is one area where we can influence our customers to use our product,” he said of marketing of traditional Lottery games.
The state’s five casinos each do their own marketing and advertising, he noted, while limited video lottery locations are prohibited by law from advertising or promoting their slots games.
For the budget year, the Lottery had a total of $249.25 million in traditional game sales, breaking the record of $218 million set in 2005-06.
Overall for the month, the state’s share of Lottery profits was $49.43 million, up $1.5 million from June 2020.
For the budget year, the state’s share of profits was $529.2 million, up $105.15 million from 2019-20. It was also $69 million above the Lottery’s profit projections for the year.
Additionally, the auction of 10-year limited video lottery licenses brought in another $69.5 million.
Also during Tuesday’s commission meeting:
- Lottery officials said they have not received an audited financial report from The Greenbrier Casino, but said the casino has another 10 days to submit the report.
In June, commissioners conditionally approved renewing The Greenbrier’s casino license, contingent on receiving the financial report within 30 days.
Asked what happens if The Greenbrier misses the deadline, Myers said, “That would mean the license would not be renewed at that point, and we would not allow them to operate.”
The Greenbrier’s financial report was delayed when the auditor conducting the audit died of a heart attack.
Commissioners reelected longtime chairman Greear, and elected Roy Shrewsbury as vice chairman, a position held for years by Bill Clayton, who “retired” from the commission earlier this year.