With an executive order shutting down casinos and limited video lottery machines in bars and clubs around the state on March 18, West Virginia Lottery gross revenue for the month plunged 46%, dropping from $110.03 million in March 2019 to $59.01 million.
“As much as I hate to say it, our streak of $1 billion a year in sales is certainly in jeopardy, and I’m not very optimistic we’ll make it,” Lottery Director John Myers said Wednesday at the monthly Lottery Commission meeting.
For 17 straight years, lottery gross revenue has topped $1 billion, peaking at $1.56 billion in the 2006-07 budget year — the last year before competing casinos proliferated in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Myers noted that, for the month of April, there will be zeros for revenue from LVL, racetrack video lottery, casino table games, onsite sportsbooks and The Greenbrier resort casino.
With three months remaining in the 2019-20 budget year, lottery gross revenue is at $805.2 million, down $47.91 million from the same point last year.
The executive order meant casinos and LVL machines were shuttered for 45% of the month of March, almost identical to the 46% loss of revenue for the month.
For the month, compared to March 2019 numbers, racetrack video lottery revenue dropped 48%, falling from $47.55 million to $20.19 million. LVL revenue dropped 44%, from $37.52 million to $20.86 million. Table games fell 56%, from $3.19 million to $1.4 million.
Among traditional lottery games, purchases of scratch-off tickets actually increased in March, going from $11.19 million in March 2019 to $11.6 million.
Purchases of online tickets for daily lottery drawings and for games including Powerball and Mega Millions — purchases that frequently require contact with store clerks — fell 51%, from $9.4 million to $4.61 million.
Myers told commissioners that lottery revenue has been sufficient to cover expenses through April.
Gov. Jim Justice’s plan for reopening the state would allow casinos, dine-in restaurants and, presumably, bars and clubs to reopen some time in the next three to six weeks, if positive test rates for COVID-19 remain below 3% of total cumulative tests.
That could mean lottery revenue could resume as early as mid- to late May.
The Lottery Commission approved emergency rules for online gaming, or iGaming, which will allow wagering on video poker and other casino-style games via mobile apps.
Myers said the rules will be filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in mid-May, which will open a public comment period over the summer, with filing of the permanent rules in the fall, for action by the legislative rule-making review process during the 2021 regular session.
He did not specify a launch date for iGaming, legalized under legislation passed in March 2019.
- Myers said most Lottery employees continue to work from home, and staff working on-site at Lottery headquarters are split into day and evening shifts, to limit contact. Validation of winning tickets has been by mail only since March 25, he said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the second straight conducted remotely, although Ccommission Chairman Ken Greear said he is optimistic the commission will be able to meet in person in May.