CHARLESTON, W.Va. ? The West Virginia Lottery ended its just-completed budget year with an $81 million surplus, the Associated Press reports.
Despite the windfall, agency officials cautioned against sustained optimism, saying the lottery?s future remains challenging in light of increased competition from border states. Additionally, the strong results still lag below the lottery?s peak surplus during the past decade, which some said suggest the lottery?s best years are in the past.
"We view this as uncharted territory," said James Toney, the lottery's chief financial officer. "No state lottery has gone through this particular type of competition before. We're gauging these things as we're moving through the environment."
West Virginia lottery sales topped $1.45 billion for the year that ended June 30, the best showing in the past three years. Officials had forecast $1.32 billion, or a 5% dip from the previous year.
West Virginia?s lottery relies on more than just Powerball and Mega Millions, which accounted for $201 million of the year?s sales. The largest share ? $765 million ? came from nearly 9,000 video slot- and poker-style machines stationed by the state?s four racetracks.
The machines were projected to generate $712 million for the year, as Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio have opened their own gambling venues over the past decade, thus diminishing cross-border sales. "We had anticipated that the competition from Ohio would have accelerated and come on board in December. It did not start until June," Toney said.
West Virginia officials estimate that in-state lottery sales will drop $1.13 billion during the year that began July 1, a 14% drop from the prior year?s forecast.