Iowa Lottery wins big, sales rise during pandemic

By: - March 30, 2021 3:30 pm

The Iowa Lottery has set another sales record. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Lottery)

Sluggish Iowa Lottery sales at the beginning of the pandemic gave way to a strong surge as people looked for entertainment at home, lottery officials said Tuesday. 

Apparently, scratching a ticket or checking lotto numbers fit the bill for many. 

iowa Lottery CEO Matt Strawn told the lottery board Tuesday that from the July 1 beginning of the latest budget year through February, sales are running 24.7% over budget, and 24.6% above last year’s actual sales, according to audited figures. That’s $292.8 million in sales so far this fiscal year.

Nearly all lottery product categories have seen year-over-year lift in sales performance,” Strawn told the board. Scratch tickets and national lotto games were big sellers, he added.

The lottery sold more than $200 million in scratch tickets through February, a 22.5% gain year over year. Scratch ticket sales have set new records every year since the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015. 

Powerball and Mega Millions topped the year-ago sales, Strawn said. Powerball sales were up 19.5% through February. Mega Millions was up 50%.

The jackpots for those games topped $700 million at the same time in January, boosting sales. 

Strawn noted that sales for the lottery drawings had softened at times before the pandemic as it took longer for large jackpots to build. That challenge could return as the pandemic passes, he added.

The revenue the lottery gives to the state to be used for various services reached $69.2 million, up 24.8% from last year at this time and 43.6% percent beyond budget.

The Lottery is likely to see more modest sales growth as Iowans return to more normal versions of their lives post-pandemic, and entertainment options widen, Strawn said. 

Lottery workers increased service and inspections as more people have been vaccinated, though the headquarters continues to stagger shifts and many employees continue to work at home. Through voluntary reporting, the Lottery determined that as of Monday, 45% of all employees had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination.     

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.