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Big NC lottery sales in pandemic mean record education money

RALEIGH (AP) — Massive ticket sales for the North Carolina Education Lottery during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a best-ever $936 million in annual game profits for education, the lottery announced on Monday.

Earnings going to education in the past fiscal year that ended June 30 grew by 28% compared to the year before — helped by a 26% increase in ticket sales to $3.8 billion, according to a lottery news release.

Consumers played lottery games more because they had few other options for entertainment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lottery executive director Mark Michalko said. The popularity of multistate lotteries, scratch-off tickets and a new game called Fast Play also helped, he said.

Lottery sales have grown each and every year since the first tickets were sold in March 2006, while earnings for education have been higher every year compared to the previous year except in 2017.

State law tells lottery leaders to allocate at least 35% of annual revenues toward education, but that’s a guideline, not a directive.

The legislature decides on spending details. The money went to public school construction, college scholarships and grants, the state’s prekindergarten program and for K-12 schools to pay for school workers and transportation.