As Mega Millions jackpot grows, here's a county-by-county look how lottery funds are spent in NC

Michael Perchick Image
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Here's how lottery funds are spent
With $830 million up for grabs in Mega Millions lottery, here's how lottery funds are spent

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the excitement grows ahead of Tuesday night's Mega Millions drawing, Khaly Seck is feeling positive.

Winning numbers drawn

"This is a big jackpot man. And I want to get it," said Seck.

A big jackpot translates into big dreams.

"I want to make some investments for a business and buy a house," said Seck.

"Only three times in the history of the US have we seen a higher jackpot than this," said Van Denton, the Director of Communications for the North Carolina Education Lottery.

You'll face long odds to take home the estimated $830 million jackpot -- about 1 in 302 million. Interest in the lottery has increased; in the 2020 fiscal year, there was a 5.5% increase in lottery sales, for a total of $3 billion. Last year, there was a 26% increase in lottery sales, up to $3.8 billion.

For the 2021 fiscal year, 64% of the money in the state's lottery went back toward prizes, 25% towards education, 7% commission to retailers, and 4% for administration.

"What we're doing is a balancing act of raising money for education and then making sure people have a fun time playing lottery games. So the amount of the prizes has gone up over time, but also the sales have gone up over time and that enabled us to raise more money each year for education. Last year, we raised $936 million for education," said Denton.

The $936 million figure is more than double the amount from just a decade ago.

"You have some programs, like the scholarship program, is based on financial need. So it helps kids go to college. You have other programs, like the NC Pre-K program, which is for 4-year-olds who are a little bit behind, to try to catch them up before they go to kindergarten," Denton said.

Last fiscal year, Wake County received just over $65 million toward education. Of that amount, about $40.5 million was for non-instructional support (including office assistants, custodians, and substitute teachers), $12.8 million for school construction, $4.3 million for Pre-K, 3$3.8 million for college scholarships, $2.4 million for school transportation, and $1.25 million for UNC Need-Based Grant Program.

"We're still looking at a very regressive tax to fund the school systems. And it's really only the Department of Education, the estimate is it only funds about 6% of their operating budget," said Dr. Mark Steckbeck, the Lundy Chair in Business Philosophy at Campbell University.

Steckbeck pointed to data that shows people with the least amount of discretionary income spend disproportionately more on the lottery.

"I'm concerned that we use the lottery to basically attract money from the lowest-income people," said Steckbeck.

A 2018 survey from Bankrate found that 28% of people making less than $30,000 a year played the lottery at least once a week, compared to just 18% of people who made at least $75,000 annually.

"The money they're spending if they put it away and save, they'd actually end up with something," Steckbeck said.

Tuesday night's drawing is at 11 p.m. In-store ticket sales end at 10:45, and online sales end at 10:43. The cash value of Tuesday night's jackpot is $487.9 million.