FILE - North Carolina lottery

North Carolina Powerball and Mega Millions tickets.

(The Center Square) – Record sales of North Carolina Education Lottery tickets last fiscal year led to a record contribution for education, lottery officials announced Monday.

Lottery sales in fiscal 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, were $3.8 billion, resulting in $936 million for education programs in North Carolina.

The sales total represented a 26% increase from fiscal 2020, and education earnings jumped 28% from the previous fiscal year. Lottery Executive Director Mark Michalko said the record-setting performance was the result of fewer entertainment options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just like other sales and marketing brands, we faced multiple challenges during these unusual times,” Michalko said in a news release. “We succeeded thanks to the loyalty of lottery players, the support of our retailers all across our state, and a tremendous effort by the lottery staff to find ways to safely complete our mission in raising money for education.”

The N.C. Education Lottery paid players $2.4 billion in prizes in fiscal 2021. Retailers earned $262 million in commissions.

State lawmakers determine each year how the lottery's contribution to education is spent. Lottery officials said the latest contribution was used to build and repair schools, for scholarships and grants based on financial need, to help school systems with school workers and transportation costs and to support the NC Pre-K program, which is a prekindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds.

The lottery said it has contributed more $8.2 billion to state coffers since March 2006.

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Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.