HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — While people around the country think about what they would do if they won over a billion dollars during Tuesday’s live Mega Millions drawing, many wonder about another question: where does the money go from each ticket you buy?
With the jackpot reaching $1.6 billion, the Sheetz gas station on West Broad Street has been packed with people trying to get their hands on lottery tickets.
“When it gets pretty heavy like it happens, but not as big as this,” Christina Garms, the store’s manager told 8News.
With Mega Millions fever, Garms says she sees lines sometimes reaching the door.
“I have no idea, a lot though,” Garms explained, “and a lot of new people that have never played lottery before.”
Locals who have been playing the lottery for years spoke with 8News about the buzz around the big jackpot.
Jared Wright, a veteran lottery player, came out to the Sheetz for one reason: “To become a billionaire.”
If Wright won, he says he would do the right thing and give it out to “people that need help.”
The Virginia Lottery has been around for 30 years. In 2000, a constitutional amendment was on the ballot to decide where lottery proceeds go. Voters made had the choice.
“Overwhelmingly they said they wanted lottery funds to go to education,” said Virginia Lottery Spokesperson John Hagerty.
Out of each dollar, between 28 and 29 cents goes to the education fund. The General Assembly decides which programs get funding for kindergarten through 12th grade. Last year, Hagerty says they hit a new record.
“It’s the first time lottery profits have exceeded $600 million. It’s been increasing over the years and of course a part of every ticket, whether or not that ticket wins goes to benefit K-12 schools,” he said.
So you know, the entire education budget for the 2018-2020 is about $40 billion. The budget is done biannually and was just signed off by the Governor in June.
Hagerty says the amount of prizes that goes unclaimed too is surprising.
“There was about $14 million in lottery prizes that went unclaimed and by law that goes to the Literary Fund,” he added.
Since 1988, the Virginia Lottery has transferred more than $275 million in unclaimed prizes to the Literary Fund, which also goes to education.
Even without winning big, local lottery players think the game is still worth it.
“It goes, I believe it goes to the right place,” said Wright.
If no one wins the lottery tonight, Virginia Lottery officials say the Mega Millions jackpot will raise to $2 billion.
Virginia Lottery officials urge you to play responsibly. You have to be 18 or older to purchase a ticket.