By Randy Ray

The West Virginia Lottery launched in January of 1986, setting a new first-day sales record of 1.6 million tickets sold on launch day. An early adopter of lottery games, at the very beginning of the second major wave of lottery expansion in America, West Virginia has continued to innovate, regulating electronic gaming machines, sports betting, and video lottery games as well as traditional lottery draws and scratch cards.

Here’s the complete list of games available from West Virginia Lottery:

  • Daily 3
  • Daily 4
  • Cash 25
  • Keno Go Bonus
  • Powerball
  • Mega Millions
  • Lotto America
  • Scratch Offs

West Virginia’s lottery is small, but it generates a lot of cash. West Virginians spend more per capita as a percentage of household income than any other state. The average adult in the Mountain State spends just over $345 on lottery games a year, about 1% of that state’s median household income.

Revenue from the West Virginia Lottery, some $300 million a year, is divided among three major state concerns – education, senior care, and the tourism industry. About 3,000 high school graduates a year earn full college scholarships thanks to lottery revenue. Lottery profits also support free meals for seniors, health care clinics in impoverished areas, and clean-up efforts at the state’s many parks and recreational areas.

Where the West Virginia Lottery struggles is administration. This is a major issue for small- and medium-sized lottery programs in America. It’s also typical in states with a heavy dependence on scratch ticket sales for revenue. Some 70% of West Virginia’s lottery revenue comes from scratch cards, which have high overhead costs, particularly when the pool of potential customers is small.

The latest numbers indicate about 15% of lottery income is paid back to winners, the lowest ratio of any US lottery program. Some 10% of revenue goes toward administrative costs, a high number compared to the best states in the industry, which run at costs of around 1%.

Still, for fans of scratch games, West Virginia is a kind of paradise, with a large list of regularly updated games in a variety of denominations. Draw lottery fans may like to see a healthier library of in-state games, as West Virginia’s program leans heavily on multi-state offerings.

Probability, Return to Player, and the West Virginia Lottery

Any cogent discussion of lottery play must include some discussion of odds, probability, and other aspects of gambling mathematics. Lottery games, like casino games, are controlled by mathematics, and systems have been developed over the years that allow us to consider things like game odds and return to player.

After all, state lottery programs (including West Virginia Lottery) publish features like game odds and claimed prizes, all in the interest of fairness. In most states, these statistics are required by law and are made publicly available as part of the legislation that launched the lottery to begin with.

Lottery players looking to improve their play need to understand how these features work, where they come from, and how to use them to create a lottery strategy.

Let’s start with an understanding of the phrase “return to player,” also known as RTP. A lottery game’s RTP is expressed as a percentage. That percentage represents how much of each dollar you bet on the game is likely to come back to you as a winning prize. The closer a game’s RTP is to 100%, the more likely you are to win. Most lottery games have relatively low RTP figures, since they are low-odds contests that require a small investment. RTP works like this – if a scratch card’s RTP is 25%, you should theoretically win just $0.25 back for every $1 you spend on ticket purchases.

For a real-world example, consider the West Virginia scratch card game Fatter Wallet. It’s a $10 game that has overall odds of winning any prize of 1 in 6.53. That means theoretically you should only win on about 15.3% of tickets you buy. Understand – this is a prediction, not a guarantee. You may win on your first Fatter Wallet ticket, or you may buy five tickets and lose every single time.

Remember that game odds are theoretical figures. They’re representations of a likely reality. They are not predictions of real-world results. When you’re researching lottery games, it’s valuable to keep in mind that these are all theoretical figures, and variance (swings in what we perceive as luck) are common.

How to Play the West Virginia Lottery

West Virginia Lottery participates in three multi-state games, hosts three in-state lottery draws, and offers dozens of scratch card instant win games.

Below is a short guide to every game currently available from West Virginia Lottery, including drawing schedules, odds, payouts, and other details as appropriate.

Daily 3 & Daily 4

These two games are similar enough that they can be covered in the same category.

These are daily draw games, except no games are drawn on Sundays. The drawings are at exactly 6:59 PM Eastern Time, with ticket sales cut off at exactly 6:41 PM Eastern Time. Tickets purchased after that time will be considered for the next drawing.

The games are so similar that they share a ticket. You start by selecting either Daily 3 or Daily 4 at the top, then select the number of panels you want to play. They cost $1 each, and you can play up to five times on each ticket.

Players can bet either $0.50 or $1 on all bets except the Exact/Any bet, which costs $1.

There are multiple betting types. For a complete rundown of each of them, see West Virginia Lottery’s Daily 3 How to Play page.

The game’s prizes depend on the type of bet you make and the amount you wager. They range from $40 to $500.

Cash 25

Cash 25 is an in-state West Virginia Lottery draw game that’s drawn four times a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Drawings are held at exactly 6:50 PM Eastern Time. Cutoff for ticket purchases is 15 minutes before the drawing, at exactly 6:35 PM Eastern Time. Tickets purchased after that time will be considered for the next drawing.

Tickets cost $1 – you can play up to five times on each ticket.

Bettors pick six numbers between 1 and 25, with the goal of matching all six numbers drawn. Payouts and odds are listed below:

  • Match all six balls and win $25,000 – odds of 1 in 177,100
  • Match five balls and win $250 – odds of 1 in 1,553.51
  • Match four balls and win $10 – odds of 1 in 69.04
  • Match three balls and win $1 – odds of 1 in 9.14

Overall odds of winning any prize on West Virginia Lottery’s Cash 25 game are 1 in 8. You should theoretically win a prize on 12.5% of all Cash 25 tickets you buy.

Keno Go Bonus

West Virginia Lottery launched their keno-style game Keno Go Bonus in 2020. A handful of other US states have keno-style games as part of their lottery programs; West Virginia is a late-adopter of this style of game.

Much like keno, and very similar to draw lottery play, the purpose of Keno Go Bonus is to match as many numbers as you can. The prize range is between $1 and $100,000 and is based on the number of spots you pick and the number you get correct.

For a complete pay table and other information on how to play, check out West Virginia Lottery’s Keno Go Bonus page.

Powerball & Mega Millions

West Virginia joined the MUSL as an early adopter in 1988, joining Powerball in 1992 and then joining the Mega Millions game in the year 2010. Powerball and Mega Millions are in the same category, since they have so much in common, down to your average odds of winning. Ask any average American to name two multi-state lottery games, and they’re likely to say Powerball and Mega Millions.

In West Virginia, both Powerball and Mega Millions tickets cost $2 to play. Both games can be enhanced with an extra dollar that activates a win multiplier. In short, if you want to play Powerball or Mega Millions, you’re going to shell out $2-$3.

Both games ask you to pick six numbers, though they use slightly different pools of numbers. On the Mega Millions game, you pick between the numbers 1 and 70, while on Powerball, you pick between 1 and 69. As you’ll see looking at the pay tables below, the games have almost identical odds, thanks to a nearly identical pool of numbers and identical playing style.

Here are the two game’s pay tables:

Mega Millions Pay Table

  • Match all six balls and win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 302.5 million
  • Match all five balls and win $1 million – odds of 1 in 12.6 million
  • Match four balls and the Mega Ball and win $10,000 – odds of 1 in 931,000
  • Match four balls and win $500 – odds of 1 in 38,792
  • Match three balls and the Mega Ball and win $200 – odds of 1 in 14,547
  • Match three balls and win $10 – odds of 1 in 606
  • Match two balls and the Mega Ball and win $10 – odds of 1 in 693
  • Match one ball and the Mega Ball and win $4 – odds of 1 in 89
  • Match the Mega Ball and win $2 – odds of 1 in 24

The odds of winning any prize on a Mega Millions ticket are 1 in 24. That means you should win some kind of prize on just about 4% of all the Mega Millions tickets you buy.

Powerball Pay Table

  • Match all six balls and win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 292.2 million
  • Match five balls and win $1 million – odds of 1 in 11.68 million
  • Match four balls and the Powerball and win $50,000 – odds of 1 in 913,000
  • Match four balls and win $100 – odds of 1 in 36,525.17
  • Match three balls and the Powerball and win $100 – odds of 1 in 14,494.11
  • Match three balls and win $7 – odds of 1 in 579.76
  • Match two balls and the Powerball and win $7 – odds of 1 in 701.33
  • Match one ball and the Powerball and win $4 – odds of 1 in 91.98
  • Match the Powerball and win $4 – odds of 1 in 38.32

The odds of winning any prize on a Powerball ticket are 1 in 24.87. That’s a win on just about 4% of all the Powerball tickets you buy. You have slightly better chances at winning any prize on a Powerball ticket, provided both jackpots are equal.

The difference in odds between these two massive multi-state games is negligible.

Lotto America

Any time you look into a smaller state’s lottery system, you’re likely to find that they participate in Lotto America. This is a lesser-known but still potentially high-paying multi-state draw lotto game with 13 participating states. West Virginia Lottery was one of the founding members of this growing game, which tends to pay out smaller prizes than the larger multi-state games like Mega Millions and Powerball. For example, Lotto America’s top prize resets to $1 million, about 1/20th the size of Powerball or Mega Millions’ minimum jackpot.

Lotto America tickets cost $1, but you can add another $1 to activate a win multiplier option.

Here’s the current pay table and odds information for Lotto America:

  • Match all six balls, win the jackpot – odds of 1 in 25.9 million
  • Match five balls, win $20,000 – odds of 1 in 2.8 million
  • Match four balls and the Star Ball, win $1,000 – odds of 1 in 110,000
  • Match four balls, win $100 – odds of 1 in 12,288
  • Match three balls and the Star Ball, win $20 – odds of 1 in 2,404
  • Match three balls, win $5 – odds of 1 in 267
  • Match two balls and the Star Ball, win $5 – odds of 1 in 160
  • Match one ball and the Star Ball, win $2 – odds of 1 in 29
  • Match just the Star Ball, win $1 – odds of 1 in 16.9

The overall odds of winning any prize on a Lotto America ticket are 1 in 9.63. That means you should theoretically win on about 10% of Lotto America tickets you buy.

Scratch Offs

West Virginia Lottery has 53 scratch off games currently available.

Here’s a breakdown of those tickets by denomination and average odds:

  • 5 $1 tickets – average odds 1 in 4.9
  • 7 $2 tickets – average odds 1 in 4.76
  • 5 $3 tickets – average odds 1 in 4.48
  • 16 $5 tickets – average odds 1 in 4.34
  • 10 $10 tickets – average odds 1 in 4.78
  • 6 $20 tickets – average odds 1 in 3.91

Check out one popular scratch off game in West Virginia to get a sense of how they all work: the $5 Win Rows game.

Each ticket costs $5 and gives you five possible winning rows of symbols, each rewarding a different prize amount based on combinations of symbols you reveal as you scratch the ticket’s surface. The overall odds are 1 in 6.65, or a winning ticket on about 15% of your purchases.

Here’s the pay table:

  • $500 – odds of 1 in 2,500
  • $150 – odds of 1 in 4,000
  • $120 – odds of 1 in 3,000
  • $100 – odds of 1 in 1,500
  • $80 – odds of 1 in 1,200
  • $70 – odds of 1 in 750
  • $60 – odds of 1 in 600
  • $50 – odds of 1 in 66.66
  • $30 – odds of 1 in 50
  • $20 – odds of 1 in 28.57
  • $10 – odds of 1 in 13.33

You may notice that the prize amounts and odds are upside-down at the top of the pay table. That’s because West Virginia Lottery updates prize odds regularly as tickets are scratched and prizes are claimed. When the game’s top prize of $500 has better odds than the second-best prize of $150, it should be obvious that this is because there are more $500 prizes still out there unscratched than there are $150 prizes.

Where to Buy West Virginia Lottery Tickets

More than a thousand retailers sell West Virginia Lottery tickets, though not all retailers offer all products. Use West Virginia Lottery’s “Find a Retailer” tool to locate a participating vendor near you.

How to Claim West Virginia Lottery Prizes

Prizes under $601 can be claimed in person at any participating West Virginia Lottery retailer, though these locations have the right to refuse if they don’t have sufficient cash reserves. Your best bet is to visit a large-scale retailer with large cash reserves like a grocery store.

You can claim any West Virginia Lottery prize through the mail. The Lottery suggests using certified or registered mail and sending your winning ticket to the following address:

West Virginia Lottery Claims
P.O. Box 2913
Charleston, WV 25330

The West Virginia Lottery website reminds winners to sign the back of any tickets sent in, and to include your return postal address. You also have to send in a copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID. If your prize is worth $601 or more, you’ll also need to send a copy of your social security card. Keep a photocopy of your winning ticket, front and back, in case of loss.

West Virginia Lottery winners claiming prizes of $5,000 or more be aware that the state will withhold 6.5% of you prize for state taxes along with the standard 24% withholding for federal taxes. That means a $5,000 prize, claimed through West Virginia Lottery, is returned to you as a check for $3,475.

Winning tickets expire 180 days after the draw or after the expiration date of a particular ticket.

Contact the West Virginia Lottery

West Virginia Lottery operates a toll-free number available during normal working hours at 1-800-982-2274.

Send mail to:

West Virginia Lottery
PO Box 2067
Charleston, WV 25327

You can email customer service at mail@wvlottery.com

Conclusion

West Virginia is clearly ready and willing to alter their lottery offerings to suit changing times. The state is now one of a handful allowing legal sports betting, an addition that involved changes to the state’s lottery structure. Though the current game library is a little lacking in terms of draw games, there’s every reason to believe the state is looking into ways to expand the state’s lottery options.

It’s impressive that a state with a light population like West Virginia manages over a billion dollars in lottery sales each year. Once the lottery straightens out the administrative issues that make it one of the costliest in the country, the Mountain State could be a model of success for other small states.