January 9, 1986: West Virginia Sells First Lottery Tickets

West VIrginia Lottery Logo

On January 9, 1986, West Virginia sold its first “scratch-off” lottery tickets. The state lottery had been authorized by an amendment to the state constitution, passed by voters in 1984.

As the number of lottery games expanded, so did revenues. Within eight years, instant ticket sales had increased by 336 percent and would eventually bring in more than a billion dollars a year.

Lottery profits were initially transferred to the state’s general fund but were later dedicated to specific programs benefiting senior citizens, tourism, and education, including PROMISE scholarships.

In 1994, lawmakers broadened the lottery’s scope by allowing slot-machine-style video lottery terminals at racetracks. Voters in the counties with racetracks approved the change. In addition, an online game, Travel Keno, was approved for designated sites that sold alcohol.

In 2001, the legislature outlawed so-called “gray machines,” private video gaming machines that previously had operated on the fringe of the law; 9,000 video lottery terminals were authorized in their place. By 2005, video lottery sales represented more than 70 percent of the lottery’s total revenues. In 2007, the legislature added table games at racetracks and certain hotels.