The state established the Washington Lottery and the Washington Lottery Commission as the Lottery's regulatory arm in July 1982. Lottery net proceeds are used to support schools, human services programs, natural resources and other government programs. The Lottery Commission is a five-member board appointed by the governor. Commission members serve a six-year term.
The Lottery is funded solely by ticket sales and does not use any of the state's tax revenues.
In 1986, the Lottery began deducting outstanding child support and other debts owed to the state from the winnings.
In November 2000 voters approved a measure, I-728, redirecting Lottery revenue contributions from the state general fund to education. I-728 specified that after 1 July 2004, all Lottery revenue for education was to be directed to the Education Construction Fund. The Education Construction funds were used for the maintenance and repair of higher-education institutions and to build, remodel and renovate K-12 schools.
In 2009, because of a $9 billion state budget shortfall, the state redirected Lottery dollars for education and economic development to the state's general fund to support many different state programs.
In 2010, the Lottery was directed by law to deposit more than $100 million each year in Lottery proceeds in the Opportunity Pathways Account (OPA), which helps fund access grants, state work study awards and two merit scholarship programs. In addition, funds from the OPA could be used for early learning programs. Besides the OPA, Lottery proceeds continued to contribute to stadium debt reduction for Safeco Field and Qwest Field and Exhibition Center, and to support problem gambling prevention and treatment programs.
The Lottery is required by law to return a minimum of 45% of gross annual revenue as prizes to players. On average, prizes awarded have been almost 60% of sales revenue. Unclaimed prizes must be held in the state lottery account for 180 days after the drawing before the unclaimed prize money reverts back to the Lottery.
A person must be at least 18 years of age to be able to play or purchase lottery tickets. Lottery tickets are only legally purchased at a licensed Lottery retailer establishment. The sale of lottery tickets over the internet is prohibited.
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