TRENTON – New Jersey Lottery sales and its contribution to the state dropped over the last year, and the agency would be in a bit of a financial pickle if not for unclaimed prizes.

Sales declined 1.3% in fiscal 2022, by around $50 million to $3.634 billion. But Lottery Director James Carey called it an “exceptionally well-done year” with the second-high sales ever – and said comparisons to fiscal 2021 are tough.

“FY21 was an extraordinary year because people had fewer options to spend their entertainment dollars with COVID being at its peak,” Carey said at the Lottery Commission’s July 21 monthly meeting.

Lottery sales in fiscal 2021 were up almost 15%, after being down almost 8% in 2020.

Profits from the lottery have gone into the public workers’ pension funds since a 2017 law, offsetting the amount that would ordinarily come from state budget appropriations. That contribution also went down slightly to $1.074 billion, according to the lottery’s initial, unaudited figures.

“It’s the fifth year in row that we’ve contributed more than $1 billion, every year since 2018,” Carey said.

The contribution equals 29.57% of sales – which doesn’t meet the legal requirement of returning at least 30% to the state. Carey said it will increase after unclaimed prizes and unspent money from the lottery’s budget are added in after the auditing process.

“We also fully expect and are 100% confident that we will achieve the 30% ratio when the additional funds are added to the contribution.”

The audit will also determine how much of an incentive payment will be paid to Northstar, the lottery’s sales and marketing vendor. Carey said the company did meet its performance target.

Here’s how the New Jersey Lottery got to $3.634 billion in sales last year, all numbers approximate:

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    1

    Scratch-Offs

    $2.06 billion, down 0.6% but over $2 billion for a second straight year. Carey said the $5 Big Spin game – in which a revealed code from the ticket got entered online, setting up a roulette wheel to spin and display a prize – has been popular. Grand prize winners attend an in-person event and spin a big mechanical wheel to determine what they win.

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    Pick 3

    $432 million, down 4.5%. Pick 3 and Pick 4 were down, after seeing increased play during the height of the pandemic. Carey called the decline “normalization after what had been an extraordinary year.”

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    Pick 4

    $274 million, down 5.6%. Changes to Pick 3 and Pick 4 are being made in November.

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    Powerball

    $241 million, up $65 million or 37%. The multistate jackpot game added a third drawing each week.

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    Jersey Cash 5

    $157 million, down 12.7%.

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    Mega Millions

    $147 million, down 31%. While fiscal 2022 was down, fiscal 2023 surely got an early boost through sales for the $1.28 billion jackpot won Friday by a single ticket sold in Illinois.

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    Quick Draw

    $111 million, up 1.2%. Carey said it’s a game meant to be played in social spaces and that sales are expected to improve further as the pandemic has less influence on people’s habits.

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    Pick 6

    $62.8 million, up 10%. Changes were made to make the game slightly more winnable by reducing the matrix of numbers to choose from and added extra prizes.

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    Cash 4 Life

    $58 million, down 1.5%.

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    Cash Pop

    $46 million, up 10%. Like Quick Draw, what the lottery calls a social space game played most often in places like VFWs and Elks clubs. Some changes were made to the game.

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    Fast Play

    $39 million, up 35%.

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    Raffle

    $3.25 million. There were five early-bird drawings for $25,000 prizes, leading up to the $2 million grand prize on New Year’s Day. Raffle tickets cost $20. The lottery anticipated ending sales at 500,000 tickets but sold only around 162,500. “Not what we were hoping for,” Carey said. “We learned some good lessons from it. Maybe we’ll see a raffle at some point in the future. Not this year.”