If playing favorable odds is your thing, then West Virginia may be your place to play. That’s according to a recent study by the Online Betting Guide, which noted that, since the Powerball game began in 1992, West Virginia has crowned five jackpot winners.
That’s the third most frequent in the country.
Besides jackpot winners, West Virginians have recently won some big prizes playing the West Virginia Lottery. And casino play generates tens of millions of dollars every year.
Plus, a recent change by lawmakers to allow West Virginians to deduct gambling losses on their taxes means gambling will continue to play an important role in the lives of Mountain State residents.
West Virginians’ Powerball jackpots average just over $108 million
Surprisingly, West Virginia Lottery online sales are prohibited. It’s surprising because both Virginia online sports betting and online casinos are legal. Unfortunately, there seems to be no effort to legalize online ticket sales anytime soon.
Trailing only Delaware and New Hampshire in terms of the state’s winning rate on Powerball jackpots, West Virginia boasts a winning rate of 2.83 winners per 1 million people. Delaware’s winning rate is 4.85 winners per 1 million people, while New Hampshire’s is 3.56.
But there’s a catch. (There’s always a catch.)
West Virginia winners have netted less money from their five jackpots. The average winnings for Powerball jackpots in West Virginia is $108.75 million. That ranks 32 out of the 45 participating states offering the game.
West Virginia winners not just limited to jackpots
In addition to the five jackpot winners of Powerball, there have been plenty of other big winners in the state as well.
That includes the most recent winner who, in May, redeemed a $500,000 winning ticket when he matched four of five numbers and the Powerball. That ticket was sold in the town of Shinnston in Harrison County.
Just one month earlier, a $50,000 Powerball winner was awarded in Davis, a small town of just 660 residents.
But, aside from all the winners West Virginia has had that were able to obtain their cash prizes, there is also a surprisingly high number of individuals who weren’t as lucky. That’s because, after winning a significant amount of money playing Powerball, those people didn’t claim their prize, likely because they didn’t know they had won.
One stunning (and maddening) example is the fact that there are four winning Powerball tickets that have been unclaimed in West Virginia since the game’s inception, each worth $1 million.
Those tickets and the millions of dollars in other unclaimed winners go to a second-chance drawing called the Unclaimed Prize Fund where players who mail in losing scratch-off tickets earn another chance to win. The Unclaimed Prize Fund also pays a small portion of the 7% retail commissions. The West Virginia Lottery has not disclosed how much it keeps in this fund, but it has to be a significant amount.
Winners have 180 days to claim a prize in West Virginia cash games like Powerball before the funds are added to the Unclaimed Prize Fund.
Gambling in a variety of forms has had success in West Virginia
Gambling success doesn’t stop at the West Virginia Lottery, either. One of the biggest winners is West Virginia casinos.
Throughout fiscal year 2022-2023, in-state online casinos generated more than $20 million.
Total gambling tax revenue in West Virginia, including for retail casinos and sports betting, generated more than $52 million throughout the fiscal year, which just ended. Dollars wagered online for FY 2022-2023 was close to $4 billion.
Total WV online revenue, handle, and taxes all increased by more than 36% each from the prior year.
Another reason gambling in West Virginia makes cents
On top of the favorable odds and many gambling options across the state of West Virginia, there’s also a new law that alters how gambling costs are tracked and claimed on taxes.
Previously, West Virginia taxed gamblers on their gross winnings, which was a less favorable structure than the new rule. Now, gamblers in WV can deduct losses from their winnings as long as they meet a few criteria.
This applies for all losses within the state of West Virginia. Of course, those losses can’t exceed a person’s winnings.
The best part? West Virginians can even amend older tax returns under the new law.