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Does Washington DC have a lottery?

Yes, Washington DC does have a lottery. The DC Lottery was created by the District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games Control Act of 1981 and began operations in 1982. The DC Lottery offers a variety of lottery games, including draw games like Powerball and Mega Millions, scratch-off instant games, and keno. Sales from DC Lottery games support various programs and good causes in the District.

History of the DC Lottery

The DC Lottery has an interesting history. Here are some key facts:

  • Congress passed the District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games Control Act in 1981, authorizing a government-run lottery in DC.
  • DC residents voted to approve the lottery in a 1982 referendum, with 58% voting yes.
  • The DC Lottery began ticket sales on August 22, 1982 with its first game, called “Lucky 5.”
  • Lucky 5 was a simple draw game where players picked 5 numbers between 1-35. There were twice weekly drawings.
  • The first Lucky 5 drawing on 8/25/82 had a jackpot of $50,000. There were 4 winning tickets that shared the prize.
  • Since 1982, the DC Lottery has introduced many new games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, scratch games, keno, and others.
  • The DC Lottery joined Mega Millions in 2002 when it began offering tickets for that multi-state game.
  • In 2009, the DC Lottery upgraded from manual draw machines to computerized systems for selecting winners.
  • The DC Lottery began offering Powerball in 2010 when it joined that multi-state lottery game.
  • Today the DC Lottery offers a wide selection of games and contributes millions in profit to District causes.

So while the DC Lottery is relatively young compared to some state lotteries, it has grown substantially from that initial Lucky 5 game in 1982.

DC Lottery Games

The DC Lottery offers the following games for purchase:

Draw Games

  • Powerball – National draw game with jackpots starting at $40 million.
  • Mega Millions – National draw game with minimum jackpots of $20 million.
  • Lucky for Life – Provides a top prize of $1,000/day for life.
  • DC-3 – Pick 3 numbers between 0-9, drawings daily.
  • DC-4 – Pick 4 numbers between 0-9, drawings daily.
  • DC-5 – Pick 5 numbers between 1-35, drawings daily.
  • Keno – Pick up to 10 numbers between 1-80, drawings every 4 minutes.

Scratch Games

  • A variety of instant scratch tickets with different prices and prize levels.
  • Scratch games range from $1 to $20 in price.
  • New scratch games are introduced frequently.

Powerball and Mega Millions offer the biggest jackpots, often exceeding $100 million. DC-3, DC-4, and DC-5 offer smaller prizes with better odds. Scratch games provide instant wins. Keno is a continuous game where drawings happen every 4 minutes. This wide range gives players many options for playing styles and preferences.

Where to Play DC Lottery Games

DC Lottery games can be purchased at hundreds of licensed retailer locations around the District. Here is how to find retailers for each game type:

Draw Games

  • Can be purchased at any DC Lottery retailer that sells draw games.
  • Use the Lottery Retailer Locator to find stores – dc
  • Major outlets include grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, and more.

Scratch Games

  • Can be purchased at any DC Lottery retailer that sells scratch games.
  • Use the Scratcher Retailer Locator to find locations – dc
  • Major outlets include convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, and more.


  • Can be played at licensed Keno retailers throughout DC.
  • Use Keno Retailer Locator to find locations – dc
  • Focus is on restaurants, bars, taverns, and other entertainment venues.

You can also purchase DC Lottery tickets online through the DC Lottery website or mobile app. However, you must be physically located within the District to play online. The Lottery website allows you to find the nearest retailers by zip code or location.

How Lottery Proceeds Are Used

All net income raised by the DC Lottery is used to support good causes for residents of the District of Columbia. Here is how lottery profits are used:

  • At least 50% must go to the District’s General Fund for typical government operations and services.
  • Remaining funds support specific programs designated by DC Law:
    • Home Purchase Assistance Program
    • Early Childhood Development
    • College Bound Scholarships
    • Senior Wellness Centers
    • HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment
    • Community Parks and Recreation
    • Public Safety and Justice Services
  • In 2021, the DC Lottery generated over $92 million in revenue for District programs.

While the General Fund receives the largest share, many worthwhile DC programs benefit from Lottery proceeds every year. These funds support education, health, public safety, recreation, housing assistance, and more. So playing the lottery helps improve programs for DC residents.

Key Facts and Figures

Here are some key facts and figures about the DC Lottery:

Start of Operations August 25, 1982
First Year Sales $16 million
2021 Sales $402 million
2021 Transfers to DC $92 million
Retailer Locations Over 700
Employees Approximately 70
Headquarters Washington, DC

Some key points:

  • The DC Lottery has grown substantially from the initial $16 million in sales in 1982.
  • Sales topped $400 million in 2021, showing continued growth.
  • $92 million for District programs demonstrates the significant impact.
  • The lottery extends across DC through its 700+ retailer locations.
  • A relatively small staff administers the lottery operations.

Odds and Probabilities

When playing the lottery, it’s important to understand your odds of winning. Here are the odds for DC’s lottery games:


  • Odds of winning the jackpot: 1 in 292,201,338
  • Overall odds of winning any prize: 1 in 24.87

Mega Millions

  • Odds of winning the jackpot: 1 in 302,575,350
  • Overall odds of winning any prize: 1 in 24


  • Exact order odds: 1 in 1,000
  • Any order odds: 1 in 333


  • Exact order odds: 1 in 10,000
  • Any order odds: 1 in 2,500


  • Odds of winning jackpot (exact order): 1 in 759,230
  • Any order odds: 1 in 8,594

Scratch Games

  • Varies by game – odds listed on back of ticket
  • Overall odds range from about 1 in 4 to 1 in 6


  • Odds vary depending on numbers picked and spots matched
  • From 1 in 4.17 (4-spot) to 1 in 330 (10-spot)

As you can see, the multi-state games have extremely difficult odds due to the huge number combinations. The local DC games have more reasonable odds. Scratch game odds tend to be the most favorable. Understanding the probability can help players set realistic expectations.

Responsible Gaming

The DC Lottery takes responsible gaming seriously. Some key policies include:

  • Must be 18 or older to play.
  • Advertising and promotions should not target underage or problem gamblers.
  • The lottery partners with the DC Problem Gambling Hotline to provide assistance.
  • Voluntary self-exclusion program allows players to ban themselves.
  • Ticket purchases are limited to reasonable amounts.
  • Players can set personal loss limits and cooling off periods online.
  • Retailers look for signs of problem gambling to connect players to help.
  • The website has tips for staying within your budget.

Responsible gaming is focused on player education, providing assistance as needed, and mitigating issues before they arise. Resources are available to help players gamble responsibly and within their means.

Comparison to Other States

How does the DC Lottery compare to lotteries in the biggest states? Here are lottery sales revenue figures for 2021 (Source: North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries):

State 2021 Revenue
New York $10.17 billion
Texas $6.71 billion
Florida $6.56 billion
California $5.56 billion
Washington DC $402 million

Compared to the largest state lotteries, the DC Lottery’s revenue is quite small, just 4% of New York for example. But DC is also much smaller than these large states geographically and in population. Considering its size, the DC Lottery performs well, generating significant funding for District causes.

Lottery Winners

Playing the lottery is fun, but actually winning a big jackpot prize is extremely rare. Here are some notable recent big winners from the DC Lottery:

  • In 2021, a DC resident won a $731.1 million Powerball jackpot, the 4th largest Powerball prize ever.
  • Earlier in 2021, a $50,000/year for life Lucky for Life prize was claimed by a Southeast DC woman.
  • In 2020, a $25 million Mega Millions prize was awarded to a DC healthcare worker.
  • A 2019 Powerball drawing had two $1 million winning tickets sold in DC.
  • Over the years, several DC residents have claimed prizes between $10 million and $100 million.

Despite the long odds, people do sometimes get lucky and win substantial sums. Large jackpots often attract huge interest from players when the prizes escalate into the hundreds of millions.

Buying Tickets Online

For added convenience, DC Lottery tickets can be purchased online through the Lottery’s website or mobile app. Here are some key facts about online play:

  • You must be physically located within Washington DC to play online.
  • The app uses phone GPS to verify your location.
  • Can play draw games like Powerball, instant games, and more.
  • Tickets are tied to your online Lottery account.
  • Winning draw tickets can be cashed remotely up to $600.
  • Instant tickets must be claimed at a retailer or lottery office.
  • Daily deposit limits for payment card purchases.
  • Initially had to register in person, now can sign up completely online.
  • Offers special online promos and discounts.

Purchasing tickets online provides extra flexibility and offers some nice perks. Mobile play allows you to buy tickets anytime. Responsible gambling features are also prominent in the app and online experience.

Future Outlook

What does the future hold for the DC Lottery? Here is what we may see in coming years:

  • Continued growth in digital play and fast-play draw games.
  • New lottery games to keep the experience fresh.
  • Big jackpots driving large ticket sales when pots escalate.
  • Expanded responsible gaming resources for players.
  • Marketing to promote responsiveness and ethical play.
  • Updated retailer terminals and back-office technology.
  • Enhanced data analytics to improve operations.
  • Ongoing contributions to District causes and services.

Lotteries nationwide are experiencing a shift toward online/mobile play and fast-paced draw games. DC Lottery seems well positioned to capitalize on these trends. At the same time, responsible gaming and transparency will remain focuses. Overall, the lottery’s mission to generate funding for DC should continue driving growth and innovation.


In conclusion, the DC Lottery has been successfully operating for 40 years now, offering a variety of games that provide entertainment and contribute substantially to the District’s budget. The lottery has evolved from a single weekly draw game in 1982 to a robust portfolio including major national jackpot games, instant scratchers, keno and more. Sales revenue of over $400 million shows that the lottery has grown tremendously while keeping pace with innovations. DC residents can feel good about playing the lottery responsibly knowing the net income supports various causes to enhance life in the District. While your odds of winning a mega jackpot are slim, DC players have still claimed large prizes over the years. With strong management and oversight, the DC Lottery appears positioned for continued success in providing value for District residents.