RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) announced on Monday that they raised nearly $1 billion for education programs in the state in fiscal year 2021.

According to a news release from the NCEL, the $936 million raised is a new record.

The earnings were a result of record lottery ticket sales that topped out at just under $4 billion. The $3.8 billion in sales was up 26-percent from the previous year, according to the NCEL.

Earnings for education were up 28-percent to $206.6 million, and on average, the lottery provided $2.5 million per day for education in the fiscal year. The results have not yet been audited, the NCEL noted in the release.

The lottery’s executive director Mark Michalko said the record year was a result of “unique circumstances in the state’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic combined with exceptional performance of popular lottery games enjoyed by North Carolinians.”

Michalko also said consumers looked toward the lottery as a way to have a little fun during a time when there were few options for entertainment due to the pandemic.

“Just like other sales and marketing brands, we faced multiple challenges during these unusual times,” Michalko said. “We succeeded thanks to the loyalty of lottery players, the support of our retailers all across our state, and a tremendous effort by the lottery staff to find ways to safely complete our mission in raising money for education.”

Michalko said in the release that matching fiscal year 2021’s sales and profits will likely be a challenge as more entertainment options reopen in the state.

According to the NCEL, the lottery money supports education programs in all 100 counties across the state, as determined every year by the North Carolina General Assembly in the state budget.

The NCEL said that the money raised has helped with the following efforts:

  • Build and repair schools.
  • Make college more affordable through scholarships and grants based on financial need.
  • Support school systems with the costs of school workers and transportation.
  • Support NC Pre-K, a free academic prekindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds.

The lottery paid out $2.4 billion to North Carolinians – the most the lottery has ever paid out, the release said. Businesses selling tickets earned $262 million in commissions from ticket sales, $52.5 million more than last fiscal year.

At the end of this most recent fiscal year, the NCEL’s total contribution to schools since its start in March 2006 tops $8.2 billion.