CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Lottery revenues have shot up and exceeded expectations for the year because of an improving national economy and because of construction and licensing delays at competing casinos in Ohio and Maryland, state Lottery officials said Tuesday.
Lottery revenues topped $951.7 million for the fiscal year that started July 1 -- up 3.5 percent from the previous year and 9.2 percent above projections.
Another positive sign: West Virginia's five casinos had 200 more employees compared to the same month last year.
"We anticipated competition coming on board last December, but we have a little bit of a reprieve," said Lottery Director John Musgrave. "But there's no question we're going to see competition soon."
Casinos in Maryland and Ohio are expected to battle with West Virginia's casinos for gamblers as early as May, Lottery officials said.
"We have the impact of competition built into our forecasts," said Jim Toney, chief financial officer at the Lottery. "The casinos in Ohio and Maryland have had some unexpected delays."
Toney cited people's optimism about the economy as another reason for the increase in Lottery revenue.
"It seems consumer confidence is up," he said at Tuesday's Lottery Commission meeting in Charleston. "People are feeling better about the good economic condition."
A mild winter also might have led to the revenue surge, Toney said.
"We've had great weather," he said. "People aren't shut in. They're up and about."
The Lottery's major revenue producer -- racetrack video lottery -- exceeded $500.3 million for the year, up 4 percent over the previous year.
Casino table games topped $51.6 million, a 20 percent increase.