The Lottery saw a decent bump in sales last month, but a surge of winning ticket claims that came in as the Lottery reopened its claims centers helped drive monthly profits lower than July 2019.

Sales of $426.9 million in July were up $34.2 million or almost 9 percent from July 2019 sales, Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the Lottery Commission on Tuesday, aided by a nearly 15 percent increase in scratch ticket sales last month.

But those instant tickets, sales of which have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, also contributed to the fact that the July profit of $65.2 million was 18.6 percent lower than July 2019's monthly profit of $80.1 million. Sweeney said Lottery players claimed $22 million worth of instant ticket grand prizes in July 2020 compared to $13 million in July 2019.

The Lottery had been processing about 4,000 prize claims each week before the pandemic upended consumer habits and Lottery operations. After plummeting to near-zero the week of March 28, prize claims inched up to 1,500 per week by late June.

In early July, shortly after claims centers began to reopen with some restrictions, prize claims spiked, topping 8,000 claims the week of July 18. As of the week of Aug. 15, the most recent week with data made available by the Lottery, weekly prize claims had fallen back to about 4,500.

Combined with what Sweeney described as "an overall increase in prize claims since our claim centers reopened," the spike in instant ticket claims drove the percentage of monthly sales revenue that the Lottery paid out as prizes up to 77.85 percent, well above the 72.47 percent mark recorded last July. Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the Lottery, said Tuesday she can't remember ever seeing a monthly prize payout percentage that high. - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 8/25/20 12:10 PM