PHOENIX (3TV / CBS 5) - As Covid-19 forced businesses to close and unemployment rates soared, so did lottery sales, and now the Arizona Lottery is on track for a record-breaking year, 3 On Your Side has learned.

"Lottery sales are up and it’s surprising to us as it is to just about everybody," said John Gilliland, a spokesperson for the Arizona Lottery.

According to data from the Arizona Lottery, in April and May of 2019, lottery sales totaled $185.5 million. At the same time this year during the coronavirus pandemic, sales spiked to $222 million. Scratch ticket sales drove the increase; $180.2 million in April and May of 2020 versus $135.7 million in April and May of 2019.

"People are home. They’re looking for entertaining things to do. They’re looking to have some fun. They’re looking for some excitement," Gilliland said. "They’re looking for a bright spot in their lives during what is going on and lottery provides that."

Gilliland says temporary casino closures may have contributed to the increase in lottery sales, putting the st have put the Arizona lottery on a record-breaking path.

"We've already sold more than $1 billion in tickets and we still have until the end of the month before our fiscal year closes, so we're actually projecting that we might be every so slightly ahead of last year's record year in sales," Gilliland said. 

Though overall numbers are up, ticket sales dropped for draw games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

"Part of the allure of the draw games, especially like Mega Millions and Powerball is that rolling jackpot," Gilliland said. "When fewer people play, the jackpots don’t grow as quickly, and so that provides less incentive for people to play, which means fewer people play. It creates a vicious circle."

As Arizona's Family reported, a Circle K in Glendale sold Tuesday's winning Mega Millions ticket, worth $414 million. A winner has not come forward yet to claim the prize. If the winner chooses the cash option of $320 million, he or she will owe Arizona about $15.2 million in state income tax.

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