NASHVILLE — Happy Birthday, Tennessee Education Lottery.
Tennessee lottery officials this week are celebrating the games' 14th anniversary, announcing the program has raised $4.4 billion so far for education programs along with a record-busting second quarter.
"We're proud of the past 14 years," said Rebecca Hargrove, the lottery's president and CEO, in a news release. "The results we have achieved have funded more than a million scholarships and grants and now help make possible the Governor's Drive to 55 initiatives along with so many other education programs."
After years of political battles to change the Tennessee Constitution, spearheaded by then-state Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, now a congressman, state voters on Nov. 2, 2002, approved a constitutional amendment permitting a state-run lottery.
A law was passed establishing the Tennessee Education Lottery, with the first tickets sold on Jan. 20, 2004.
Hargrove, who had won national recognition successfully running lotteries in Georgia, Florida and Illinois, was hired as the Tennessee program's first director.
"Our success is based on many factors, including the enabling legislation that provides the business structure under which we operate," said Hargrove, who also praised the lottery's board of directors and employees and more than 5,000 participating retailers.
Officials say that since the Tennessee Education Lottery began, the program has seen:
» Nearly $17.5 billion in gross ticket sales.
» More than $12.1 billion in prizes won by players.
» More than $1.1 billion paid in commissions to retailers who sell lotto tickets and scratch-off tickets.
» 228 winning tickets worth $1 million or more, including six Powerball jackpot winners; two Hot Lotto jackpot winners and a Mega Millions jackpot winner.
Since the first college scholarship awards began going to qualified students in fall of 2004, lottery-funded programs have grown to include multiple scholarships and grants as well as an after-school program and energy efficient grants for K-12 schools.
Under Gov. Bill Haslam, a portion of lottery reserves was placed in a reserve to fund the Tennessee Promise, a 2014 program that won the state national recognition for providing last-dollar scholarships that help recent Tennessee high school graduates attend two-year colleges and technical schools tuition free.
Last year, the program was extended to adults.
This story was updated Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at 10:39 p.m.