The North Carolina Education Lottery oversees by far the most popular legal form of gambling in the state. In terms of yearly lottery ticket sales, North Carolina typically ranks just outside the top 10 nationwide. It is also one of the few states to allow online lottery ticket sales for certain games, a big contributor to the lottery’s popularity.
The North Carolina Lottery offers a variety of draw and instant win games. The state participates in the big multi-jurisdictional draw games like Powerball and Mega Millions while also offering several in-state exclusives. As the name implies, the NC Education Lottery raises revenue for education programs and scholarships in the state. That amount has steadily increased over the years and is now approaching $1 billion annually.
This page covers how to play the lottery in North Carolina, what games are available, how the state uses lottery revenue to fund education, and more.
Who can legally play the NC Lottery?
You must be at least 18 years old to purchase lottery tickets in North Carolina. When buying them at retailers, you may need to show identification to prove your age. When buying North Carolina Lottery tickets online, you’ll also have to provide personal information to prove you are at least 18.
Note that you don’t have to be a North Carolina resident to play the lottery in the state. Visitors can, too. You will, however, have to be within state lines to purchase NC Lottery tickets online. You cannot buy tickets while using a VPN or remote desktop software or have any other settings on your device that might alter or hide your location.
How to buy lottery tickets online in North Carolina
Purchasing online lottery tickets in North Carolina is quite simple. Doing so first requires creating an NC Education Lottery account, which you can do by visiting the lottery website and clicking the sign-in button in the upper right corner. From there, follow these steps:
- Create a username and password and provide an email address.
- Click “Continue,” then check your email for a message containing a confirmation code.
- Enter the code along with your name, physical address, and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
From there, you’ll next need to deposit funds into your NC Lottery account, then you’ll be able to use those funds to purchase tickets and start playing the North Carolina lottery online.
NC Education Lottery online banking methods
You can deposit funds into your NC Lottery account via a number of options:
- Debit card
- Online banking
- ACH bank transfer with checking account
- PayPal (using a bank account as your source of funds, not a credit or debit card)
The minimum amount for deposits is $10. There are maximum limits, as well: $505 per day, $2,000 per week, and $5,000 per month. You can also set personal deposit limits if you wish.
You can withdraw funds using those same methods plus by receiving a check in the mail. The amount of time necessary to process withdrawals varies by method, and in some cases, additional documentation might be necessary. The first time you withdraw, you’ll have to go through an extra step by entering a security code from your email, a step that will also be necessary any time you withdraw $50 or more.
The minimum amount for withdrawals is $1. The maximum you can withdraw at once is $10,000.
One point worth emphasizing is the fact that you can only withdraw winnings from your NC Education Lottery account. In other words, if you deposit money into your account, you cannot simply withdraw the funds without playing.
If you play daily fantasy sports, for example, when you deposit funds into a DFS account, you typically can withdraw that money again without playing in any contests. That’s not the case for the NC Education Lottery. You must use any money you deposit to purchase tickets, and the only time you can withdraw is if you actually win money while playing. So think carefully about how much you deposit.
North Carolina Lottery games with online ticket sales
You can’t purchase tickets online for every NC Lottery game, only a selection of draw games. Here are the options available for online ticket purchases:
- Mega Millions
- Lucky for Life
- Carolina Cash 5
All other draw games, including Carolina Keno, as well as all instant win games, require you to purchase tickets in person at NC Education Lottery retailers.
North Carolina Lottery app
You can buy tickets for the above draw games on a desktop or laptop computer via a web browser. You can also purchase lottery tickets and do a lot more with the NC Lottery app.
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Here are the minimum requirements:
- iOS version 13 or newer
- Android version 8 or newer
With the NC Lottery app, you can deposit funds into your account and purchase tickets in the various available draw games. You can also scan tickets to see if they’ve won and also to enter them to earn Lucke-Rewards points. You can otherwise check results, withdraw winnings, set up notifications, find nearby lottery retailers, and perform other actions also available on the NC Lottery website.
North Carolina Lottery games
The North Carolina Lottery features a selection of draw games and instant win games.
Available draw games include both the big multi-jurisdictional games and in-state games. North Carolina participates in three of the multistate draw games along with three of its own NC-specific draw games and also its own keno game.
Powerball is an especially popular game that allows players from 45 states plus a few other jurisdictions to enter. North Carolina began participating in Powerball shortly after the lottery first launched in 2006. Such a huge pool of players can create enormous jackpots, with the largest so far-reaching $1.586 billion. The game costs $2 to play, or $3 if you add the Power Play option, which can increase payouts.
Drawings happen every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. ET. Players pick five numbers from 1 to 69 (the white balls) plus one more from 1 to 26 (the Powerball). Getting all six right wins the top prize, but your chances are 1 in 292.2 million to do that.
The other large-scale draw game also available in 45 states plus a few other jurisdictions is Mega Millions. Its largest jackpot ever was $1.537 billion, although a $1.337 billion prize nearly broke that record in late July 2022. Like Powerball, Mega Millions costs $2 to play or $3 if you add the prize-increasing Megaplier. NC began offering Mega Millions tickets in 2010.
Drawings take place every Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. ET. To play, you select five numbers from 1 to 70 (the white balls) and one more from 1 to 25 (the gold Mega Ball). Getting them all wins the jackpot, something you have about a 1 in 302.6 million chance of doing.
Lucky for Life
North Carolina began participating in Lucky for Life in 2016. This is another multi-jurisdictional draw game, with nearly half the US participating. It costs just $2 to play, and if you win, you get $1,000 per day for life or a one-time cash option of $5.75 million. There is also a second prize worth $25,000 a year for life or a one-time cash option of $395,000.
Drawings take place daily at 10:30 p.m. ET. The game is similar to both Powerball and Mega Millions in that you choose five numbers from 1 to 48 (the white balls) plus one more from 1 to 18 (the Lucky Ball). Getting all six correct wins the jackpot, with the chance of doing so sitting at around 1 in 30.8 million.
Carolina Cash 5
The NC Lottery’s Carolina Cash 5 costs just $1 to play and invites you to pick five numbers from 1 to 43. The jackpot starts at $100,000 and increases if no one wins it. There are additional options, each costing an extra $1. Double Play enters your same numbers into a second drawing that takes place at the same time as the first. EZ Match offers a chance to win up to $500 if any of your numbers match randomly chosen numbers. Drawings happen daily at 11:22 p.m. ET.
Carolina Pick 4
Carolina Pick 4 is another in-state draw game that costs either 50 cents or $1 to play and requires picking four numbers from 0 to 9 for a top prize of $5,000. There are numerous game options to choose from, including Exact (the four numbers in the same order), Any Order, 50/50 (combining Exact and Any Order) plus other options. There’s a Sum + It + Up option as well that doubles the ticket price. If your four numbers add up to the Sum + It + Up total, you can win prizes of varying amounts. Drawings happen twice a day at 3 p.m. and 11:22 p.m. ET.
Carolina Pick 3
Carolina Pick 3 plays similarly to Pick 4, but players pick three numbers from 0 to 9, and the top prize is $500. The game also costs either 50 cents or $1 and features all the same ways to play, as well as the Sum + It + Up option. Drawings for this game also happen two times a day at 3 p.m. and 11:22 p.m. ET.
Finally, Carolina Keno is a fast-paced draw game that plays the same as traditional keno games. Players pick anywhere from one to 10 numbers out of a range from 1 to 80. The draw then selects 20 numbers, and prizes depend on how many numbers someone played and matched. The game costs from $1 to $10, with payouts multiplying accordingly, making the top prize $100,000. Drawings happen every four minutes, and you can watch on the NC Lottery website or app, although you must purchase Carolina Keno tickets in person.
Instant win games: Scratch-offs
The North Carolina Lottery additionally offers two kinds of instant win games: scratch-offs and fast play.
Scratch-offs are especially popular among lottery players. In fact, the NC Education Lottery reports that around two-thirds of all lottery tickets it sells are scratch-offs.
Unlike draw games, with scratch-offs, players immediately know whether they’ve won. While the rules vary from game to game, all usually involve scratching off tickets to reveal numbers or symbols indicating whether the ticket has won.
The NC Education Lottery typically has around 75 scratch-off games available at any time. The games last only so long, offering a finite number of prizes for people to win during the months each game is available. While games are always ending, however, the lottery introduces new scratch-offs the first Tuesday of every month.
At present, the NC Lottery offers scratch-off games that cost $1, $2, $3, $5, $10, $20 or $30 to play. Some games feature top prizes of up to $200,000, $1 million or $2 million, and there have even been scratch-offs with prizes of $10 million.
Typically, North Carolina Lottery scratch-offs offer a range of possible prizes. For example, for a recent $1 game called Carolina Jackpot, players could win their $1 back or prizes of $2, $3, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 or $10,000. While the bigger prizes are more difficult to win, the overall chance of winning something when playing scratch-offs ranges from approximately one in three to around one in five. Of course, the odds change as the game progresses and people win prizes.
Instant win games: Fast play
The NC Lottery also recently introduced a new type of instant win game — fast play. The fast-play games resemble scratch-offs in that you know right away whether you’ve won. However, with fast-play games, there is no scratching involved. The printed ticket immediately shows you if you’ve won and, if so, how much.
Usually, these games involve matching your numbers with the winning numbers on the ticket. Some of the games simply show “winning numbers” and “your numbers,” and you look to see if they match. Others have themes to imitate games like bingo or blackjack.
Usually, the NC Lottery has around a dozen Fast Play games available, costing $2, $5, $10, or $20 to play. Top prizes vary, but they can range from around $30,000 to nearly $350,000.
Lucke-Rewards, the NC Lottery rewards program
Anyone creating a North Carolina Lottery account can participate in Lucke-Rewards, a program that gives players extra chances to win.
Lucke-Rewards is a points-based program in which players accumulate points with every lottery ticket purchase. They can then use those points to enter drawings for cash and other prizes. When you purchase online play tickets, Lucke-Rewards points are automatically added to your account. When purchasing tickets in person at an NC Education Lottery retailer, you can enter those tickets either manually or by scanning them with the app to get the points.
Most NC Lottery games award points. That includes all of the draw games (including Powerball, Mega Millions, and Carolina Keno) as well as the scratch-off and fast-play games. Only occasionally do some of the scratch-off games not feature Lucke-Rewards points. You can see on the tickets there is a Lucke-Rewards entry code, showing the ticket is eligible for Lucke-Rewards.
Using the NC Lottery app, you can also complete activities to earn more Lucke-Rewards points.
You can use your Lucke-Rewards points to enter a variety of drawings either on the NC Lottery website or when using the app. You can see which drawings are available and how many points it would take to enter them.
You can only redeem points to enter drawings online, as there is no other way to enter them. Also, you have to create an NC Lottery account to participate.
Where the NC Lottery money goes
For the fiscal year ending in 2021, North Carolina again set a new record with more than $3.8 billion in lottery ticket sales. In fact, NC has increased lottery sales every year since launching in 2006.
About a quarter of lottery revenue supports North Carolina education in all 100 counties. That means about $936 million went to education during FY21, in the following percentages:
- 55% — school workers
- 25% — school construction and repair
- 11% — Pre-K program for at-risk 4-year-olds
- 6% — financial aid, scholarships, grants for need-based students attending state universities or community colleges
- 3% — school transportation
To be precise, 24.6% of lottery revenue went toward education, with another 6.9% going to retailers and 3.9% for administrative purposes. That left 64.6% of the money for prizes, about $2.46 billion.
Responsible gambling and the NC Lottery
The NC Lottery has multiple measures in place to promote responsible gambling and help prevent problem gambling. These efforts are under the lottery’s Play Smart initiative.
Some of the lottery’s measures include letting you limit deposits when playing online and excluding yourself altogether from playing games online. The website also shares a wealth of information to educate lottery players about the games and the risks involved. You can learn about how odds and probabilities work, ways to manage spending when playing the lottery, and how to assess whether you have a gambling problem. There are also links to resources to help those affected by problem gambling.