COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – The state of Ohio now says people who are vaccinated must opt in to the state’s million-dollar lottery in order to be eligible to win. That registration opens Tuesday, and the first of five drawings is next week.
The Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery say having people opt-in will make it easier to verify their eligibility, but it also means people must sign up.
Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald says, “The odds are great, the odds are better than any other game that we have out there.”
The state of Ohio is preparing for millions of people to flood the ohiovaxamillion.com website to opt-into the lottery. Ohioans older than 18 can win a $1 million prize; those ages 12 to 17 can win a fully-paid, four-year college scholarship. People without the internet can also call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
The winner will be responsible for taxes on the winnings and cannot remain anonymous.
ELIGIBILITY AND VERIFICATION:
You are eligible to participate in the drawing if you meet all the following requirements:
1. You are a living citizen of the United States and a permanent resident of the State of Ohio.
2. You are at least 12 years of age.
3. You are not incarcerated (in prison or jail) for a felony conviction under the laws of this state, another state, or the United States.
4. You are not an employee or Officer of the Ohio Lottery Commission, the Ohio Department of Health or the Ohio Governor’s Office, or any blood relative or spouse of such an employee or officer living as a member of the employee’s or officer’s household.
5. You have received at least your first dose of COVID-19 vaccine if receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose if receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.per Ohio Department of Health
Stephanie McCloud is the Director of the Ohio Department of Health. She says, “We’re getting some very good feedback. Groups that are showing up for vaccination at local health districts that are saying ‘we’re here to win the lottery!'”
ODH says the goal is to raise awareness and increase vaccinations, and the director says the lottery is helping. In recent weeks the state’s vaccination rate had steadily declined, but this past Friday saw the highest vaccination numbers in three weeks.
Director McCloud says, “During that three-week time period, people who were ages 30-74, we were experiencing a 24% decrease week over week for those prior two Fridays, last Friday that age group saw a 6% increase.”
ODH says already the money is well-spent. McCloud says, “Do you want to spend five-million-dollars on additional PSAs or billboards? This has generated national attention, international attention, social media is lit up, this has been very successful.”
Despite successfully generating interest, not everyone approves of using taxpayer dollars for the vaccine lottery, including some state lawmakers who may take legislative action to stop it.
Republican State Senator Niraj Antani says lawmakers at the statehouse are exploring legislative options to stop the lottery, saying this is not how taxpayer dollars should be used.
But ODH is defending the campaign, saying it’s generating awareness just as it was supposed to.
WATCH: Not everyone is sold on using taxpayer dollars for the vaccine lottery
State Senator Antani says, “Unfortunately I think it might actually work. It may actually incentivize people who haven’t gotten vaccinated to get vaccinated.”
State Senator Antani’s concern isn’t with people getting vaccinated, it’s with using taxpayer money to do it. He says, “The general assembly could act to stop this, I do hope we act swiftly to stop this abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
ODH is looking for innovative ways to educate people about the vaccine, and the five separate million-dollar prizes and college scholarships are generating a lot of buzz. Director McCloud says, “This particular promotion has been a great use of dollars.”
But State Senator Antani says he’s hearing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have concerns with the lottery. He says they will look at their options in the coming days. “I think we should either be using this to give to our hospital systems that have been overburdened by COVID-19 patients, to be given to struggling bars and restaurants who have been hit hard, not for this vaccine lottery.”
ODH insists using some of the CARES act funding on the lottery is legal, and so far very successful. More than 25,000 shots were administered Friday, including a 6% increase in the 30-74 age group. It’s proof, ODH says, it’s turning the tide.
Director McCloud says, “Not only have we achieved our goal of increasing public awareness and interest, but we have slowed what was a consistent decline in uptake, and in certain age groups we’re seeing an increase.”
The lottery registration opens Tuesday morning. Click here to register.